We Must Save the United States Postal Service (USPS) to Have Safe Elections
NEW HOPE, PA, April 11, 2020 - On April 9th, it was announced United States Postal Service mail volumes were down more than 30% from a year ago because of the coronavirus COVID-19 lockdown. Megan J. Brennan, the postmaster general, directly requested an $89 billion bailout from Congress yet the Trump administration has voiced opposition and PA-01 incumbent Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick has yet to say anything.
We must act immediately in a bipartisan manner to support USPS and uphold Congressional duties as assigned in the Constitution. Section 8 directly empowers Congress to establish postal offices and postal roads with the same level of responsibility as coining money, setting taxes, raising armies, and declaring war.
Even as it fulfills this Constitutional mandate, the United States Postal Service normally operates self-sufficiently with 0 taxpayer support, just a tax-exempt status similar to nonprofits. This means it depends on consistent mail volumes to keep its nationwide operation at scale.
In stark contrast, raising our military is assigned to Congress as a responsibility several paragraphs after establishing postal offices in Section 8 of the Constitution, yet the military is entirely dependent on tax-payer funding. The annual national security budget has increased steadily since 2017 from $582 billion to a staggering $718 billion in 2020.
Now, the United States Postal Service, which again, normally has a Congressional budget appropriation of $0, has declared they are in need of a one-time $89 billion bailout. President Trump's dislike of the idea isn't exactly surprising. National level Republicans have long targeted the postal service. In 2006, the Republican-led Congress set unprecedented requirements for USPS to pre-fund 50 years of pensions and liabilities that resulted in 10 years of $5.6 billion payments that no other company was subjected to. This is why you always hear so much about USPS budget woes in headlines. The difference is that the current crisis is a real one, while those of the past were intentionally manufactured by conservatives to encourage privatization.
The importance of stabilizing the USPS immediately is even greater in the midst of the public health crisis and global pandemic known as COVID-19. To ensure the continuity of elections, legislatures nationwide are expanding vote-by-mail access so that voters can stay home and stay safe. Dozens of states are depending on USPS to fulfill essential delivery duties in the election process over the coming weeks and months.
Vote-by-mail is crucial to ensuring seniors, immune-suppressed and at-risk Americans can exercise their right to vote without putting their lives on the line. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that Trump's refusal to support the USPS comes within hours of making baseless claims of vote-by-mail fraud that were so outrageous, even Republican Governor DeWine of Ohio, a state where all votes are cast by mail, immediately came out against President Trump's remarks.
The President's dislike of vote-by-mail is not a justifiable reason to hold the USPS hostage. Now is not the time for more partisan squabbling when lives are at stake. Congress must act immediately to fulfill its Constitutional duty to the postal service and, in doing so, protect the right of Americans to vote safely in forthcoming elections.
Skylar D. Hurwitz
Independent Democratic Candidate for U.S. Congress in Pennsylvania's 1st District