When I worked as a rural mail carrier in the hills of southeastern Kentucky in the early 2000s, my route snaked along the most mountainous parts of the county. I forded creeks and climbed steep dirt roads. Sometimes I’d have to drive for five miles to get to the next house. I delivered everything, including cages full of baby chickens and new sets of tires. I saw the joy that a parcel of books, clothing, or music brought to people. For so many on my route, the United States Postal Service was a lifeline, the way they got their medicine, checks, and much more.
Now Americans all over the country are reporting delays in sending and receiving mail, as Louis DeJoy, the new postmaster general, cuts back on overtime and decommissions mail-sorting machines and collection boxes. During Senate hearings with DeJoy yesterday, Rand Paul, Kentucky’s senator, declared that people living “20 miles down a dirt road” shouldn’t get service more than twice a week, and pushed for fewer postal jobs. He should say that to the people I know whose lives and livelihoods depend on the mail.
In Tennessee, folks tell me that their prescriptions are up to two weeks late. One woman in the coalfields of Virginia told me that her son’s Social Security check was more than three weeks late. Rural Wisconsinites have been fighting the delays. In Montana, the governor got involved to stop the USPS from removing collection boxes.
At least 21 states have threatened to file federal lawsuits to stop DeJoy, a Donald Trump mega-donor, from changing mail procedures. Recently, DeJoy, who has said that decommissioning machines is a “normal process,” indicated that he would delay any changes until after the election. In his testimony before the Senate yesterday, DeJoy said he believed in the efficiency of mail-in voting and was committed to adopting procedures that “advance election mail, in some cases ahead of first-class mail.” These are small victories. However, I can’t stop thinking about the broader implications of DeJoy’s actions, as well as Trump’s recent threats of withholding additional funding from the USPS. Trump has made no secret of his disdain for cities and, in particular, the urban poor, who are disproportionately people of color. He embraces rural areas, where some of his most fervent defenders live. But time and time again, he and his administration show that they don’t care about the people who live here. [Continue reading…]