What seems like centuries ago, I grew up in Mission Hills, in the San Fernando Valley. Back then, it was a bucolic place, with large grassy yards, plenty of open space, and a wonderland of a playground for kids to grow up in. Outside was always a great escape for playing army, flying kites, making go-carts… and following the mailman around while he walked from house to house, dropping mail inside the mail slots built into every home, with the mail magically appearing in a brass box located in the kitchen wall.
Right out of “Leave it to Beaver.”
“Larry” was our mailman and he walked up and down our street for my entire childhood and early adult life. Larry was a constant. Every day he showed up on the porch with the mail. And Saturday had two deliveries, early and late – to compensate for the Sunday day off. No kidding.
Larry kept Bazooka bubble gum and other candies in his mailbag and would hand it out to kids as he walked the length of our neighborhood. Looking the world like a Pied Piper of mail, he’d have two, three, five kids following him around. We were friends. It was… neighborly.
But progress stops for no one, the U.S. Postal Service included. Changes at the USPS over the years were just part of society itself changing, with efficiencies required. Streetside post boxes replaced the super cool slots we used to have on our porches. And back in the early 1980s the USPS selected Grumman/General Motors, to produce the now-ubiquitous “LLV,” or, “Long Life Vehicle.” These are the white boxy things you still see everywhere, with the all-important sliding right hand door to reach out from the truck to drop mail into curbside boxes.
Say goodbye to the “Larry the Mailmans” of the world: The cute little white trucks did a lot to isolate us from the human side of the mail delivery business. And then came the joint community mailboxes in today’s tight tract home environments and “adios” to our personal ties to the Postal Service.
All that can be chalked up to progress. But cynically arriving on the scene courtesy of Donald Trump, Postmaster General Louis Dejoy set to work hobbling what was left of the USPS good will and service
First came DeJoy’s attempted permanent decommissioning of some 700 mail sorting machines that slowed the once-vaunted postal delivery to a crawl right before the 2020 election. Then came work cutbacks. Much higher prices are now promised, also with promised slower first-class delivery times. So much for our, “Neither sleet nor snow…” USPS.
In any other setting, an internal terrorist CEO like DeJoy would be fired on his second week – but postal rules make him nearly impossible to pry loose. DeJoy was always no joy, for in his position as postmaster general, conflict of interest is his game. Government exists for the exploiting, for the taking.
And there’s tons in it for DeJoy. DeJoy owns an estimated $70 million stake in his logistics company, New Breed Logistics. NBL holds tens of millions in contracts with the USPS, and that sum is growing. He holds substantial options in Amazon, an enormous delivery company using inexpensive USPS.
In short, the poorer the USPS performs, the more DeJoy gains. A nonprofit, the USPS still delivers first-class letters for 1/20th to 1/40th of competitor FedEx. You read that right. And package deliveries are often 1/6th the price of commercial competitors. Why would DeJoy’s NBL or FedEx want to compete against the price and service competition like the once-vaunted USPS when a well-placed conflicted insider could ruin them in short years?
The long-time Republican donor and significant Trump insider, DeJoy was just the man to tap to divert public service into private profit. Like they do Russia, but here at home…
DeJoy’s latest trick is to hobble the USPS for the next 30 years by not leading them into the future, but rather dragging them back to the past.
Those aged white postal delivery trucks needing replacement? Now’s a golden opportunity to modernize – but not with DeJoy at the helm. The USPS runs the largest vehicle fleet in the nation. The current aging LTVs get only 7.9 MPG fuel “economy.” Today is the perfect time to switch to all-electric, as most LTVs run short distances, anyway. Or switch to at least hybrids. No deal. DeJoy selected military heavy-duty armored vehicle manufacturer Oshkosh Defense to build the new fleet of 150,000 new trucks with a “new and improved” 8.2 MPG, at a cost of $65,000 per truck!
Yes, the new vehicles have air conditioning and airbags. But 8.2 MPG in a world of electric trucks and 90 MPG plug-in hybrids is business suicide. No rational CEO would do such a thing. Yet DeJoy hobbled the USPS with 8.2 MPG in a 30-year arrangement tied to expensive carbon fuels. Instead of leading with a modern vehicle manufacturer, DeJoy selected a maker of heavy military equipment to produce the most inefficient vehicle to be released onto American roadways since the original military-grade Hummer hit our roads.
DeJoy is a joy to so many! To the oil industry. To the military industrial complex. To FedEx and his company, NBL. Except to citizens, you and me, and all the once-proud professionals at the USPS, who are getting squeezed now from all sides.
DeJoy was corrupt from the start, so we shouldn’t expect he would understand that USPS stands for U.S. Postal SERVICE. Its mission is to serve Americans – everywhere, at rates and timing optimal to Americans themselves. Forget all that now. For the next 30 years, our USPS will be driving the nation’s largest fleet like it’s the 1970s all over again, with high cost, horrific mileage, polluting ancient-mobiles.
The whole DeJoy episode is an outrage, and you should be outraged, too. Because should our USPS be driven to extinction by DeJoy, your replacement choice at mailing a letter will cost you $20 or more. And shipping boxes? Take out a mortgage.
DeJoy is delivering us garbage trucks instead of timely, cost-efficient mail.
Larry the mailman would almost surely go postal if he were still alive to see this sorry day.
Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.