The Post Office Is In Trouble. Trump Is Here To Help With A Nice Pillow For Its Face.
The looters who run the Republican Party are looking forward to the coronavirus pandemic helping them achieving one of their favorite pipe dreams: privatizing the US Postal Service. Mind you, unlike public education or clean water, the postal system is actually in the US Constitution, a point we hesitate to mention lest Rs remember this would be a great chance to eliminate government schools and the Clean Water Act, too. But even as the Trump administration is doing all it can to help out big corporations, from the coronavirus stimulus bill to how it's mismanaging medical supplies, it's dead set against helping out the postal service, and even threatened to veto last month's stimulus bill if it had included any funding to keep the mail moving.
The Washington Post reports that Congress had initially included a $13 billion grant to the USPS to make up for revenue it's losing because of the recession brought on by the almost-nationwide lockdown. But an unnamed administration official said,
We told them very clearly that the president was not going to sign the bill if [money for the Postal Service] was in it [...] I don't know if we used the v-bomb, but the president was not going to sign it, and we told them that.
So instead, the bill included a $10 billion loan to keep the USPS going, and even that was opposed by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. That loan hasn't yet been approved by Treasury, and if it doesn't materialize for some reason, the USPS would be "financially illiquid" by September 30.
It's not like there's anything all that important at stake, just 600,000 employees, a hell of a lot of infrastructure and real estate, and a system that a lot of big delivery companies like FedEx or UPS would love to replace, just as long as they can take over the profitable parts, raise prices 20- or a hundredfold, and can skip delivery to people and places that won't make them a lot of money.
The two biggest revenue sources for the Postal Service, first-class mail and advertising, are both sharply down, and the agency expects to lose about $2 billion a month for the duration of the downturn. Postal workers are also putting their own lives and health on the line, as WaPo notes:
Nearly 500 postal workers have tested positive for the coronavirus and 462 others are presumptive positives, USPS leaders told lawmakers. Nineteen have died; more than 6,000 are in self-quarantine because of exposure.
Unfortunately, Donald Trump haaaaaates the Postal Service, because he thinks it needs to raise its rates for delivering packages for Amazon, which he also hates because Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post, and that is how the US government is supposed to work: higher postal rates for the "president's" enemies. Also, if you get rid of the Postal Service, there won't be any pesky vote-by-mail, will there?
Now, we should note that in normal times, the USPS breaks even, because it's required to set postal rates so it will pay for itself. As Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-New Jersey) points out, no, It's not subsidized by taxpayers. It's been in difficult financial straits for the past couple decades, largely because in 2006 Congress passed a law requiring the Postal Service to prepay for both its retirement system and for healthcare for retirees — even for workers who haven't retired yet. That's a burden virtually no other company in the US has. But the amount of mail the system carries has been declining, as expenses rise, and that, plus the pension costs, has left the agency barely scraping by in good times. Now that there's a recession, it needs help.
Leaving aside the basic miracle of making it possible to send a letter to anywhere in the USA for 55 cents, the Postal Service is kind of important for your basic democracy stuff. Five states currently conduct all their elections by mail, and with the pandemic, those nasty Democrats want as much of the 2020 election to be conducted by mail as possible, because they don't respect the need for people to risk fatal illness to vote.
And let's not forget another genuine good the Postal Service has done America: Since the federal government was the first and largest nationwide employer to ban segregation in hiring, postal jobs helped drive the creation of the black middle class, as North Carolina A&T State U professor (and former postal worker) Philip F. Rubio discusses in his 2010 book, There's Always Work at the Post Office. Gosh, it would be really cynical of us to think Republicans would just love to get rid of half a million government employees, many of them black, who belong to one of the largest public workers' unions. (It's not AFSCME, though, so we won't embed the hilarious video. This time.)
Oh, but look at all the MONEY the Postal Service is asking for, as WaPo reports:
Postmaster General Megan Brennan asked lawmakers Thursday for another $50 billion — $25 billion to offset lost revenue from declining mail volume due to the coronavirus and $25 billion for "modernization" — plus another $25 billion Treasury loan and a mechanism to pay down $14 billion in existing public debt.
Well gosh, we can't possibly afford that. Not after we've given
- $350 billion to small businesses (including churches), with another $250 billion being asked for.
- $500 billion in corporate bailouts to be handed out as Trump wants (he fired the inspectors general).
- $50 billion in loans and grants to passenger airlines, plus another $4 billion for cargo carriers.
- $23.5 billion in agriculture industry aid, including — surprise! — $9.5 billion in aid to growers of "specialty crops," which the Trump Winery might be able to apply for, since the ag aid isn't in the part of the stimulus package that excluded Trump family businesses.
- A $15 billion change in the tax code that will help retailers, restaurants, and hotels, which, since it's not direct aid, could also go to Trump hotels, whee!
- $17 billion for "businesses critical to maintaining national security" — which the New York Times says is "a category seen as intended at least partly for Boeing, the troubled aircraft manufacturer and Pentagon contractor, whose name appears nowhere in the bill."
And of course, that's not including all the giveaways to corporate America in the form of the 2017 Big Fat Tax Cut for Rich Fuckwads. The point here is that the Postal Service isn't important to Republicans, so let's get rid of it, even if it leaves a lot of Trump voters in rural areas without mail service. They'll be OK with it, because if there's one thing Republicans can't stand, it's a service that's good for everyone.
Democrats are already primed for a fight on this, and good for them:
We'd like to think that a GOP effort to privatize the postal system would meet the same fate as the attempt to eliminate Obamacare, because hell, the post office is among the most popular government agencies, with an 88 percent favorable rating in a 2018 Pew poll. But Steve Mnuchin is already insisting that help for the USPS would be a "poison pill" in any new stimulus bill, and 40 years of GOP slams on the post office as slow and inefficient may have done their job. Time for all of us to make noise before a basic part of American life gets drowned in the Republican bathtub.
Funny, though — Republicans never demand that the Pentagon should make a profit. That may be for the best.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.