George Washington believed mail service would play a key part in shaping the national consciousness. Woodrow Wilson’s administration pioneered airmail. Franklin Roosevelt thought of post offices as hallowed public spaces. He helped design six in upstate New York towns; you can still buy stamps at most of them.
Donald Trump, on the other hand, called the U.S. Postal Service “a joke,” vetoed billions of dollars in aid to the agency just as its employees were being ravaged by Covid-19, and falsely accused postal workers of seeking to corrupt the electoral process by selling mail-in ballots.
So you can imagine the relief among the rank and file at the USPS on Jan. 20, when Trump exited the White House and was replaced by Joe Biden. President Biden expressed admiration and support for the long-neglected USPS before the election and is likely to be its strongest supporter in decades. And if ever there was a federal agency in need of a champion, it’s the Postal Service, which suffered a net loss of $9 billion last year as it struggled with pandemic related absences and delivery delays, and faces the continuing threat of dwindling mail volume.
In addition, the USPS found itself stewing in controversy after its Republican-dominated Board of Governors hired Louis DeJoy, a major Trump fundraiser, in May 2020 as the nation’s 75th postmaster general. DeJoy’s early efforts to impose efficiency on the USPS in the midst of the pandemic resulted in widespread mail delays and led Democrats to accuse him of conspiring to slow ballot delivery on behalf of the White House by also removing mailboxes and sorting machines. It didn’t matter that the second two initiatives had been in the works before DeJoy’s arrival.
While concerns about his allegiances dominated the headlines, the Biden campaign offered some concrete, if less noticed, proposals to help the Postal Service. It called for emergency financial relief. It also advocated maintaining six-day-a-week mail delivery and eliminating a requirement that the agency pre-fund its future retiree health benefits every year, which effectively drove it into insolvency as overall mail volume fell. Prefunding accounted for about half of the USPS’s 2020 losses.
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