On Oct. 1, the U.S. Postal Service deliberately slowed down deliveries in Maine. At the same time, our toothless postal regulators approved a surcharge on packages during the holiday season, when volume often doubles and triples.

This follows the lamentable decision, two decades ago, to end overnight in-state delivery of First Class mail, which now can take two days or more.

It’s all part of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s grand plan to reducing service at all levels, while charging higher rates. It reflects his principal, in fact only goal – to make sure the Postal Service can balance its books, whatever the other demands it might face.

If the Postal Service were a private business, this might make some sense – though it also could produce a “death spiral,” as higher prices led to lower usage, producing still more service cuts. The Postal Service is not a business. It’s currently an “independent,” nonprofit arm of the federal government, truly accountable to no one.

But historically it is, like universal public schools, one of the most brilliant creations of American democracy – reliable service to every post office delivery point in the country, for the same set fee, spurring the widespread provision of everything from patent medicines to rural weekly newspapers.

Those days are long gone, but the perversity of DeJoy’s policies is still breathtaking – and they’ve been implemented with remarkably little protest, considering their impact on our daily lives.

Maine is one of the states where priority mail deliveries – the most popular service – will fall from two-day delivery to four days, affecting everything from the arrival of government checks to the prescription drugs that are increasingly shipped by mail.

A postal service spokeswoman defended the changes as necessary to “meeting 95% service performance,” – that is, attaining the percentage by lowering the standard. As one critic aptly responded, “It’s like they’re trying to set themselves up for failure.”

I scoured press releases from all four members of Maine’s congressional delegation. Most are concerned with their committee work; Rep. Chellie Pingree focuses on agriculture, while Jared Golden touts funding for Bath Iron Works.

Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins were united by their justified unhappiness about the Biden administration’s policy, finally rescinded for early November, to make Canadian travelers come across the border by plane, rather than drive across – as Americans heading north have been able to do since August.

None of them, however, has had anything to say about the postal slowdown, even though its effects, especially if not quickly reversed, could be far more significant.

About the only thing that has happened is that 20 state attorney-generals, including Maine’s, have filed suit against the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), seeking to halt the changes.

Unfortunately, these lawsuits, though they get headlines, are largely pro forma. Unless the PRC fouled up its procedures – highly unlikely – no court will order reversal, however benighted the policy.

What could work is pressure on the president, who appoints the Postal Board of Governors, who in turn oversee DeJoy. Initially, some hotheads suggested Biden could fire the whole board and oust DeJoy, but that would create chaos.

Biden has nominated three new members, who have been confirmed, giving the board a full slate for the first time in a decade. Democratic appointees now outnumber Republicans 5-4, but it’s not a working majority.

The new members have criticized DeJoy’s plans, but the Democratic holdovers continue to back him. The biggest problem is the powerful chair, Ron Bloom, a Trump appointee who’s among DeJoy’s strongest supporters – and who claims to have written his plan.

Among the criticisms of DeJoy is that he was a major donor to the former president, but the more relevant fact is that he achieved business success in logistics; Bloom is a Wall Street asset manager.

This is probably why both see their main task as competing with UPS, FedEx, et. al. in delivering packages, rather than fulfilling the Postal Service’s unique charge: delivering the mail, on time and at affordable rates.

So far, President Biden has resisted calls to fire Bloom, and replace him with a chair committed to restoring the Postal Service to its mission. That may be the only way, however.

Pressure from states most affected by the cutbacks, including Maine, will be much more effective than working through Congress’s postal committee, and it’s high time our representatives got cracking.

The need for the Postal Service has increased dramatically during the pandemic, as it became literally a lifeline for many. It’s time for its downward spiral to end.

Douglas Rooks, a Maine editor, commentator and reporter since 1984, is the author of three books. His first, “Statesman: George Mitchell and the Art of the Possible,” is now out in paperback. He welcomes comment at [email protected]

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