The news is filled with reports of President Trump’s “assault” on the U.S. Postal Service. Democrats and some in the media say the president is deliberately slowing mail delivery and crippling the Postal Service so that it cannot handle an anticipated flood of voting by mail in the presidential election. Barack Obama said Trump is trying to “actively kneecap” the Postal Service to suppress the vote. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called the House back into session “to address the sabotage of the Postal Service.” What is going on?
A look at the facts simply does not support the Democrats’ allegations.
First, the Postal Service can handle voting by mail. According to its annual report, it delivered 142.5 billion pieces of mail in fiscal 2019. That’s 471 million per day, to nearly 160 million delivery points. This year, it delivered census forms and stimulus checks, which was about 450 million pieces of mail. A national presidential election would involve less than half of that. That’s simply not a problem.
Second, the Postal Service is going broke but doesn’t need more money for the election. It has lost money for a long time. The coronavirus relief bill gave it $10 billion in borrowing authority. Now House Democrats want $25 billion. But their new bill makes no mention of giving the Postal Service money to handle the election. Rather, it’s an old-fashioned bailout. And the Postal Service has about $14 billion in cash right now, and is not projected to hit insolvency until late next year.
The new Postmaster General is trying to reform the Postal Service. Former shipping executive Louis DeJoy — yes, he’s a Trump donor — is pushing a pilot program to reduce overtime and streamline deliveries. It basically involves letter carriers making deliveries at the start of their day rather than the end so as to incur less overtime. That’s all it is. Yet Democrats and some in the media have characterized it as an effort to sabotage the Postal Service. It’s not.
Nor are routine Postal Service moves to relocate collection boxes and retire some sorting machines. That is entirely in line with Postal Service efforts to deal with a declining volume of mail since the advent of email two decades ago. Nevertheless, DeJoy, in an effort to soothe worried minds, has said he will suspend reform efforts until after the election.
But what about the nightmare scenarios we’ve seen in the press? News accounts have been filled with stories of Americans who depend on the Postal Service for the delivery of medicine and checks. Many such stories are serious but anecdotal; there’s no way to know at the moment how widespread they are. And people who keep track of the Postal Service suspect many stories are rooted in workforce availability problems related to the coronavirus pandemic, plus the changes in operations — for example, closing a facility to clean it during an outbreak — that have become part of life during the pandemic. Think about it: Of course the pandemic is affecting the Postal Service, just like it is affecting everything else.
Then there are President Trump’s statements. Much discussion of the mail issue has conflated the request for $25 billion for the Postal Service with a request for $3.6 billion to the Election Assistance Commission for states to implement mail-in voting. The president has repeatedly added confusion to the situation. In discussing the Postal Service, he hasn’t made a case against universal mail-in voting, which does not exist in the United States. He hasn’t made clear why Democrats want $25 billion for the Post Office. He suggested that not agreeing to the $25 billion was a way to stop universal mail-in voting, which it is not. He hasn’t addressed the serious problems at the Postal Service, which need attention and do not have anything to do with voting. In all, he has left the issue more confused than it was beforehand — and that was saying something.
But now, Democrats smell victory. The Washington Post recently published a story headlined “Trump’s assault on the U.S. Postal Service gives Democrats a new campaign message.” Put aside the casual use of the word “assault.” The fact is, Speaker Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and other top Democrats are jumping into the Postal Service controversy with both feet. As with the Russia collusion allegations, they’re enjoying a loud, uncritical megaphone in the press. No doubt they’ll keep it up until Nov. 3. But shouldn’t someone, sometime take a look at what is actually happening?
Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner.