You can’t vote by mail if there’s no mail.
One of the many disasters that will ensue if the government actually lets the United States Postal Service go belly up, which it might do as early as September.
A disaster to democracy, small “d” — the mail knits this country together in a fundamental way, like the interstate highway system — and I suppose to large “d” Democrats, too. That’s because their frequent majority — which is supposed to be the deciding factor in elections, remember — is constantly being undercut by Republican voter suppression.
The GOP casts this anti-democratic (and yes, anti-Democratic) action as a campaign to suppress voter fraud, which is rich, like the guy breaking into your house and stealing your TV declaring it part of an anti-burglary campaign.
At least we haven’t gone back to literacy tests and poll taxes. Yet.
The USPS going bust would also be a disaster to already cratering employment. Unemployment shot up due to the COVID-19 pandemic: a record-shattering 16 million unemployment claims in three weeks. If the USPS goes, another 600,000 jobs — good jobs with benefits — go with it.
The $2 trillion bailout package approved by both houses of Congress would have been the perfect time to help out letter carriers, since the volume of mail is down some 50 percent due to COVID-19.
The package manages to rescue the airline industry; you’d think the mail would be a no-brainer. But even no-brainers are hard when you haven’t got a brain. Or, rather, when the rude ganglional clump that controls your actions only lights up when the topic is you.
President Trump, his gaze firmly fixed on himself and his interests, forbade saving the USPS for a typically selfish reason: the Washington Post is mean to him, critical of his many lies, incompetencies and failures. The Post is owned by Jeff Bezos, who also owns Amazon, which delivers lots of packages through the mail. Trump thinks — those two words look strange paired together, don’t they? — that if he hurts the postal service, he’ll hurt Bezos.
It’s like burning down your home to get rid of a mouse.
And the 600,000 postal workers? And the 328 million Americans who rely on the mail for a range of essential services, from prescription drugs to, yes, packages from online retailers, to those $1,200 government checks that are whistling all the way from the Treasury department? Expendable.
Expect Fox News to start highlighting problems with the postal service, which was already struggling in the age of the internet, losing $8.8 billion last year. It’s amazing to see how shape-shifting their narratives are. Now Trump is a coronavirus visionary, leaping to combat COVID-19 while treacherous Democrats blocked him at every turn. It would be funny if it weren’t so nauseating.
Democrats did manage to keep a $10 billion loan to the Postal Service, which is why it can stagger forward until the autumn and not collapse in June. It needs more like $50 billion and a change in the law. Being forced to fully fund its pension, something no company does, and being required to deliver to every single address in the United States, no matter how remote, makes sure that the postal service loses money no matter how efficiently it is run.
Six days a week, the boxy white USPS truck parks in front of our house about noon, and our red-bearded letter carrier goes up and down the block. A comforting sign of normalcy, that some things are still proceeding as they always have.
“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” The United States post office traces its roots to 1775; the first postmaster general was Ben Franklin. There can’t be any pride in being part of the generation that killed it.
We’ll return to a world strange enough when this is all over, with half the restaurants gone, not to forget lost friends and loved ones. It’ll be an added insult to also do without postcards and letters and packages, doubly tragic because it was so avoidable.
Then again, much of this disaster was avoidable. Our nation didn’t have to suffer the way it has, is and will. But that’s what you get when you install myopic malice and reflexive self-dealing personified as your leader and then wear out the knees of your pants bowing down to it.