The mail isn’t coming on time. From Maryland to Wisconsin to Montana, residents and proprietors of businesses are complaining to elected officials and the press that it now takes multiple weeks for items to be delivered. The reason this is happening isn’t a secret, either: In mid-July, postmaster general Louis DeJoy reduced the amount of overtime hours that postal employees are allowed to work and ordered them to stop making extra trips to distribution centers to retrieve mail that was processed after scheduled pickup times. Less work = slower mail delivery.
Given that this slowdown coincided with Donald Trump’s campaign to convince the country that mail-in voting (by Democrats) is fraudulent, it’s natural to suspect that DeJoy, a major Trump donor, has been ordered to sabotage the mail system on purpose in order to make it more difficult to cast and tabulate mail ballots. (DeJoy was appointed by the USPS Board of Governors, but the members of that board are appointed by the president.)
Trump has, on more than one occasion, demonstrated that having a functioning government is less important to him than advancing his personal interests. If it turns out that he leaned on DeJoy to screw up the post office, no one would be surprised. No one at all! But a statement that DeJoy gave today also suggests another possibility: that he is screwing up the post office on his own because he thinks that one of our most stable and enduring national institutions requires immediate visionary reorganization using Business Principles and Efficiency.
Look at this paragraph, for example:
During the early days of my tenure we have also taken a fresh look at our operations and considered any necessary organizational and structural adjustments that will best position us to maximize our core competencies and key strengths. We are highly focused on our public service mission. However, we collectively recognize that changes must be made, and for that reason we will implement an organizational realignment that will refocus our business, improve line of sight, enable faster solutions, reduce redundancies, and increase accountability. This realignment will strengthen the Postal Service by enabling us to identify new opportunities to generate revenue, so that we will have additional financial resources to be able to continue to fulfill our universal service obligation to all of America.
“Line of sight”? What?
DeJoy’s career experience is in the shipping business, so one can assume that he is more familiar with his subject matter than real-estate heir Jared Kushner is with any of the many critical government tasks he has been put in charge of reinventing using his entrepreneurial mindset, or whatever. But the private-sector profit incentive can come into conflict with goals like paying sustainable wages and providing universally accessible services, goals which are foundational for a public operation like the postal service. Even if DeJoy is a shipping efficiency genius—and, given the ratio of jargon to insight in the statement above, that doesn’t seem to be a sure thing—an unprecedentedly mail-reliant national election being held during a pandemic might be the wrong time to launch the “destruction” phase of creative destruction. (For the record, it appears that “line of sight,” as a shipping term, means something like “being cognizant that your ultimate goal is the timely delivery of an item.” Which would seem to be the opposite of telling mail carriers not to deliver items on time if it means they have to work more hours!)
There is “good” news, in the Trump administration sense of good news, which is that the mail delays have gotten so bad that two rock-solid Montana Republicans—Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte—are complaining about them publicly, which means it’s a problem that might actually get addressed, rather than exacerbated to own the libs, like all the other problems are.
For more of Slate’s political coverage, subscribe to the Political Gabfest on Apple Podcasts or listen below.