The Postal Service & The Federal Misery Mandate

I confess that I’m one of those poor deluded fools who clings to the quaint notion that government should serve the public and possibly even make our lives easier. Alas, the government serves to relieve me of that silly belief.

The Postal Service kerfuffle is one particularly keen instance. New delivery procedures for (allegedly) the sake of efficiency and saving the cash-strapped agency some dough appear to have generated a bit of controversy and national consternation. Even if you ignore the rather distinct aroma of fish wafting from new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy (who just happens to have donated more than $650,000 to Donald Trump’s campaigns) and the President’s own admission that he wants to torpedo universal mail-in voting, it’s hard to fathom how slowing mail delivery will do anything but make our existences even more, how you say, challenging.

I asked a mail carrier what he thought of the “service” changes that included dismantling sorting machines, removing collection boxes, and shrinking the hours during which post offices are open.

“We used to deliver any mail that needed to be delivered,” he replied. “Now the trucks have to leave at 6 a.m. and if they’re not loaded, they leave empty.”

By now it should be as clear as the nose on your hand that — election chicanery aside — the Postal Service, like all government agencies, is obligated to fulfill a federal mandate to make the public miserable. As if delaying our time-sensitive documents isn’t enough, the urgency to torment us is only amplified by the fact that a pandemic is raging and many folks want to use the mail to shop or, well, vote safely.

Ironically, the Postal Service is one of America’s favorite institutions. According to Pew Research Center, it has a 91% approval rating. It is certainly rich in romantic, rain-snow-and-gloom of night mystique. I mean, whose heart does not swell upon hearing of the lonely soldier’s letter from the front during the War of 1812 finally being delivered (after collecting dust in a Steubenville, Ohio, post office for more than 200 years)?

It’s no wonder that many Americans were torqued off to see the Postal Service being trimmed for what smelled like political advantage. Perhaps fog consumes my memory bank, but I don’t recall voter fraud ever being this huge an issue. It was mostly chortle-inducing urban lore about dead people voting in Chicago until Donald Trump started making a stink about it. It didn’t matter that he won the 2016 election he insisted would be rigged. He’s continued to insist the Democrats’ clandestine “Vote Early, Vote Often” campaign will generate an avalanche of bogus mail-in ballots and scenes from The Walking Dead at polling places across the land.

Now, you would think that with voting so essential to democracy, our government would have developed a secure, reliable system by now. But that’s too sensible. Plus, it would violate the Federal Misery Mandate that is, I am now certain, embedded in the Constitution.

In this maelstrom of anger and angst, I received a letter from the dear old Internal Revenue Service informing me that I’d failed to pay my 2019 income tax and had three weeks to cough it up plus $1.13 in interest and a $4.19 penalty. The letter was in error, but I’m sure that if I had to send that payment in on time under the spiffy new delivery procedures, I’d end up owing hundreds if not thousands of dollars in additional interest and penalties by the time it arrived.

Fortunately, Postmaster DeJoy, staring down the barrels of a Congressional hearing, lawsuits by 20 states, and pot-banging civil protests, decided to halt his “service” changes until after the election. But trying to make something better by making it worse is in perfect keeping with how government works … or doesn’t.

Share this Post: