Dear Mr. President,
I know you’ve got a lot on your plate, but could you spare a moment for the U.S. Postal Service? That engine of social and economic cohesion since before the Revolutionary War? The current Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, who was appointed by your predecessor last June, is doing his best to run the USPS into the ground. His latest 10-year restructuring plan calls for reduced Post Office hours, higher prices, and slower service.
I was thinking about the tenuous state of the U.S. Postal Service this week as I wrapped up the Easter packages I sent to my kids in college. Unlike the 1.2 billion prescription medications sent annually via the USPS, or the social security checks people count on every month, my packages were neither urgent nor necessary. Just silly stuff. A chocolate Easter bunny. Some temporary tattoos. A few random surprises to elicit a smile. I love the act of nesting everything into a carboard box and sending it off. With love, from Mama. I imagine my box moving from one mail carrier to the next, truck to truck, until it reaches its final destination. Delivering joy. (Not to be confused with DeJoy.)
But what if this service we’ve come to depend upon was no longer available? Today, the start of National Card and Letter Writing Month, seems like a timely moment for everyone to think about the Post Office. We take it for granted, like oxygen and the unconditional love of our dogs. But we can no longer afford to watch as people who stand to profit from a privatized postal service chip away at this beloved institution. Yes! Beloved! The USPS has a 91% approval rating among Americans. Can you think of a government agency that can touch that record?
And don’t just take my word for it. Listen to experts like John Nichols, National Affairs Correspondent for The Nation: “If President Biden does not take the necessary steps to begin the process of removing DeJoy from his position, the postmaster general’s austerity agenda threatens to ruin the USPS."
What does the USPS mean to you, Mr. President? Aside from my selfish desire to pop a letter in the mail whenever I please – to know that for less (far less!) than a cup of coffee, that letter will travel from my home in New Jersey to my friend Bonnie in California – I value our postal service for so much more, such as:
Keeping deliveries affordable for small business owners like my father, who was a regular at our local post office where the clerks all welcomed him by name.
Making our communities safer: Through the USPS Carrier Alert Program, countless Americans have received timely medical attention when their letter carriers observed or heard something amiss. Sorry FedEx and UPS. This is not your thing.
Supporting good jobs: The USPS has been a gateway to the middle class for many African Americans, and it is the single biggest employer of U.S. veterans.
Protecting our democracy: I don’t need to tell you about the importance of mail-in voting, Mr. President!
But do you know what I really love about the post office? Its potential. Over the years the institution has evolved with the times. We can no longer send children through the mail, as some parents did a century ago to avoid the cost of a train ticket, but there is so much more the postal service could be doing. Such as:
Providing affordable financial services: In the first half of the 20th century, the USPS provided post office savings accounts, financial services that could help the millions of people who live in banking deserts – particularly low-income communities and families of color who now must rely on predatory financial firms.
Narrowing the digital divide: The USPS could anchor an initiative to expand free broadband access, particularly in underserved rural areas. Think of all those remote learners this past year who had to scramble to find internet service.
Adapting to the needs of the community: With over 30,000 post offices in the U.S., these local hubs could provide a range of vital services, such as fishing and hunting licenses, driver’s license renewal, and Census support.
These are win-wins that allow a trusted infrastructure already in place to provide needed services while reaping tens of billions of dollars in revenue. The postal service is up for the challenge – we just have to let it help itself. I know you are a fan of the postal service, Mr. President, and I thank you for that. You moved quickly to nominate experts to the USPS governing board – the people who have the authority to fire DeJoy. While we are waiting for the Senate to approve those appointments, how about a little vocal support for the government agency that knocked itself out to save our democracy? They came through for us in November. Now we need to come through for them. For all of us. Because those chocolate Easter bunnies are not going to mail themselves.
Happy National Card and Letter Writing month, Mr. President! In the spirit of this holiday, I’m going to pop this letter in the mail. While I still can.