Restoring the U.S. Postal Service should be a priority for Congress
When Americans were recently polled about various public institutions, the winner was rated favorably by 91 percent. Here's a hint: it wasn't the U.S. Congress.
The top-rated institution was the U.S. Postal Service -- a critical public amenity even older than our country. It's easy to understand why that service is held in such high regard. Through good times and bad, in all sorts of weather, Americans could rely on the mail.
The recent decline of the Postal Service is not the fault of the individual letter carriers who do their job well -- even during the pandemic. Instead, it's the fault of top management, which has made some terrible decisions. That's why I've introduced legislation to reverse these bad choices and restore the mail service on which millions of Americans depend.
During my two terms in Congress, no issue has brought more complaints than the recent downturn in mail service. Since last year, I've received more than 1,000 emails, texts and phone calls from constituents concerned about the late and missing delivery of their mail.
I've heard from people whose Social Security checks and pension payments have been delayed for the first time in their memory. Small business owners wrote to me about payments they never received, putting their businesses and employees at risk.
Many constituents complained that Christmas cards and presents, mailed in plenty of time based on prior years, arrived late or not at all. Others told of utility and credit card payments delayed, resulting in late-fees and higher interest payments.
A number of people who rely on the mail for delivery of their prescription drugs experienced unprecedented delays, threatening their health. One veteran, who had undergone a recent organ transplant, called because the immuno-suppressant drugs he needed to prevent rejection were lost in the mail.
The outrageous thing about this situation is that it didn't have to happen. Instead, it resulted from decisions by a Postmaster General who never should have received the job.
Leading up to the first cases of COVID-19, the Postal Service was delivering first-class mail within one to three days over 90 percent of the time. This enabled Americans to rely on their mail service when the world began shutting down.
Then, political considerations led to the appointment of Louis DeJoy, a private businessman and campaign funder, as Postmaster General. DeJoy had never worked for the U.S. Postal Service and was not among the finalists recommended for the job. Once appointed, DeJoy quickly worked to put his stamp on the department -- all in the name of greater "efficiencies." He junked dozens of expensive mail-sorting machines and required mail trucks to leave postal facilities "on time," whether they had been loaded or not.
Many of these changes were made over the protests of the letter carriers who deliver the mail and businesses that rely on the Postal Service.
Since DeJoy's arrival, timely first-class mail delivery has plummeted to a rate of 71 percent. This drastic decline in service was not a consequence of the pandemic nor was it necessary for the Postal Service's survival. Instead, it resulted from Postmaster DeJoy's failed leadership. Now he's attempting to double-down on his poor decisions by unveiling a "strategic plan" to increase the price of postage while codifying the poor performance.
This should be unacceptable to every American who is paying bills, running a business, or waiting -- sometimes for weeks -- to have their prescriptions delivered. Unfortunately, only the Postal Board of Governors can remove DeJoy -- a long and cumbersome process.
Meanwhile, Americans and businesses large and small need their trust restored in the U.S. mail. I've introduced legislation to require the Postal Service to return to the standards in place on January 1, 2021, including one- to three-day delivery for first-class mail. I named my bill the Delivering Envelopes Judiciously On-time Year-round (DEJOY) Act, to make clear who's responsible for the decline in service. The name may be tongue-in-cheek, but the intent is no joke.
Nine out of 10 Americans were happy with their mail service before Louis DeJoy got his hands on it. It's time to restore the reliability of an essential public service on which millions of Americans still depend.
• Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi is a Democrat from Schaumburg representing Illinois' 8th District.