Understanding Trump’s Anti-USPS Agenda and Assessing Its Lasting Damage on the Well-Being of the American Public
Tracing its beginning back to 1775, the United States Postal Service is more American than most modern ideals. The initial Postmaster General was Benjamin Franklin and the Post became an official department of the executive branch in 1792 via the Postal Service Act. Despite over 220 years of service, the Postal Service is facing extinction in 2020, with its main predator being the current President of The United States of America.
Similar to many topics of discussion during the 45th President’s tenure in office, this issue has been the cause of much division and not-so-humble dialog from citizens, reporters, and political adversaries. As it seems to be the case, timing is always critical when discussing the President’s hot-button actions.
The United States Postal Service could be run more cost-efficiently. That said, counter-arguments will plea that the USPS should not be viewed as venture capital.
The Business Side of the Discussion
For reference, the Postal Service reported operating revenue of $71.1 billion during the 2019 fiscal year (an increase of $514 million from the previous year). This increase was greatly supported by a 6.1% increased in revenue from shipping and packages. Still, such impressive growth could not balance the scale in terms of balancing revenue and expenses. Operation expenses for the fiscal year were $79.9 billion, a $5.4 billion, or a 7.3% increase. Meaning, the net loss for the service amounted to $8.8 billion.
To even the non-financially savvy, figures like these are nerve-racking. The Postal Service saw a $3.8 billion net loss in 2018 despite a 10.1%, or $2 billion, increase in shipping revenue.
The overall losses are not due to affordable shipping rates and partnerships with outside online-retailors like Amazon (though increased rates would create more revenue). Without any statistics, this should make sense to most Americans. We are in a digital age and online shopping is constantly expanding around the globe.
Rather, one of the largest negative financial hits to the Service is a drastic decrease in First-Class Mail. In 2019, the mailing operation completed 1.8 billion fewer pieces of First-Class Mail. In 2018, the decrease totaled 2.1 billion pieces. Simply put, Americans are sending fewer letters each year. These missing papers include digital bill payments, online banking, email marketing, and flyers, etc.
These numbers are staunch in stature. Yet, as mentioned above, Trump and Republican counter-perspectives will argue that viewing the United States Postal Service as a business is wrong. Counter-arguments believe that the USPS should function more like an extension of the Federal Government.
Despite evidence proving the USPS’s financial shortcomings, I can not pretend that the efforts of POTUS are unrelated to this year’s Presidential Election and personal gripes. While it is clear that the USPS needs to adapt, it is also blatantly obvious that Trump’s ever-heating mandates and demands stem from a personal agenda and individual vendettas.
Absentee Voting vs. Mail-In Voting. Is There A Difference?
To get it out of the way, let’s look at the process of mail-in voting. There has been a lot of hoopla regarding mail-in and absentee voting. They are the same thing.
Granted, the isolated term “mail-in voting” has been uttered more often this year than in years past. The stressed attention of this phrase may have been accidental and born from American ignorance regarding terminology. On the other hand, it may have been a strategy devised to divide the general public by spin-zoning the phrase away from the normalized understanding of absentee voting — referring to special scenarios in which voters submit their ballots through the mail.
The heightened and newfound definition of “mail-in voting” is specific to 2020. It refers, as a whole, to the Covid-19 crisis and the fact that millions of Americans will be unable/unwilling to attend public voting polls this November. As a result, the restraints that limited absentee voting to a select population of American citizens will now be available for all citizens without explanation or specific circumstances.
Health, Safety, and Efficient Tampering
The topic of safety regarding physical polls during this year’s election has been intense. Many news outlets have reported that physical polls are perfectly safe, despite public concerns regarding the Covid-19 virus. Claims such as these have been backed by statements from leading health officials like Dr. Anthony Faucci. However, the pseudo-confidence offered by experts like Faucci is accompanied by a caveat. Proper safety and protective guidelines must be followed for promises of safety to be fulfilled.
To many, these comforting words fall short — not because of the experts themselves, but rather because of a lack of confidence in fellow voters. The regular use of masks during the Coronavirus Pandemic has been controversial throughout 2020. Voters who abide by the safety policies aren’t wrong to fear the loose-abidance of fellow voters in their district.
In another realm, there is a conversation to be had regarding the difference in voting districts themselves. While less-populated rural areas will be simpler to monitor in terms of safety protocol and congregation guidelines, more densely populated cities and urban districts could face an increased risk for viral spread. Thus, residents of these states, districts, and cities are more likely to utilize wide-spread mail-in voting for this year’s election. This is an essential talking point because the safer areas tend to represent a large portion of the Republican voter base, whereas major cities and more populated states typically lean Democrat (with a key exception of Texas).
By in large, Trump’s target areas for the current campaign provide voters with more security and assurance for in-person polls during a pandemic. Historically Red states like the Dakotas, Montana, Arkansas, and West Virginia will present much safer scenarios than some Democrat-voting states like New York and California. Though, the biggest Electoral College impact could come from swing states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida — given their large electoral counts and housing of major cities. Given this, predicting that these areas would be disproportionality impacted by a slowed and altered Postal Service isn’t difficult to fathom.
This topic goes further (with regards to limiting absentee voting) when considering that the President has voiced dismay, anger, and grudges towards numerous governors and mayors in major Democrat-led cities and states. Examples of such instances include Bill de Blasio and Andrew Cuomo of New York City, Ted Wheeler of Portland, Muriel Bowser of D.C., and Marty Walsh of Boston. Swing state cities like Philadelphia and Detroit have also been scrutinized by the President, especially with regards to policing and wide-spread national protests following the murder of George Floyd in May.
Impact on Veterans and Sick Living Within The United States
Moving forward, it is necessary to approach the situation from a non-political lens. After all, Donald Trump and Joe Biden aren’t the only two Americans that will be affected by a collapse/reshaping of the USPS. This reality stretches to the American public, regardless of the timing of implementation.
One of the first groups to receive recognition was the sickly population of the United States. More specifically, those individuals who rely on regularly delivered mail-order medications.
While a portion of this population does obtain their packages through private delivery companies like UPS and FedEx, many are entirely reliant on services provided by the USPS. A portion of this sub-percentage would suffer further if forced to pay the increased shipping fees required by privatized services as opposed to the standard rates of the Postal Service.
Even if medication recipients were able to continue their deliveries with the Postal Service at the same financial cost, the slowed-down process could become a matter of life or death.
The current Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, implemented policy changes for the Postal Service earlier this year that have slowed delivery times and have created mail-order backlogs across multiple states. These cost-cutting amendments have instantaneously impacted scheduled medication deliveries — including widespread cases involving military veterans.
According to the Associated Press, Department of Veteran Affairs staff and hundreds of prescription-receiving veterans have reached out to senators citing dangerous delays and the missing of essential medication deliveries.
Again, from Hope Yen at AP, “VA fills about 80% of veteran prescriptions by mail. That translates to almost 120 million prescriptions a year, with deliveries arriving daily to about 330,000 veterans across the country”.
In March, data revealed that the number of mail-order prescriptions experienced exponential growth (21% rise since 2019 according to SunTrust pharmaceutical analyst Gregg Gilbert). Considering the lasting effects of Covid-19 on the human body, it is likely that these statistics will increase in the future.
Should USPS delivery services continue to be delayed, prescribed dosages and necessary medical care could freeze for millions across the nation. If this happens, patients and prescription users could face death, further medical complications, and damaging medical expenses.
Small, Medium, and Online Business Owners
Financially, Covid-19 ravished the world’s economy. This pain was, and is still, felt with tremendous ferocity throughout the United States. Due to Covid-19, the U.S. unemployment percentage rose from 3.8% in February, to 14.4% in April (with a drop to 13% in May). To crunch numbers, this represents a more than 14 million person increase, with May seeing over 20.5 million unemployed American citizens.
Moreover, this drastic drain of the American working class claimed nearly 73,000 American businesses permanently, per Forbes. With the total of permanent and temporary business closures exceeding 132,000.
An uncertain future for the USPS could spell demise for a chunk of the small and medium business that managed to survive. Laura Behrens Wu of Tech Crunch details ways in which the rise of shipping costs and the privatization of mail delivery could destroy small and online businesses.
Behrens Wu, a business owner herself, has witnessed firsthand how shipping costs affect small and medium businesses. Her data shows that e-commerce shipments have increased by more than 30% since March. These findings complement data reported by The Associated Press and Forbes.
She predicts that the rising levels of entrepreneurship and e-commerce of small businesses during this digital age will slow greatly if the USPS were to be dismantled or if privatized versions were to take over.
Her data shows that most online small businesses spend roughly 10–15% of their revenue on shipping — an expense that is manageable given that USPS full-service shipping rates start at $7. According to Behrens Wu, this percentage could skyrocket to well north of 20%. She predicts that this massive burden could prove unmanageable for many business owners in the future.
The 45 President’s 2020 Relationship with the USPS
It is crucial to examine the big picture when analyzing the President’s stance on the USPS. We don’t have to go too far back on the 2020 timeline to do so. As recently as April of this year, President Trump began a verbal vendetta against the United States Postal Service.
Several foggy and unproven statements and comments from the President can be found within a FactCheck.org article from April 10. The author, Robert Farley, presents a litany of concerning excerpts. Moreover, the write-up features academic responses from a revolving door of experts, scholars, reporters, and political opponents.
One of the President’s more puzzling claims came during an April 7 press briefing. Following well-known comments in which Trump called mail-in voting corrupt, the President was questioned about his personal use of absentee voting.
