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No, Seriously. Save the USPS

A few months ago, I wrote about the impending collapse of the USPS due to the pandemic recession, long-running handicaps imposed by Republicans, and Trump’s refusal to assist the agency. Unfortunately for the USPS—and our country—none of these problems have alleviated, and the situation has gotten even worse.

Trump continues to hold up funding for the Post Office, and he is even stalling the next round of stimulus to do it. In my first article, I refrained from alleging Trump’s motivation for blocking the funding. Now, though, I don’t have to allege anything. From CNBC: “They need that money in order to have the Post Office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” Trump said in a Fox Business interview Thursday morning. “But if they don’t get those two items that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting, because they’re not equipped to have it.”

After months of railing against mail-in voting (despite doing it himself and subsequently urging his Florida supporters to vote by mail, presumably because his elderly base there needs mail-in ballots) the President now admits he wants to handicap the Post Office to disrupt the election. The utter authoritarian nature of this ploy is disgusting and disqualifying in itself, but this particular maneuver threatens the rest of society, too. The reliance of private mail carriers, rural residents, and small businesses on the USPS means that this ploy threatens all corners of the country. Trump is willing to re-crash the economy, destroy the ways of life for millions of Americans, and make everyday activities more difficult for everyone—all in an attempt to end democracy.

The hold-up of funding isn’t the only way the administration is destroying the USPS. Trump’s new Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, has been working behind the scenes to destroy the agency from the inside. DeJoy is a mega-donor for the GOP and Trump, and he is the first Postmaster in decades to not have experience within the USPS. A pure political appointee chosen by a President who wants the USPS gone, DeJoy also continues to trade stocks in the Post Office’s competitors (which would take over the shipping industry if the USPS went down). He has both political and financial motivations to wreck the institution, and he is following through on those incentives.

DeJoy changed the organizational structure of the USPS, resulting in 23 former executives being reassigned or displaced and five new executives being installed. Make no mistake, DeJoy is consolidating power and ousting anyone who would oppose his sabotage. He has banned overtime work and instructed workers to leave some mail behind when they go out to deliver. These so-called reforms are causing major delays in mail delivery.

The changes are becoming even more absurd. The USPS is removing public collection mailboxes, which many voters use to send mail ballots. DeJoy is also dismantling and removing mail sorting machines. These are vital parts of Post Office functioning and sort 35,000 pieces of mail (specifically letters that could contain ballots) per hour. The Trump administration is taking a wrench to the USPS’ kneecaps; an already struggling institution is now being beaten like a dead horse.

Disrupting mail and shipping will inevitably lead to things like prescription medicines being late and small business deliveries suffering. Now, the endgame is coming to fruition. DeJoy’s USPS recently informed almost every state government in the country that it might not be able to deliver ballots in time to be counted. The disenfranchisement of American voters has already begun, and it will get worse from here.

Let’s be clear: this is a manufactured crisis. The USPS regularly delivers over 472 million pieces of mail per day. 2016 saw under 130 million votes for president, and these would be spread over days and weeks as people send in ballots. Several states have practiced vote-by-mail exclusively for years without these issues.

The Trump administration claims it only opposes the practice of automatically sending ballots to all registered voters and that it accepts absentee voting in general (this logic is how the White House explains Trump railing against vote-by-mail while simultaneously encouraging it in Florida). However, this is a lie—it’s plausible deniability. DeJoy's actions and the administration's lawsuits in states without automatic vote-by-mail show how Trump actually wants to stop ballots everywhere, regardless of election policy.

All of these underhanded tactics rely on the lie that mail-in voting leads to fraud. In fact, mail-in voting is extremely safe and any instances of fraud are extremely rare. It is virtually certain that Trump’s disenfranchisement plan will lead to much more fraud than people voting ever could. The entire myth of widespread voter fraud is just a ploy to restrict voting rights. Trump’s own commission to investigate voter fraud disbanded because they could not prove anything.

In short, the only “fraud” here is Trump himself. After seeing Biden’s huge lead in the polls, Trump is planning to hijack the election to stay in office. All he has to do is delay the ballots by a few days. If he can do that, millions of ballots will come in late, starting multiple lawsuits across the country to get them counted. These lawsuits will probably make their ways up to the Supreme Court, dominated by conservatives and Trump appointees (Bush v. Gore, anyone?). Alternatively, Trump could disregard the results of the election by claiming his fraud conspiracy came true. He already claims that he only lost the 2016 popular vote because of fraud, and now he has Attorney General William Barr to make those claims a legal case.

This scheme could also mean the death of the Post Office as we know it. If millions of people lose trust in the USPS because of these manufactured delays, the customer base the service relies on could shrink. This loss of consumer confidence would drop postal revenue for much longer than the current recession, and it would give conservatives ammunition to privatize the USPS. They could claim the Post Office is going bankrupt and that no one wants it anymore; then, they would sell its assets to massive shipping corporations at discounted prices. Not only would the public’s property be liquidated for the benefit of corporate elites, but we would see higher prices and reduced access, especially in rural areas. If the USPS survives at all, it will probably be retooled into performing the services private carriers don’t want to handle; the corporations would take the profitable sections for themselves and leave taxpayers with the necessary but expensive ones.

Saving the Post Office is vital now more than ever. We need it to save our economy, the ways of life for millions of Americans, and our democracy. We cannot stand by as a private sector mega-donor destroys one of the oldest institutions in America for the sake of financial and political gain. We cannot let the continuing series of politically-imposed handicaps destroy this public service. And we certainly cannot stand by as the president of the United States attempts to steal an election. If nothing is done, wide swaths of American society might be compromised forever.

So seriously, save the USPS.

Katharine Sciackitano is a third-year C.L.E.G. major in the School of Public Affairs. She is Editor of Economics for the Agora.

Image: CC0 Public Domain

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