To hobble the U.S. Postal Service under the guise of “treating it like a business” is to undermine public confidence in yet another vital American institution at exactly the time when confidence is most needed, as much of the nation prepares to vote by mail in the Nov. 3 election. Such an attack would be an obvious strategy of a terrorist group or a foreign adversary. It also appears to be the strategy of the president of the United States.
President Trump has long railed against the Postal Service as a money-losing operation, and it’s quite true: Public mail delivery isn’t a profit-making business. Nor should it be. It’s a government service that should no more be expected to produce profits than, say, the Food and Drug Administration.
Trump also reportedly dislikes the Postal Service because it delivers packages for Amazon, which is owned by Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post, which is critical of Trump in its coverage. That may be a stretch, or it may be right on the money; Trump has indeed criticized the Postal Service for charging Amazon rates that he says are too low.
Of more concern, though, is Trump’s constant harangue against voting by mail, which he says — without evidence — is a hotbed of fraud. Many states plan to conduct their balloting by mail, so making sure the Postal Service has a hard time delivering election-related material in a timely fashion — or even appearing to do so — gives him ammunition to attack the validity of election results that don’t go his way.
In June, the all-Trump-appointed U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors selected major Republican Party fundraiser Louis DeJoy to lead the agency as postmaster general. In the weeks since, DeJoy has put in place cost-cutting policies that he says are meant to stem financial losses, but that Democrats and other critics say may result in post office closures and slower and less reliable delivery service just as the election approaches.
The infatuation with running government services like businesses (and running them into the ground) long precedes the Trump presidency. But the Postal Service is not Amtrak, another favorite target for bean-counters. It predates the nation’s independence and is recognized by the Constitution. It’s a publicly held resource that serves every American and binds the nation together.
No wonder Trump dislikes it.
This country is already suffering from a series of self-inflicted wounds, the most obvious of which is its inept handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. What it needs now is a shot of confidence in its most basic process, voting, to shore up the integrity of its most basic value, democracy. That coincides with the nation’s interest in keeping the Postal Service intact and its service reliable. Unfortunately it does not coincide with the interests of the nation’s adversaries. Or its current president.