EDITORIAL: Post office needs new leadership

York Dispatch Editorial Board
United States Postal Service Postmaster General Louis DeJoy looks on during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on "Legislative Proposals to Put the Postal Service on Sustainable Financial Footing" on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in Washington. (Graeme Jennings/Pool via AP)

Louis DeJoy has done a lousy job as postmaster general of the United States.

At a time when the country has been depending on the U.S. Postal Service to deliver everything from ballots, food and medicine to computer hardware, clothes and toys to help weather the pandemic, DeJoy has presided over cuts, low morale and service that continues to fail 

After dealing with tens of millions of mail-in ballots for the November election, the post office delivered a record 1.1 billion letters and packages for the holidays, and by Christmas Day, 1 in 3 pieces of first-class mail was late, DeJoy said. The volume of mail required overtime and other costs that ate into financial gains for the agency.

The ongoing problems have eroded public trust in the post office. Judy Givens, of West Manchester Township, said she has sent checks for her real estate business that never arrived. Giant Food Stores had to reissue coupons that expired before they got to customers' mailboxes.

Former President Donald Trump reveled in the chaos DeJoy brought when he was appointed last June. DeJoy slashed overtime hours, enforced stricter delivery schedules and got rid of some sorting machines, including machinery in the two sorting centers that serve central Pennsylvania.

Trump used the resulting failures in the mail delivery system to further his bogus claims of election fraud, claims that have been repeatedly found false by numerous courts around the country.

With the change in the administration, many of Trump's appointees were sent packing. But DeJoy was not, thanks to the gaming of the U.S. Postal Service board of directors over more than a decade.

The board is meant to have nine directors, plus the postmaster general and the deputy postmaster general, but the board hasn't been filled since 2010, when the Senate stopped confirming nominees President Barack Obama named. The board reached a critical point in 2014, when so many terms had expired that there were only three directors left, not enough for a quorum, and the board became a temporary emergency committee. By 2015 there was only one appointed member left, and by 2016 there were none.

There are now six appointed members on the board, all nominated by Trump, with four Republicans and two Democrats — no more than five members can be from one political party. 

Which gives Biden his only chance to get rid of DeJoy. On Wednesday, Biden named three nominees for the board: Ron Stroman, a former deputy postmaster general who resigned last June; Amber McReynolds, a mail voting advocate who leads the nonprofit National Vote at Home Institute; and Anton Hajjar, the former general counsel of the American Postal Workers Union. 

The board is the only body that can fire the postmaster general. Biden and the Senate must seize this opportunity to turn the board to Democratic control and oust DeJoy.

And there's one more thing the Democrats in Congress can do to shore up the Postal Service: Eliminate the 2006 rule that the service must prefund health care benefits on a 50-year schedule. The law places a $6.6 billion burden on the post office that no other agency or business has, and the service has defaulted on the payments since 2012.

Meanwhile, the customers of the USPS — that would be every individual and business in the country — will continue to wait and hope that the mail will arrive, eventually.