Despite rising as a champion against mail-in voting, the President has utilized the process before — during his tenure in The Oval Office nonetheless. These occurrences can be traced as far back as the 2018 midterm elections and as recently as Florida’s election in March. Additionally, Vice President Mike Pence also utilized the absentee voting system for both the general and primary elections in 2018.
Upon questioning, the President suggested that out-of-state absentee ballots were somehow more secure than those mailed within state borders.
Well, there’s a big difference between somebody that’s out of state and does a ballot and everything is sealed, certified, and everything else. You see what you have to do with the certifications. And you get thousands and thousands of people sitting in somebody’s living room, signing ballots all over the place.
No, I think that mail-in voting is a terrible thing. I think if you vote, you should go. And even the concept of early voting is not the greatest because a lot of things happen, but it’s okay. But you should go and you should vote. I think you should go and you should vote.
You look at what they do, where they grab thousands of mail-in ballots and they dump it. I’ll tell you what — and I don’t have to tell; you can look at the statistics — there’s a lot of dishonesty going along with mail-in voting — mail-in ballots.
— Donald Trump
Earlier this month, Trump took a bizarre turn regarding his stance on mail-in voting — though his newfound perspective only applied to one state, the swing state Florida. The President explains in a press briefing: “Florida has a great Republican governor…they’ve been able to get the absentee ballots done extremely professionally. Florida is different from other states”.
The Blocking of Federal Aid
His early animosity towards the USPS does not end with voting concerns. Like many other politicians in the past, Trump has been a longtime advocate for reorganizing the Postal Service’s business policies. This is an angle where the President has merit.
Experts and reporters have concurred that, in terms of a business, the USPS could run more productively. We’ve discussed specific figures earlier in the article. The United States Postal Service is not a profitable entity right now and has not been for ages. However, most counter-arguments will claim that the USPS is not meant to be a product of free-market capitalism, but rather a social service designed to benefit the public as a whole.
Towards the end of April, the President made vocal threats to block federal aid from the Postal Service. He admitted that he would be willing to concede if the USPS raised shipping prices for online companies, such as Amazon.
This, while sounding like a financial ploy that followers of Trump should be familiar with, raised valid questions regarding the President’s stakes. He further expressed discontent for the USPS’s current standings with online companies, and labeled their relationships as “very cozy”.
The Postal Service is a joke. Because they’re handing out packages for Amazon and other internet companies, and every time they bring a package, they lose money on it…The Post Office should raise the price of a package by approximately four times
— Donald Trump
A Problem with the USPS or a Problem with Amazon?
Coming off as a business-focused proposition, his comments stir the pot with regards to his relationship with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Bezos is also the owner of The Washington Post, a left-focused media outlet that Trump has repeatedly called unfair, bias, and fake.
Raising fixed shipping rates may somewhat hurt Bezos and Amazon in the short term, but many have predicted that such moves could prove detrimental to the general public. These assumptions are based heavily on the fact that citizens, especially small business owners, are relying on the USPS much more in 2020 for shipping purposes.
Besides, the same thinkers believe that Bezos would simply abandon the USPS and form stronger partnerships with private delivery services, like UPS, as a response.
Furthermore, regarding Bezos and Amazon, the President’s mission comes across to many as a deliberate personal vendetta against The Washington Post’s owner. A byproduct of his intuitive style, these theories isolate lower and middle-class citizens as well as business operators who rely on the affordable rates provided by the Postal Service.
No Federal Funding and Support Could Mean No Postal Service
Months ago, the USPS released a statement explaining that without federal aid the service may not stay afloat past September. As part of a $2.3 trillion Covid-19 stimulus package, Congress authorized the Treasury Department to lend the USPS up to $10 billion.
In turn, the Treasury Department informed the USPS that to receive the authorized aid, the Postal Service may face requests for structural changes from the Treasury itself. These requests were able to include upticks in shipping fees.
Higher up the food chain, the President told the Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, that he would not endorse the aid unless prices were raised.
— Donald Trump
The Approaching Election Season
Now, in August, the 2020 election is growing ever closer. Trump’s skepticism of absentee voting has reached a fever pitch.
The President has been cited in droves recently for comments he’s made about the USPS’s inability to accomplish the challenge of delivering millions of mail-in ballots. He was quoted saying: “If we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money… That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting; they just can’t have it”.
The deal being referenced, per ABC 7 Chicago, pertains to two Democrat-backed funding provisions that have stalled in Congress. On top of imbalance in D.C., households around the nation have become more privy to the current threats that loom over the USPS — the awareness of which was spread largely due to a viral photo of blue postal drop boxes being removed by the truckload in Portland, OR.
Questions of Legality
Continuing the ongoing turmoil, more than a dozen U.S. states are expected to sue the Trump Administration over postal cuts, per Karen Freifeld and Sarah Lynch of Reuters.
