An old and dear friend of ours is in serious, in fact, life-threatening trouble. This friend predates the Constitution and was born before the Declaration of Independence was signed by our founding fathers. Surviving the tests of time, wars, hurricanes, blizzards, pandemics, recessions, depressions and “gloom of night,” the U.S. Mail has made its way to our homes day after day. In the spirit of loyalty and dedication to duty, Americans have been faithfully served by our neighbors and kin who work to get our mail processed and delivered. We should not abandon them now when they need us most.
I’m a retired postal employee — I served for 33 years and worked my way from letter carrier to postmaster. I’d like to share my perspective with you. To do so, I’ll need to give you a brief history before explaining the current situation.
1970 saw a transition from the original Post Office Department to the U.S. Postal Service. Congress decreed that the USPS should be a quasi-independent entity. The idea was for the USPS to be fully operational on its own revenue. In fact, to this very day, the USPS carries out its mission without any taxpayer funding.
The 1970 statute established the Postal Rate Commission, similar to the way utility rates are set. It also set up the Board of Governors, appointed by the president with Senate approval.
The net effect was that the USPS could not set rates above inflation and could not compete in a way to inhibit competition. There was never any intent to be a profit generator or to dominate the market. Congress believed that the USPS was as necessary to the American public and economy as other federal agencies. We don’t expect the FDA or EPA to make money — we expect them to provide a service, namely to protect our food supply and our environment. The USPS was set up to pay its bills but not to turn a fast buck while it provided universal mail delivery to America.
For many years the USPS fulfilled its mission. It operated in a fashion very similar to that of the military, always maintaining efficiency and effectiveness. Rigorous auditing of every aspect of postal operations was a daily occurrence. Mail volume and work hours were always monitored to maximize productivity throughout the system. As the internet and social media caused drops in mail volume, staffing needs were immediately assessed and altered. The invention of the bar code brought a new age of automation that further reduced staffing requirements. The Postal Service has continuously operated with as close to a skeleton crew as possible. But always, the mission came first: The idea of delaying First Class Mail was never imagined or tolerated.
It might also be helpful to understand the enormous volume of mail moved by the USPS. Here’s a comparison: The USPS moves 100 times more mail every month than UPS and FedEX combined do each year! Delivery is universal across America — that means every address every day! Also, keep in mind that for 55 cents, you can send a birthday or get well card from the tip of Florida to the far side of Hawaii — making the USPS still the best bargain in the world.
2006 brought a dramatic and devastating blow to the USPS. The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act forced the funding of employee health and retirement benefits to be paid 75 years in advance. No corporation does this nor would any survive if they were forced to do this. This unnecessary cost is over $5 billion each year. Is it any wonder the USPS is having financial problems?
The COVID pandemic has hit the USPS as hard as it has virtually every industry. But Congress is, once again, not being consistent. For example, the airline industry got a COVID bailout payment of $50B with no strings attached. That amount of money was warranted because roughly 75 million Americans per year rely on the continued existence of airlines. Why then would the Postal Service, which serves every one of the 330 million Americans every single day, get only 20% of what the airlines got? Additionally, in order to qualify for this Band-Aid, the USPS has had to make concessions that negatively impact employees and customers alike.
We now are brought to a new and even more sinister crisis. The current administration is taking direct steps to undermine the mission and very existence of the USPS.
It’s clear there are both short-term and long-term reasons for the extreme lengths to which USPS enemies are resorting. For purely political reasons, voting by mail is being undermined. Additionally, conservatives have had their eye on postal privatization since the Reagan administration. They see it as a get rich quick scheme!
The case is overwhelming that the Postal Service is being sabotaged for purely nefarious political reasons. With a pandemic burning across our nation during an election year, doesn’t it seem reasonable that the government would take every precaution to protect both voters and poll workers from COVID infection? Without any evidence whatsoever, the administration is falsely claiming that mailed-in ballots are somehow compromised. Many states have been voting by mail for many years. Did you know that mail-in voting existed during the Civil War? With hundreds of millions of votes cast by mail, the rate of fraud is less than 0.00025%.
It must also be stated that the additional volume of ballots going out to voters would be no problem at all for the USPS. Several times per week every address gets an ad from the grocery store — this wouldn’t be much different. The actual sorting of ballot mail is virtually 100% automated to delivery units — the same is true for ballots being returned to county recorders.
The newly appointed postmaster general has already had a huge negative impact on the Postal Service. With no postal experience at all, he has ordered the reorganization of the entire management structure, resulting in a consolidation of decision making by him alone. He has fired or reassigned 23 headquarters-level managers. Transportation schedules to and from major distribution centers have been altered, resulting in mail delays to delivery offices. Service needs and employee absences may no longer be covered by using overtime. Due to operating with bare minimum staff already, the result is again delays in mail delivery. Taking direct aim at the vote-by-mail process, each county that mails ballots could suddenly see their per piece cost nearly triple — from 20 cents to 55 cents. Thus far, Congress is not allocating any additional funds to cover these costs.
