The U.S. Postal Service is a beleaguered organization that faced monumental challenges long before President Donald Trump took office or COVID-19 created a new plea for mail-in ballots.
These challenges have their roots in technology that eroded demand for first-class mail and legacy costs that act as a drag on long-term finances.
It’s easy to take the fatalistic view that the Postal Service is the next Blockbuster Video or Circuit City. It’s also temping to resort to partisan bluster and accuse political opponents of attempting to steal the election by either facilitating or hindering voting by mail.
The Postal Service is more than a wedge issue in the campaign or a dinosaur desperately trying to claw its way out of the tar pit of technology. The Jolly Postman aside, it is not an object of nostalgia from a Norman Rockwell painting but an essential service for millions of Americans. The need for reliable mail service is especially acute for the elderly and those who live in rural areas with poor broadband access, including large parts of Missouri.
This broad appeal was evident late last month in the U.S. House vote for $25 billion in emergency funding to help keep the Postal Service afloat during the coronavirus pandemic as well as an expected surge in mail demand closer to the General Election, which is now only two months away. The House bill would roll back operational changes that slowed mail service.
In Missouri, those voting in favor of this measure included Republicans Sam Graves and Ann Wagner and Democrats Emanuel Cleaver and Lacy Clay. Think about that. If rural lawmakers like Sam Graves and big-city Democrats can agree, then maybe the Postal Service is worth saving. In all, about two dozen House Republicans voted for this bill, which President Trump has threatened to veto.
In media comments, Graves noted the large number of elderly constituents in his sprawling district and lamented how the issue has become so politicized.
Congress heads back to Washington, D.C., this month following an August recess that was filled with long-distance rancor over law and order, coronavirus measures and the Postal Service.
Amid this bluster, four political opponents from Missouri provide a degree of hope that our elected leaders are able to put partisanship aside a see the future of the Postal Service as a practical issue instead of a political football.
Surely members of both parties can see the need to put the Postal Service on a sustainable path so that it continues to benefit rural and elderly Missourians who count on it for everything from receiving medicine to voting safely during a pandemic.