This past Monday, the Democrats of the House Oversight Committee promoted a wild conspiracy theory. Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) promoted an unfounded theory that President Trump installed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy specifically to rig the 2020 election by suppressing mail in votes. Rep. Maloney followed up on her appearance at the hearing to fundraise and send out an email during the hearing saying that the Trump Administration has a secret plan “to sabotage the USPS and steal the presidential election.” Obviously, this is not quite the truth and ignores the facts.
Democrats, and their supporters on Twitter, have made incendiary claims the Trump Administration is confiscating or locking mailboxes at facilities and removing sorting machines to make it harder to vote by mail. They ignore the fact there were underlying issues with timely service at the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) prior to the election of President Trump even though the Postal Service, for decades, has big problems with management, unfunded pension liabilities, and massive balance sheet losses. The Democrats want to ignore the systemic problems at the USPS and are using the current controversy as cover for their $25 billion bailout.
The structural problems with the USPS existed long before the coronavirus pandemic and the swearing in of President Trump. During the hearing, Squad Member and Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) demanded the Postmaster General’s meeting schedule and Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) quizzed him on the prices of postage. These Members of Congress went on a fishing expedition for anything damaging, because the American people are not buying the conspiracy theory.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) defended DeJoy and pointed out that Democrats are using the hearing for purely political purposes. Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) pointed out that he has been demanding hearings on border issues and those pleas have been ignored while the Committee pulled together this hearing in the middle of the August recess to play politics.
Luckily for Mr. Dejoy, and prior to his appearance on Monday, Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) had an opportunity on Friday to lay out the facts during a Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing on the “postal controversy.” One of the underlying problems which needs more investigation and public data is how the growth of e-commerce during the coronavirus pandemic has increased revenue leading to some short-term instance of delivery delays. The real systemic problems at the USPS were ignored by the majority on the House Committee and the legislation the House passed on Saturday provided a bailout to the USPS without demanding reform.
Without a doubt, the USPS, as currently constructed, needs reform and reorganizing. Romina Boccia of The Heritage Foundation wrote in USA Today on May 4, 2020, “the U.S. Postal Service is approaching bankruptcy following 13 consecutive years of multi-billion-dollar deficits.” The White House Task Force on the USPS described the postal service in December of 2018 as “a $71 billion enterprise that collects, processes, transports, and delivers 146 billion pieces of mail and packages to nearly 159 million households and businesses annually” and “forecast to lose tens of billions of dollars over the next decade.” They cited the statistic that by “the end of FY 2018, the USPS balance sheet reflects $89 billion in liabilities against $27 billion in assets – a net deficiency of $62 billion.” Those numbers would send a regular business which is not specifically referenced in the Constitution to the federal district to file for bankruptcy.
Another bad actor in this discussion is Amazon and their online retailer coalition. The New York Times reported on May 6, 2020, “a coalition of online retailers backed by Amazon began a seven-figure advertising blitz on Wednesday opposing President Trump’s demand that the beleaguered United States Postal Service ratchet up its package delivery rates to avoid bankruptcy amid the coronavirus crisis, its top lobbyist said.” The coalition is spending upwards of $2 million on lobbying and public relations to push for a straight $25 billion bailout and opposing the inclusion of structural reforms. They want to continue the USPS practice of giving priority to Amazon packages over regular mail while charging below market prices. There are reports, including one from Maine, that snail mail is intentionally being slowed by the USPS for Amazon, yet it will be unlikely that Democrats in either chamber will mention that potential issue.
During the next few months expect Democrats to continue to push the narrative that President Trump’s effort to reform the USPS is an effort to subvert the 2020 fall elections. The fact remains that USPS is losing tens of billions every year, has issues with declining service, and if nothing is done, the taxpayers will be on the hook for even more money in the coming years.
Peter Mihalick is former Legislative Director and Counsel to former Reps. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) and Rodney Blum (R-IA).