Postmaster Louis DeJoy has made a very powerful enemy: the U.S. Congress. Well, the Democrats who control the House, anyway. A group of House Democrats has introduced the “Delivering Envelopes Judiciously On-time Year-round Act.” Yes, the DEJOY Act, which is a crime against legislative nomenclature. But the lawmakers are serious, intent on blocking DeJoy from implementing the service changes he intends, including slowing delivery of first-class mail to as long as five days.
“This is the best way to kill your business,” Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, the Illinois Democrat and lead sponsor of the bill, said. “To basically say to your customers, ‘We’re not going to meet your expectations. You’re going to meet our service realities, regardless of what ends up happening.'” Krishnamoorthi told The Washington Post that this “particular change, going from 100 percent of first-class mail being delivered one to three days to only 70 percent, would be a nonstarter, in my opinion, with the American people.”
DeJoy’s response to Congress in a hearing before he released his plan doomed the reception of it. While DeJoy wasn’t quite as obnoxious and insulting to members as in previous outings, he still angered many of them. DeJoy actually said “Does it make a difference if it’s an extra day to get a letter?” as if people weren’t relying on the mail to get their prescriptions, to pay their bills, to receive checks. Then he had the chutzpah to say, “I would give myself an ‘A’ for bringing strategy and the planning and effort to here.”
It’s not just Congress that is set against DeJoy. Pennsylvania’s Attorney General Josh Shapiro threatened legal action if DeJoy’s changes “illegally come at the expense of those who rely on the mail for everything from paychecks to medications.” The Postal Service, he reminds us, is a public service and “Changes to its universal service guarantee must go through a process that is designed to protect the public interest.” Shapiro’s office told the Post that “it was encouraged that DeJoy recognizes the legal obligations to secure limited regulatory approvals, but said it remained concerned about timely mail delivery.”
DeJoy wants to slash service, cut USPS post office hours, and increase postage costs for consumers, delivering worse service for higher cost in his attempt to save $160 billion over 10 years. That’s along with legislation from Congress that is likely to pass that will repeal the 2006 law forcing the USPS to pre-fund retiree health benefits 75 years in advance. It’s the only agency that Congress has ever required to do that, a decision made when cooking the books to make the deficit look better.
The USPS is an off-budget entity—its operating expenses don’t come out of the Treasury, but its payments into the federal health benefits system do, so this intergovernmental agency pumping funds in for retiree health benefits could be counted as revenue for the federal government. It was so much book-cooking but had real consequences in burdening the USPS. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, has legislation that would both repeal the 2006 law and enroll future retirees in Medicare. They’re now in the federal employees benefits plan, where all that pre-funding money has been going.
DeJoy’s planned price hikes and service cuts are getting panned by consumer groups—including business groups that rely on the mail. There are lawsuits in the works to force a stop to the changes. “In the entire fifty-eight pages of the plan there does not appear to be any effort to retain mail volume,” PostCom, a national postal commerce advocacy group, wrote. “Apart from price increases and service reductions, there is little about mail in the plan at all. That’s inaction.” Another group, the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, said “the plan will drive mail volume down to levels not seen since before it reached 100 billion in 1980. […] If we mailers win our federal lawsuit, the plan is sunk.”
DeJoy has to be stopped before he can implement these changes. He should have been gone before now—when his disqualifying conflicts of interest surfaced. The fact that the USPS Board of Governors picked DeJoy—who was unqualified, had never worked in the Postal Service, and who got the job after making big donations to Trump’s convention—without any vetting process means they have to go, too.
Biden should fire the board. The Senate should make confirming Biden’s new board members a top priority. The Postal Service is too critical an institution to let this malfeasance continue.