I’ve spoken with current postal managers in Arizona and across the country. They all paint the same frightening picture of mail bottlenecks and delays. In some smaller offices carrier routes are being left undelivered on some days. Priority packages, many of which contain lifesaving medications for seniors and veterans, are delayed by as much as three weeks.
So, I hope you can understand that in the short term, voter confidence is being unnecessarily undermined in order to impact the 2020 election results. The long term may see the demise of the Postal Service itself. Most studies show that privatization would immediately reduce service and increase costs to all Americans. Many current post offices would be shuttered, home delivery would become very rare — you’d need to travel long distances to pick up your mail. Most surely, rural American would see the end of any postal convenience.
I’m asking you to join me in helping to keep our old and trusted friend, the United States Postal Service, around for the short and long term. Please contact your members of Congress and ask them to provide full funding for the USPS with no strings attached. Ask them to hold current USPS management accountable for processing and delivering the mail meeting the First Class Mail Standards without delays.
Ask them to make sure every American can continue to rely on a strong and independent United States Postal Service for generations to come.
It seems that every American generation needs to be reawakened to the truth of racial injustice.
Black Lives Matter. Those three words have become the headline of a new chapter in American history. What they mean to each of us, how they make us feel, depends in large part on our own personal life experiences.
Mine began in the early 1950s. Living in an inner-city Chicago low-income and racially diverse neighborhood, my classmates and friends were as likely to be Black or Hispanic as white. I’m only consciously aware of that in retrospect — back then, we were just kids going to school and growing up. Playing sports was all about having fun and winning — the skin color of my teammates was never considered. There’s no doubt that because I was raised in a home that didn’t promote or allow prejudice of any kind, I felt none myself. Guess you could say that my early years were somewhat racially naive.
I didn’t come face to face with the ugliness of unmitigated racism until I enlisted in the Air Force in 1967. I spent the first two years stationed in the Deep South — at the time it was racism’s ground zero.
In Mississippi I met KKK members who told me that Blacks were a subspecies of Homo Sapiens. In Alabama I saw a laundromat with a “Whites Only” sign and a DQ that would only serve Blacks through the back door. The town’s movie theater prohibited Black patrons from using the restroom, refreshment stand and lower level seating. I recall how angry those of us on base felt, so we devised a plan of action. Several of us escorted a Black airman and his date to that theater and forced management to set aside those prohibitions or face retaliation — I was so proud to be among that group of GIs!
In fits and starts, America has taken steps over the years to bring about some measure of racial equality. It was during the 1950s and ‘60s that America was being awakened by the racial earthquakes that helped shape the country’s landscape for decades to come. The civil rights movement brought attention to the fact that Black lives mattered less.
In 1954, Thurgood Marshall successfully won the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, thereby ending Jim Crow segregation in public schools. That legal process wasn’t universally accepted. Subsequently in 1957, the nation watched in horror as the “Little Rock Nine” had to run a gauntlet of hate in Arkansas, and later federal marshals were needed to escort James Meredith to attend classes at Ole Miss. What I took from this is that laws without enforcement don’t mean much. Racism will never be undone by laws and court decisions alone.
I really started to pay closer attention to racial issues when I began to listen to Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. One promoted peaceful resistance while the other sought change through more aggressive means. I believe that both strategies combined to bring about the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. These landmark laws were enacted only because of people taking to the streets and forcing Congress to act. But still, laws and court decisions didn’t erase racism in America.
There can be no denying that racism still exists in the hearts and minds of many. Often, racism is seen in ways that don’t make headlines and can be easily ignored and hidden. However, if we look closely we find discrimination exists in education availability, in employment opportunities, in obtaining loans and mortgages, in quality health care access and in the criminal justice system.
While many African Americans have certainly felt the pain from these types of overt discrimination, virtually all have felt the more subtle but no less painful stabs that come from a disapproving glance or a sidestep on a public sidewalk or a condescending word. Still today in America, Black parents live in fear for the lives of their children walking down the street. Racism is wired into America and it is hurting America.
There is no question that virtually every negative societal development hits minority communities hardest. It doesn’t matter if it’s economic recession, a housing bubble burst or a pandemic infection, people of color suffer most. When so many young Black men and women are dying for no other reason than the color of their skin, how can they not believe that Black lives matter less?
The current discussion surrounding Civil War monuments uncovers some of that racist wiring. It’s yet another awakening to racial injustice. We’re now being told that American history is being erased. In truth, most of these statues were erected many years after the war and were funded by organizations that promoted Jim Crow laws and segregation. They offer no historical context — Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis presented as noble and virtuous statesmen is ludicrous. These monuments are attempts to rewrite the history of slave-owning America and the Union’s desperate fight to free human beings.
