Democratic efforts to bail out the United States Postal Service threaten to distract from the major issues facing the agency, as an increasingly vote-by-mail election thrusts the service into the public eye, according to a new report.
A new paper from former Congressional Research Service official Kevin Kosar criticized Democrats for politicizing the Postal Service and pushed back against calls for a taxpayer bailout while presenting alternative ways the service can redeem its image before the election. House Democrats pushed a $75 billion bailout for the service in April as they also pushed to aggressively increase mail-in voting. Kosar wrote that the major push—which culminated in an Oregon congressman chaining himself to a mailbox—was motivated by politics rather than addressing the agency's flaws.
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"So much of the political hysteria that erupted in the last month was just flat-out misinformed," Kosar told the Washington Free Beacon. "People thought that the removal of blue collection boxes was somehow a new thing that just started happening, which is absurd. It happens all the time. We had people jumping to all sorts of conspiratorial conclusions about normal postal operational stuff."
The Postal Service is facing a long-term financial crisis. It has more than $100 billion in unfunded obligations to employees and a depleted retirement fund. Kosar, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said that reformers should seek to avoid an overly politicized examination of the Postal Service and instead address fundamental questions about its purpose and long-term financial instability.
The House Democrats' proposed bailout did not seek to address the underlying issues and instead made the issue a political one, Kosar's paper argued.
"[Democrats] interrupted a scheduled vacation to hold hearings and have used innumerable media appearances to frame—linguistically—the president and the Republican Party as malefactors," it stated. It argued that the proposed $25 billion allocated to the agency "for no stated purpose" was a departure from normal appropriations practices.
Kosar said that the Postal Service needs to make a decision about what its future services will look like.
"The question is do you make the Postal Service a smaller entity that's less costly to run, which is what I think people on the right tend to favor," he said. "Or do you do what the left does, do you find new lines of business for the Postal Service to get into?"
To address its long-term financial issues, Kosar's paper recommends Congress permit mail carriers to shift from the six-day-a-week delivery schedule to a five-day delivery schedule, with an exception for the month before the election. It also recommended a reevaluation of the service's retiree benefits programs to avoid financial insolvency.
The 2020 presidential election is poised to feature the highest number of mail-in ballots in history, but the Postal Service has indicated that it has the ability to handle the logistical weight of the election. A Postal Service spokesperson told the Atlantic that the service has "ample capacity to adjust our nationwide processing and delivery network to meet projected election and political mail volume, including any additional volume that may result as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic."