Article written by Richard Cowan is a former NORML National Director and author of the Marijuana Weekly News syndicated column.
“Collateral Damage” is a military term for the unintended consequences of an action, and, as I like to say, “the law of unintended consequences is the only law that always works.”
President Trump’s astonishing war on the US Postal Service is an excellent example in that it hurts major parts of what is considered his “base”, Seniors, rural communities, small businesses and veterans, and they are especially vulnerable during the pandemic.
Seniors are the most vulnerable because so many of us depend on the USPS to deliver prescription medications. According to the National Council on Aging, “Approximately 72 percent of low- and moderate-income seniors report having a chronic condition…” which means that they are exceptionally vulnerable to the loss of dependable postal service.
The Postal Service delivered 1.2 billion prescriptions in 2019, including close to 100 percent of the prescriptions from the VA, according to the American Postal Workers Union.
Minority communities have also been exceptionally hard by the pandemic. The Postal Service is one of the leading employers of minorities and women, with minorities comprising 39 percent and women comprising 40 percent of the workforce. 21 percent of employees are African-American; 8 percent are Hispanic; 8 percent are Asian-American/Pacific Islander; and 0.67 percent are American Indian or Alaska Native.
Approximately 113,000 Postal Service employees, or about 18 percent of the USPS workforce, are veterans. The Postal Service has increased the number of veterans hired each year, but veterans also have special needs, and having fellow veterans on the USPS can be very important to them.
Recently, Gen. Russel Honore USA Ret., the hero of Katrina, pointed out that the USPS is also very important for Active Duty military, especially those serving abroad because the USPS is the way they get mail from home, including packages sent by their families.
But the USPS is also vital to small businesses, especially outside of major metropolitan areas. USPS delivers 181.9 million pieces of First Class mail daily. “In the United States, the majority of this shipping is facilitated by the USPS, especially for small and medium businesses. For context, the USPS handles almost half of the world’s total mail and delivers more than the top private carriers do in aggregate, annually, in just 16 days.”
Trump’s reasons for opposing voting by mail are increasingly bizarre.
On June 22, he Tweeted:
“RIGGED 2020 ELECTION: MILLIONS OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS WILL BE PRINTED BY FOREIGN COUNTRIES, AND OTHERS. IT WILL BE THE SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES!”
During an interview on Fox News, Trump said that if USPS does not receive the additional $25 billion funding request that Democrats included in the ongoing stimulus negotiations, then he believes the Post Office won't be able to handle the influx of mail-in ballots in the upcoming election. In the meantime, the Administration seems intent on permanently crippling its ability to deliver anything on a timely basis.
It is certainly true that the USPS has serious financial problems, but it has multiple causes.
- Whether or not its pension system as required by Congress is punitive, that is not the source of its current problems. See: Post Office Pensions: Some Key Myths And Facts
- The pandemic has sharply reduced its revenues, as with most businesses. If it loses its core business now, it may never be able to recover.
- Over the last decade it has been one of the most visible victims of the Internet, email, online advertising, etc. It is the oldest “paper” business in the country.
- Most importantly, it was never intended to be a normal business. It’s creation was ordained in the Constitution as a way to unify the country. There is no correlation between the price of a stamp and the cost of mailing a letter. Right now the debate is about voting by mail, opposed by the President. It would be impossible to place a dollar value on the ability to vote, even without the pandemic.
In the meantime, we have to wonder if our democracy will get lost in the mail.