The Civil War was fought because of slavery. The state’s rights argument was about states maintaining slavery. The economic issue was about plantations owning a slave workforce. Without the context of the horrors of slavery and attempted destruction of the Union, any attempt to honor the Confederacy is absurd and unpatriotic.
The real history needs to be told in complete context — the real history is in the blood and tears of slaves. I can’t imagine what it must be like for African Americans to walk past ghosts of stone that honor those who enslaved their ancestors. To African Americans, they are a painful reminder that Black lives matter less and they must be taken down.
It seems like every generation needs to be reawakened to racial injustice. 2020 has become another of those jolts. I can’t help but wonder if taking a knee during the national anthem had been met with understanding and introspection rather than disdain, how differently things might have gone.
The anger and pain we see in our streets today has been felt and pent up for decades. It is born of the injustice that has existed for over 400 years in America. And now we are being asked to face it once again.
Soon, governments at various levels will enact reforms and laws, courts will render their decisions but to what effect? Will hearts and minds be opened? Will rigid political differences cause some eyes to close shut, ignoring the pain and suffering?
Black Lives Matter is not a political statement. Acknowledging that Black lives actually do matter does not undervalue the lives of others — it doesn’t mean that white lives don’t matter.
When we understand and accept that some lives have been wrongly treated, when we commit to doing all we can to correcting that, then we can truly say All Lives Matter! When we stand together to say that Black Lives Matter, we can begin to hope that future generations won’t need to be reawakened to the continuing wrongs of racial injustice. We can hope that we’ll all be able to live, work and play together as Americans.
Ralph Atchue is an Eloy resident and is active in the Democratic Party.
What is it with Republicans making racially crude remarks on an almost daily basis? How many have we seen get publicly eviscerated and finally come up with some lame statement like: “Oh, no, I didn’t mean to hurt anybody — my comments were taken out of context." Wouldn’t you think they’d learn to just stop doing this?
LD11’s state Sen. Vince Leach has not learned to stop — he can’t help himself — it’s in his nature. His latest Facebook cartoon posting is racially insensitive, insulting and disgusting. During a time of widespread protests that in some cases have turned violent, Leach has decided to pour gasoline on the fire. The cartoon features a stereotypical Black woman with an infant on her hip in an apartment strewn with trash as she tells us there’s no way to improve her lot without being on the government dole. Leach has proven, over time, that communication with his constituents is his opportunity to be sarcastic and evasive. Now, however, he has moved into the realm of bigotry and hatred. Now he makes it clear exactly what he thinks of African Americans — he believes they live like trash and are incapable of self-reliance! It’s obvious that to Leach, Black Lives Matter only is a punch line to a disgusting joke!
I’m not all that surprised by Leach’s FB posting. As a staunch supporter of a president who traffics in racial divisiveness and dismissiveness, Leach is a card-carrying member of the Party of Trump. While the state Senate has been asked to expel Vince Leach because of his blatant race baiting, it is unlikely any action will be taken by a GOP majority.
The required action to expel Vince Leach will come this November. 2020 is a year like none other. 2020 must be the year we rid the state Legislature of all the Vince Leachs!
Ralph Atchue - Chairperson, Democrats of Casa Grande
EDITOR'S NOTE: The syndicated cartoon referenced here challenges African Americans' loyalty to the Democratic Party.
Does the Republican Party still exist? What was once the Grand Ole Party (GOP), seems to have morphed into the Party of Trump (POT). Please let me explain.
It’s the POT that thinks blue states should be forced into bankruptcy, failing to acknowledge that those blue states are net “givers” while red states (including Arizona) are net “takers." It’s the POT pushing workers back into unsafe jobs, risking their lives while shielding corporations from any liability. POT loyalists continue to pay homage to the daily COVID briefings filled with bragging, lying and suggestions of self-poisoning. Trump’s rhetoric is encouraging violent protesters, characterized by many as terrorists, across America with no POT pushback! Arizona’s POT chair, Kelly Ward, attacks our heroic medical professionals for wanting to keep Americans safe and healthy.
Amazingly, the CDC has listed fact-based guidelines for reopening state economies while the president encourages governors to violate them. As of today, not a single state has met those federal guidelines. No POT outrage can be heard despite Trump ignoring all the early warnings and nearly two months of inaction to lessen American infections and deaths. In fact, the POT publicly celebrated passing the 60,000 (and climbing) death mark as “a success”!
Why isn’t the POT questioning where the $500 billion in corporate bailout money is going? Why are the truly small businesses pushed to the back of the funding line? The POT no longer seems to give a damn about fiscal responsibility or accountability.
Many give Ducey credit for trying to take the right steps in safely reopening our state. Yet his careful approach is being undermined by POT state legislators like Kelly Townsend.
Yes, the way I see it, the GOP has gone to POT. If we give Trump another term, I’m afraid our nation will go to pot!