US Postal Service Faces Cuts, Closures, Controversy Ahead Of 2020 Election. What's At Stake?
The U.S. Postal Service, often overlooked and taken for granted as a part of everyday American life, was written into the Constitution as necessary to provide dispersed citizens open access to secure and private communication. But now the USPS is facing financial instability and politicization that could affect its long-relied-upon service in an election and decennial census year.
The USPS was self-sufficient for over two centuries, until the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act required the agency to pre-fund workers' retirement and health benefits, stipulated the price of postage and mandated delivery service six days a week — changes that have driven the USPS toward financial ruin.
The Trump administration appointed Louis DeJoy as 75th Postmaster General — a choice that was met with much criticism. DeJoy's plans to make the agency financially sustainable reportedly include cost-cutting measures like office closures and the elimination of overtime, which could cause delivery delays.
What new policies and procedures have been implemented so far and what else has been proposed?
What reprecussions could service cutbacks have for rural and tribal communities, senior citizens and incarcerated individuals? What are union leaders saying about how postal workers could be affected?
Why has the USPS become a political football? What are the potential ramifications for voting-by-mail in November? What about mailed responses for the 2020 Census?
Has the postal service fared better or worse because of the COVID-19 pandemic? Will Congress include funding for the USPS in its next coronavirus response package?
What's at risk if the agency remains underfunded or is downsized? What are the pros and cons of privitizing the postal service? Should the USPS be run as a business or government service?
- Richard John, professor of history and journalism at Columbia University and author of "The American Postal Network 1792-1914" and "Spreading the News: The American Postal System from Franklin to Morse”
- Judy Beard, national political and legislative director for the American Postal Workers Union
- Arthur Sackler, manager for the Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service
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*This interview was recorded on Thursday, August 6.