On Oct. 1, the U.S. Postal Service began to implement core aspects of U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s previously announced plans to improve the bottom line. Or, to undermine the USPS even more — depending on one’s perspective.
A key component of the new measures: slower mail delivery. Or, more specifically, an end to “service guarantees” that supposedly guaranteed first-class mail would be delivered within three days anywhere in the United States. “Supposedly” being the operative word, since under DeJoy and also because of the pandemic, as most people who use the U.S. mail know, it stopped being delivered promptly.
The new “service guarantee” is for two to five days, depending on distance. (The old three-day guarantee also had a distance variable; within 280 miles, first-class mail was supposed to be delivered in two days). The new distance limits, according to The Washington Post, will be 140 miles within two days; 930 miles within three days; 1,907 miles within four days and any U.S. destination farther than that, five days.
The Post says that is because first-class mail that used to be transported by plane will now go on trucks.
Postal customers should figure on an extra day or two for any first-class mail being sent farther than a day’s drive away.
For this slower service, many will pay higher costs, with a holiday package surcharge that started Oct. 3 and will continue through Dec. 26, of 30 cents more for first class, up to $5 more for priority mail. First-class stamps were earlier hiked to 58 cents each.
DeJoy’s critics had hoped the newly reconstituted board would have delayed or altered the prior mail slowdown plan, but it didn’t. Whether such inaction is because an alternative solution to the USPS’ pressing money problems is still elusive, or because of a lack of political will, or for other reasons is unclear.
What is clear is that further slowdowns in the U.S. mail will further erode the USPS’ credibility and position, further imperiling its future. Given that, what does our editorial board think should be done now and over the long term to address this problem?
Ted Diadiun, columnist: Here’s the key number: $188.4 billion. That’s the total financial liability that DeJoy was asked to fix, with another $160 billion in losses projected over the next decade. Neither amount is DeJoy’s fault. The only solution is to cut expenses and raise prices, unless you want Uncle Sam to come calling on us taxpayers for another few hundred billion.
Thomas Suddes, editorial writer: One needn’t have a suspicious mind to wonder two things: (1) Is this an indirect swipe at postal voting; and (2) Will the effect of this boost the bottom line of privately owned document delivery services, such as Federal Express?
Eric Foster, columnist: As a lawyer, my profession relies heavily on the USPS. We all lamented the slowdown in delivery due to the pandemic, and nobody’s happy about the increased costs and even slower delivery. There are ideas regarding how to make the USPS financially solvent that don’t require devaluing the brand. Why not try those first?
Lisa Garvin, editorial board member: Moving more first-class mail over land when the trucking industry is desperately understaffed feels like another deliberate blow by political operators hell-bent on privatizing a critical government service. Removing Postmaster Louis DeJoy, who has an obvious conflict of interest, and eliminating the postal service’s crippling health-benefit-prefunding requirement would be steps in the right direction.
Mary Cay Doherty, editorial board member: The realities: Snail mail is down; package shipping is up. DeJoy’s plan makes minor adjustments to first-class mail service while adding seven-day-a-week package delivery to meet changing customer needs. Additionally, future retiring USPS employees should be required to join Medicare. The Post Office cannot afford to keep retirees on its insurance plan.
Elizabeth Sullivan, opinion director: Destruction of the U.S. mail should not be the price demanded to “save it.” And it’s worth saving. That means replacing DeJoy with someone whose priorities are something other than death by a thousand cuts so private carriers can rush into the void.