This is a Christmas greeting, a civic love letter, really, to the workers of the U.S. Postal Service. They delivered 6-year-old granddaughter Eliza’s gift-package with time to spare for days of wondering about its contents as it waits for the magical morning under the massive spruce tree.
Over hundreds of miles of the American moonscape of pocks and potholes, through several relay stations along the route, the package of love landed on Eliza’s family doorstep, in a quaint village on Cape Cod, 10 days ahead of Christmas, though six days behind the promised two-day priority delivery and the surcharge for the speedy service. But all is forgiven. The gift arrived. Christmas is saved.
Apologies arrived daily on the USPS tracking site, along with assurances that the package was on its way to the prescribed destination. Finally, the day arrived when the USPS website signaled, “Out for delivery.” Then, with a final authoritative declamation at 1:43 p.m., came the sigh of relief, “Delivered.”
By a day they even beat the pile-up of snow that blanketed New England, which would have further slowed or delayed delivery.
Throughout the parcel’s meandering, bumpy journey was the red streak header screaming across the website: “Alert: USPS is experiencing unprecedented volume increases and limited availability due to the impacts of covid-19. We appreciate your patience and remain committed to delivering the holidays to you.”
It should have said the Postal Service is being run by a jackass.
Skip the Grinch analogies. And forget the Scrooge comparisons. They were amateurs compared to Louis DeJoy, the postmaster general.
DeJoy is a proclaimed logistics expert, a bean-counter and delivery executive whose business is supposed to be getting stuff from here to there. It made him a millionaire (or is it billionaire? At that level, who’s counting?), and that’s why he’s running the Post Office.
DeJoy was a prolific fundraiser and generous contributor to President Trump, some of the donations apparently by suspicious methods, and he remains a slavish suck-up and reliable toady. And that’s another reason he was chosen by the USPS board of governors as postmaster general.
There are currently four Republicans and two Democrats on the USPS board of governors. Trump is expected to appoint a fifth Republican to the governing board, thus assuring Republican control of the agency under his Democratic successor. By law, neither political party can have more than five members on the governing body, usually White House allegiants.
DeJoy is the rare postmaster general who has had no previous USPS experience but, instead, was chosen, in a highly unusual procedure, by a headhunting firm, with a heavy-handed push from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
But the main reason he was chosen before the Nov. 3 general election was part of a pernicious scheme to rig the election – by Trump – and that was to suppress mail-in balloting, disguised as an attempt to prevent Jeffrey Bezos, owner of Amazon, from cashing in on the end-services of the Post Office. As usual, Trump’s allegations had no basis in fact.
DeJoy and his wife bought options in Amazon stock, according to reports, in an apparent conflict of interest. He also indirectly owned shares in UPS through the company he founded and sold. Concern at the time of his confirmation hearing was that DeJoy could increase the value of his stockholdings in the private companies by manipulating Post Office activities.
Postal Service officials defied Trump and denied DeJoy’s ploy that Bezos had a sweetheart deal for last-mile delivery, but that the Post Office actually had a beneficial financial arrangement with Amazon. The real motive appeared to be Trump’s displeasure with The Washington Post’s coverage of him and his administration. Bezos also owns The Post.
And never to put anything past Trump when it comes to divisive talk of race, the Postal Service historically is the largest single employer in the nation of Blacks, with a workforce of about 220,000.
Christmas got caught in DeJoy’s devious snare.
DeJoy removed sorting equipment from Post Office buildings. He eliminated public mail boxes. He suspended overtime pay in advance of the November elections. And he resisted a federal judge’s order for a thorough search of all mail processing facilities for additional ballots. He relented, kind of, when all hell broke loose. An estimated 65 million mail-in ballots swamped the Postal Service in the general election.
Against a public outcry and the customary ululations from Democrats in Congress, the USPS board of governors not only approved of DeJoy’s actions, but also applauded his methods of managing the nation’s mail delivery service.
Christmas was just ahead, and the logistic expert didn’t see it coming. The public – as well as the shippers – got slammed. The nation’s entire delivery system is on overload if not near collapse.
All of this was taking place while the coronavirus pandemic was raging across America and consumers shifted their holiday shopping from bricks-and-mortar stores to on-line purchasing. The eruption of packages was swift and overwhelming, forcing carriers such as FedEx and UPS to cut off delivery service and to force shippers to dump the overloads on the Post Office.
Those fruit cakes, spiral hams, baskets of autumn fruit, plum puddings and lobster pot pies may be molding on runways and in warehouses, and it’s nobody’s fault but DeJoy’s. And when the Christmas bills are delayed by days or weeks in the jammed-up, slowed-down mails, and the next bill arrives with a late charge, send the penalty to DeJoy, or better yet, to Trump. Both have money to spare.
But Trump’s (and DeJoy’s) plot against Bezos backfired, too, just as the plan to block the blizzard of mail-in ballots did. Bezos has launched his own shipping company of Amazon air carriers and delivery trucks. Trump’s source of antagonism just might be that Bezos has more – much more – money (and brains) than he has.
And now it is reported that the Postal Service in Georgia, where two run-off elections for the U.S. Senate are underway, is overwhelmed with mail-in ballots. DeJoy is way behind the learning curve.
DeJoy has about three weeks left to grovel until his patron, Trump, walks out the door, or is forcibly evicted, and into a personal and political nether land of lawsuits and debt. But there’s little Joe Biden, as president, can do directly about DeJoy.
The Postal Service is a hybrid organization. It is a government service agency that is supposed to be managed and run like a private business. Technically, the postmaster general is appointed by the USPS board of governors, subject to Senate confirmation.
The nine members of the board of governors are appointed by the president, and also require Senate confirmation. The postmaster general becomes the 10th member of the board. There is no limit on the term of the postmaster general as there is a seven-year appointment cap on the other board members.
There are currently three vacancies on the board of governors. The best Biden can do is to fill the vacancies with members who have USPS experience and hope for the best, with DeJoy still technically in charge, or to hope for more vacancies.
And maybe that would put some sanity back into future Christmases. By the way, did we mention that DeJoy is a jackass?
Meantime, here’s hoping that Eliza enjoys her gift and has a very Merry Christmas up in her winter wonderland.
And a special Merry Christmas to the postal workers who delivered it, and to all of the overburdened USPS workers who are delivering gifts everywhere, hopefully you have a merry day off – if DeJoy allows such a luxury.
A Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and a Happy Kwanza to all. Except DeJoy.