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Now is not the time to start curtailing USPS operations

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. So goes the United States Postal Service’s motto.

No one said anything about lack of funding.

President Donald Trump admitted in an interview last week that he is withholding funds available to the USPS, in order to limit the agency’s ability to handle tens of millions of mailed-in ballots for the Nov. 3 election, to thwart what he claims is the Left’s push for universal mail-in voting. On Monday, during stops in Minnesota and Wisconsin, he said he is trying to strengthen the Postal Service, which has had decades of money problems.

His solution for strengthening the Postal Service, however, involves cutting overtime and shutting down sorting machines, forcing the Postal Service workers to put off until tomorrow what it could be doing today, given the time and resources.

The Postal Service has seen revenues shrink during the COVID-19 pandemic, to be sure. Billions of dollars in emergency funding linked to the coronavirus epidemic are available already. USPS officials should be using them.

In addition, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has suggested another emergency appropriation of $25 billion for the Postal Service. It is doubtful the agency needs that much to cope with COVID-19 — or the November election — but if some additional money is needed, it should be provided by lawmakers.

But neither COVID-19 nor politics is at the heart of the Postal Service’s money crisis. It existed long before the pandemic. It will persist long after the virus — this one, at least — has been controlled.

“Legacy” costs are the albatross around the Postal Service’s neck. That translates to enormous pension liabilities built up over years, with no way of dealing with them except for demanding a taxpayer bailout.

Somehow, that challenge must be addressed. How? And more importantly, when? Two months before the election, with its expected flood of mail-in ballots, is not the time to be cutting back on services.

Facing critical Senate hearings in Washington this Friday, and threats of lawsuits from the states, US Postmaster General Louis Dejoy announced Tuesday he is “suspending” several of his cost-cutting initiatives until after the election.

That’s good news. The US Postal Service should be gearing up for the election season, not cutting back.

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