In this era of Amazon and email, it’s easy to make fun of the Postal Service, which dates back to the founding of the country (Benjamin Franklin was our first postmaster, earning an annual salary of $1,000). Almost 250 years later, however, it remains a vital service for tens of millions of individuals and businesses across the country, and is consistently ranked as the most trusted government agency in America.
So current Postmaster General Louis DeJoy should expect tough questions from Democrats and Republicans alike when he testifies before Congress in the coming days about ill-timed service cutbacks at the agency. On Friday, he will appear before the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in the GOP-controlled Senate. On Monday, he will testify in front of the Democratic-led House Oversight Committee.
It is critically important that these hearings not turn into the latest episode of political theater. This isn’t the time to score points to please the pundits on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News. The mail is a vital part of the lives of all Americans, every bit as important as clean water, reliable electricity and safe roads. DeJoy must provide answers to several questions, chief among them:
-- Mail-order prescription services are up by more than 20% this year, with major companies such as CVS, Walgreens and Express Scripts expanding their mail-order offerings due to COVID-19 concerns. More senior citizens, in the high-risk coronavirus category, are choosing to fill their prescriptions via mail rather than risk a trip to the pharmacy. A full 80% of outpatient prescriptions for veterans are sent by mail, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Can he guarantee Americans will receive their medications in a timely manner?
-- Much of the debate around the service cuts have centered on the fact that President Donald Trump has sought to discredit mail-in voting, and DeJoy is a major Trump donor. Like it or not, mail-in voting has become increasingly popular in recent years, and even more so during the COVID-19 pandemic, when voters don’t feel the need to choose between casting a vote and risking their health by heading to a busy polling place. What specifically will DeJoy do to guarantee that every American vote will be counted?
-- There’s no arguing the Postal Service faces a financial crisis, thanks to a combination of changing times and congressional meddling. But why did DeJoy initiate service cuts in the middle of a pandemic? Will those cuts be restored?
Americans have asked a lot of the post office over the past two-and-a-half centuries. And for the most part, the Postal Service has delivered. Now it’s up to Congress to make sure that tradition continues when the country needs it most.