Congressional oversight hearings this week related to operations at the U.S. Postal Service are a classic example of oversight politics, says a Virginia Tech policy expert.

“This is about more than just government operations,” said Matthew Dull, an associate professor in the Virginia Tech School of Public and International Affairs and based in the greater Washington, D.C., metro area. “The timing is intended to communicate a message to voters by Democrats seeking to unseat President Trump in November.”

Quoting Dull

“The U.S. Postal Service represents a powerful political and economic institution that has played an integral role in the development of American society. Anxieties about the election and mail-in voting during the pandemic, fueled by the president’s rhetoric, have created a potent symbol for Democrats and outspoken Postal Service allies.”

“The Postmaster General testifying before House and Senate committees has transformed in recent decades by partisan polarization and the growing influence of party leadership and on committee oversight activities.”

“Political debate and congressional oversight often focus on compelling victims - and this debate is a prime example. Criticism of the Postmaster General has been fueled by stories of the delivery of vital prescription drugs to veterans and seniors from delayed mail and images of iconic blue mailboxes being removed from street corners.”

“The issue of how to make mail delivery work has been debated for decades - reducing delivery days and other service cutbacks, user-fees and differential pricing, reducing labor costs, the list is long and complicated. Today the image of the postal worker is fixed in the imagination as a nonpartisan public servant.”

“The USPS’s deep, long-standing financial problems are solvable - but the solutions follow very different philosophical perspectives. Republicans argue that the USPS must run more like a private enterprise and raise revenue to cover its costs. Democrats and Postal Service allies argue that mail delivery is a public good.”

About Dull
Matthew M. Dull is an associate professor in the Virginia Tech School of Public and International Affairs and based in the greater Washington, D.C., metro area. His research on American political institutions and public administration, political appointees, congressional oversight, and government reform has appeared in numerous scholarly journals. He teaches courses on American public administration, public policy, and research methods. More here.

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