No, we’re not tampering…We want to make it run for less money, much better, always taking care of our postal workers.
— Donald Trump
In concurrence with the push for legal action from Attorney Generals across the nation, the U.S. Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, is scheduled to testify before a House panel on August 24.
As of Tuesday, August 18, DeJoy has detailed that all Postal Service reformations and policy changes will be postponed until after the 2020 Presidential Election. Whether or not the Postmaster General (a major political donor to Trump and other Republicans), or President Trump, stick to this will be the subject of many near-future conversations and scrutiny.
These statements from the Postmaster General come, furthermore, in light of comments from Mark Dimondstein — the President of the American Postal Workers Union.
“are truly slowing down mail, the customers see it … the postal workers see it — mail is getting all backed up.” — Mark Dimondstein
Is The Conversation Pro-USPS or Simply Anti-Trump?
While Trumpian actions are under constant investigation and judgment, the same questioning must be applied to the Democrat Party. Leading Democrats and anti-Trump civilians have jumped at the chance to defend and argue in support of the United States Postal Service throughout August.
It is imperative that counter-perspectives to ask: have any of us truly cared before? The USPS has long been one of the most underappreciated entities in the United States. So, do we care what happens to it? Or, do we just care because doing so is an attack on Trump?
Even more so, we need to challenge the media’s stance. Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi dives into these exact questions in a recent article titled The Press That Cried Wolf.
In his work, Taibbi calls out the media from a non-bias point of view. He offers credit for the out crying of support for the USPS from major media publications. But, follows the recognition with callbacks to older articles which painted a different narrative than we are being given today.
A powerful connection was made regarding The New York Times. The left-bias outlet is one of the biggest publications in the world and has been releasing pro-USPS articles nonstop in recent weeks. Though, in a 2012 article, The Times tackled Congress’s slow-paced defunding of the Postal Service with ease and was nearly-absent of emotion and urgency.
On top of challenging mainstream media, Taibbi exposes the fact that many politicians, including the Democratic Party, have rarely demonstrated outward support for the USPS — counting the years during both Obama Administrations. In fact, in instances where the Postal Service was a Congressional topic, politicians have seemingly always trended towards weighing bipartisan greed and corruption over the well-being of the USPS.
For the Cost of An Election
The number of those affected by a lost USPS doesn’t stop at business owners and medication recipients. Their loved ones would face the same turmoil. As Covid-19 has shown us, we can never be truly prepared for the loss of life or income.
Delayed medications could spell a new string of unnecessary and avoidable deaths. Even if death is avoided, further medical complications and medical expenses could plague victims and their loved ones for years.
Businesses affected by increased operation costs could lead to thousands of more lost American businesses. Correspondingly, company employees and their dependents will surely face the same, if not worse, fate as their employers. There is a current fear of mass evictions looming over the United States. In the event of future unemployment spikes due to newly defined postage procedures and policies, we may be stuck with this fear for years to come.
Putting The People First
On top of predicting future implications, it is important to remember the political strategy involved. As stated, mass mail-in voting will be popular this year because of safety concerns surrounding the Coivd-19 Pandemic. While health and human well-being shouldn’t be political, history has proven the concept to be a tough pill for the United States’ leadership to swallow.
Consider the following. In a Monmouth University report, data concerning voter comfortability regarding physical polls vs. absentee voting was presented. The report found that 90% of Democrats supported the expansion of mail-in voting this year. Meanwhile, Republicans countered with a much lower 20%. Additionally, nearly half of all voters claim that they are either very or somewhat likely to consider the use of mail-in ballots for the 2020 Presidential Election. However, when assessing the party allegiance of mail-in advocates, the data consisted of 72% of Democrats, 48% of Independents, and a mere 22% of Republicans.
These figures are, of course, impacted by personal reasons — health and safety concerns being the biggest proponent. But, with such an imbalance among political party voters, the data raises the question; are we putting too much of our faith in either supporting or not supporting political figureheads and their agenda-specific rhetoric and actions? Are Republican voters against absentee voting because the President tells them to be? Are Democrats pushing for the saving of the Postal Service because it will hurt Trump?
Derailing the USPS during a global pandemic to tamper with a major political election is wrong — bias or unbias, it is wrong. However, in assessing Trump’s anti-USPS agenda, we must also assess the reasoning behind both his and our actions and reactions. It is necessary to base our conclusions and responses on critical thinking, rather than blind party-loyalty.
there are only two reportable angles in today’s America, total guilt and total innocence. Even when the balance of the information would still look bad or very bad for Trump, news outlets commit to leaving out important background, so as not to complicate the audience response. That’s the situation with this story, where the postal slowdown is probably more serious than other Trump scandals, but people pushing it are also not anxious to remind readers of their own histories on the issue.
— Matt Taibbi in The Press That Cried Wolf