People are unhappy with the length of time it takes the U.S. postal service to deliver mail. Incidents of late mail delivery have increased by 48% since January 2015. No one seems to have a workable solution to the problem, yet everyone has an opinion on it, including Bernie Sanders as he delivers his opinion on the status of mail delivery.
It seems no one is happy with the current USPS mail delivery times and politicians are starting in on the issue, too (Hello! Campaign Season is open!). Unfortunately, no one seems to be offering anything like a workable solution. That includes Bernie Sanders, Democratic presidential hopeful, as he delivers his opinion on the status of mail delivery.
Spoiler alert: it’s not good.
In fact, Sanders said that the USPS created a “disaster that is negatively impacting Americans all over this country” after it closed more than 140 mail-sorting plants and instituted slower delivery times as cost-cutting measures.
He even wrote a letter to Postmaster General Megan Brennan asking for reinstatement of overnight delivery of first-class regional mail. The letter stated, in part, “I have heard from people all over this country who have reported serious delays in receiving life-saving prescription drugs, and the bills that they need to pay to keep the lights and electricity on in their homes.”
Sanders cited letters and calls from veterans and seniors in his constituency (Vermont) who say they’ve waited as much as 9 to 11 days for life-saving prescriptions to arrive in the mail. “This delay means that some of the most vulnerable people in the country are going without the medications they need, or they are being forced to travel long distances because they cannot rely on the timely delivery of mail.”
The Vermont senator has gone toe-to-toe with the USPS over proposals to eliminate Saturday service and close rural post offices. His opposition is a direct response to an urgent alert from the USPS’ inspector general earlier this month. In the notice, the IG said that incidents of late mail delivery have jumped by 48% since January of this year. The IG urged that the USPS place a moratorium on mail-sorting plant closures until delivery service stabilizes.
Sanders brings up an excellent point. The USPS delivery delays are not the fault of lazy employees or management just out to increase its bottom line like so many others have done (corporate America, I’m looking at you!). The USPS is facing an enormous financial challenge in the form of a legacy mandate from the Bush administration. That mandate forces the USPS to pre-fund future health-care costs for retiring employees and comes with a $5B annual price tag. It bears mentioning that the USPS has been unable to make this payment for over a year.
Beginning in 2012, the USPS started the plant closure process that has culminated in about 140 mail-sorting plant closures. This was an effort, albeit unsuccessful, to cut costs in order to afford to cover the Bush mandate. In January 2015, the USPS “relaxed delivery standards” and eliminated overnight delivery for local first-class letters. An extra day in the delivery cycle was added for non-local mail.
Now it’s time for some potentially #UnpopularOpinion.
Everyone needs to step back and stop looking at this situation from a purely emotional perspective, blaming the USPS for creating “disasters”. Did the USPS close mail-sorting plants and delay mail delivery? Yes. It did so in response to a presidential mandate it could not ignore. Plus, a good percentage of the late deliveries factored into the 48% increase came from the severe weather we experienced in the first part of the year. Despite its popular slogan, Mother Nature actually can stop the mail delivery.
Picture it: you have $1,000.00 each month and no additional funding coming from other sources. You have rent of $550.00 and utilities equaling another $100.00. Groceries cost $200.00 per month and auto-related expenses total $125.00. You have $25.00 per month left for any incidentals.
Now, imagine you’re told that you must pay for health insurance or face severe penalties (not really all that hard to imagine) and that expense is $75.00 each month. Uh oh! You’re now short $50.00 every month! What to do? Cut expenses from one of the other areas, that’s what.
Arguendo, you just signed a new lease and cannot reduce your monthly rent. That leaves groceries, utilities and auto expenses from which to choose. Your utilities are at the most basic level and you don’t have “frills” like cable TV or a smart phone, so that’s out. Likewise your auto-related expenses; you can’t cut any of those or else you won’t be able to get to work to earn that $1,000.00.
That leaves groceries. You must cut a full 25% out of your monthly grocery budget in order to pay the mandatory health coverage cost. You must also do that without any direct impact on your ability to prepare the same quality meals as before. See where it gets difficult? Now you know what the USPS is up against.
Bernie Sanders wants to fix the cause of the problem. Namely, he wants to put the collective powers of the legislature to good use in overturning the Bush mandate. Congress has that power. It simply has to pass legislation in conflict of the Bush mandate. Of course, the president may exercise veto power of such legislation, but the president who signed the mandate is out of office and the current president may actually be amenable to the idea.
But wait! What about the retiring postal workers’ health care costs? I do believe that they deserve to have coverage. However, that’s another area for improvement. In the first place, the USPS hasn’t paid the $5B ticket in over a year, so it’s not like the current plan is working. I’m no expert in such matters, but I know enough to say that if a system isn’t working and its brokenness is causing other problems, it’s time to fix the system. As much as I support health care for USPS retirees, perhaps it’s time to look at other options than the pre-funding plan.
It’s either fix the system by overturning the failed Bush mandate, raising taxes or cutting excess defense spending to adequately fund the postal service or get used to the new levels of service and hope that the USPS can somehow miraculously rise to its former standard delivery service without the funding to do so.