Sunday, August 23, 2020

War On The Post Office

                                                                                                   written 16 August 2020

                                                                                               published 23 August 2020


            Article I, Section 8, Clause 7 of the US Constitution empowers Congress to establish post offices, with the mission of delivering mail to everyone in the United States: an essential socialist service.  Despite this clear Constitutional basis for mail service (not business), Republicans have been trying to eliminate the United States Postal Service (USPS) for decades.  Their dogma is: government is the problem and private profit-making business is always better.  However, the USPS is popular with the voting public, so the Republican assault has not been honest or straight forward.

            Claiming fiscal responsibility, the 2006 lame duck Republican Congress passed The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) which financially cripple the USPS by compelling it to pay in advance for the health and retirement benefits of its employees for the next 50 years, and stipulated that postage price increases be limited by the rate of inflation.  No other entity, private or public, is required to make such a prefunding.  It has been described as "one of the most insane laws Congress ever enacted".  Between 2007 and 2016, the USPS lost over $62 billion, $54 billion due to prefunding retiree benefits.  

            In February, 2020, Representative Peter DeFazio from Oregon, sent out a press release.  "In 2006, Congress passed PAEA, to prefund retiree health benefits, costing approximately $110 billion.  Although the money is intended to be set aside for future USPS retirees, the funds are instead being diverted to help pay down the national debt.  Today the House of Representatives passed, by a bipartisan vote of 309 to 106, H.R. 2382, the USPS Fairness Act, legislation that would provide the USPS with much-needed financial relief by ending the agency’s burdensome prefunding mandate."

            The Senate Republicans killed the bill.

            The pandemic hit the USPS hard, reducing their workforce, but unlike other businesses, they got no economic help in the first stimulus package.  In May, the House passed the HEROS Act, another pandemic relief bill, including funds for the USPS, but Senate Republicans killed that bill too. 

            With the election approaching, and no leadership from the White House on the raging pandemic or the collapsing economy, the Republican assault on the USPS shifted to blatant sabotage of the USPS's ability to handle voting by mail.  In June, Trump installed mega-donor Louis DeJoy as postmaster general, despite zero postal experience.  However, DeJoy and his wife reported between $30-$75 million invested in competitors of USPS, presenting a significant conflict of interest. 

            Within weeks, postmaster DeJoy fired most of the USPS executives, and implemented new rules that slowed down mail services: prohibiting overtime pay, removing and destroying 671 high speed sorting machines, removing sidewalk mailboxes, requiring letter carriers to leave mail behind, and recently proposing tripling the cost of sending mail-in ballots to voters. 

            In a July Fortune interview, Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union said, “These changes are happening because there’s a White House agenda to privatize and sell off the public Postal Service.  They want to separate the service from the people and then degrade it to the point where people aren’t going to like it anymore.  A private business can make arbitrary business decisions, but we’re not a private business. We’re a service.”  

            Like many other ham-handed Trump actions, the gutting of the USPS is generating large public reaction.  Last week, bi-partisan outrage forced the suspension of removing mailboxes.  Protesters are appearing outside DeJoy's home.  State Attorneys General are beginning to file suit.

            The US criminal code, Title 18, Chapter 83, section 1703 defines it a crime for a Postal Service officer or employee to delay mail under penalty of fine or imprisoned of not more than five years, or both.  DeJoy and his assistants should be removed from office, arrested and charged.

            The leadership of the Republican party, infected with the Cult Of Trump, is willing to destroy to USPS in order to steal an election they know they can't win on merits. 

What You Can Do

            If you feel this is a concern, communicate with your federal and state representatives.  Let them know you want them to take action immediately.  

            The Board of Governors of the USPS can fire the current Postmaster General.  Their names and email addresses are:

                        Robert M. Duncan

                        John M. Barger 

                        Ron A. Bloom   

                        Roman Martinez IV

                        Donald L. Moak

                        William D. Zollars


           There are online petitions as well, such as MoveOn:


             This election is about who we are as a people.  Speak up about the USPS and make a commitment to vote.