Tag Archives: Post Office

Ladies And Gentlemen–Your Postmaster General

Americans who haven’t been living in caves the past few months have heard a lot about Donald Trump’s assault on vote-by-mail and the post office.

Trump has attacked the post office pretty consistently, even before he began his most recent efforts at vote suppression. (He hates Jeff Bezos and Amazon, and is convinced that USPS undercharges Bezos for deliveries. As with so many other things Trump “knows,” this  has been debunked by people who actually know what they’re talking about.)

It was bad enough when Mitch McConnell–aka “the most evil man in America”–refused to allow a Senate vote on House-passed measures to shore up USPS finances, but things really started going to you-know-where-in-a-handbasket when the administration installed  Louis DeJoy as Postmaster. As Paul Waldman noted in an article in The Washington Post,“Like many Trump appointees, DeJoy seems to have been hired for the purpose of undermining the agency he now leads.”

Ignore LeJoy’s transparent efforts to sabotage the vote. He would have been an appallingly inappropriate choice even if he hadn’t been willing to wage war on democratic self-government..

LeJoy was a major Republican donor, thanks to the sale of a family shipping company for some $615 million, and he is heavily invested in shipping companies that are not only not the USPS, but are in direct competition with the postal service. As a post to Daily Kos put it, DeJoy “stands to make a serious chunk of change if he can either redirect a larger chunk of the nation’s mail to those companies or, alternatively, sabotage the constitutionally-mandated USPS severely enough to cause those redirections to become nonoptional.”

Evidently, DeJoy was Trump’s kind of “businessman.” His shipping company was sued multiple times for sexual assault, sexual harassment, racism, wage theft, and union busting. In 1997, the National Labor Relations Board found that, after taking over the Compton Army Terminal in California, DeJoy directed the company to take extreme efforts to hide job opportunities from union workers.

Last month, CNN reported on DeJoy’s ongoing conflicts of interest.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy continues to hold a multimillion-dollar stake in his former company XPO Logistics, a United States Postal Service contractor, likely creating a major conflict of interest, according to newly obtained financial disclosures and ethics experts.

Outside experts who spoke to CNN were shocked that ethics officials at the postal service approved this arrangement, which allows DeJoy to keep at least $30 million in XPO holdings….

“The idea that you can be a postmaster general and hold tens of millions in stocks in a postal service contractor is pretty shocking,” said Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, who resigned in 2017. “It could be that he’s planning on selling it, but I don’t understand the delay. He has managed to divest a lot of other things. And if he wasn’t prepared to sell that off, he shouldn’t have taken the job.”

Schaub, who is now a senior adviser at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, suggested that if DeJoy doesn’t divest his holdings soon, it could be construed as an illegal conflict of interest. Schaub also questioned why the ethics officials approved this arrangement.

It’s illegal under federal law for federal government employees or their spouses to have a “financial interest” in companies that intersect with their official duties. The ethics experts who spoke to CNN said DeJoy could have mitigated these conflicts by divesting, agreeing upfront to recuse himself from some matters, receiving legal waivers, or even establishing a blind trust.

“If you have a $30 million interest in a company, of course it’s going to impact you,” said Stuart Gilman, who spent 12 years at the Office of Government Ethics, where he was the assistant director. “I would assume that there is a problem here. It certainly doesn’t pass the smell test.”

CREW–Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington–also issued a letter detailing DeJoy’s conflicts of interest, noting that DeJoy personally participated in particular matters that directly affect two companies in which he retains ownership interests, and that “These actions run counter to his obligations under the conflict of interest law.”

More recently, we’ve been treated to blockbuster reports that DeJoy routinely violated campaign finance laws.

Is there a single person in Trump’s cabinet or administration who isn’t sleazy and dishonest?



A Measured And Accurate Rebuttal

Richard Hasen– probably the pre-eminent American scholar of voting and elections–had a column in last week’s  New York Timesin which he patiently dismantled Trump’s barrage of criticisms of mail-in-voting.

Not that anyone who listens to or actually believes anything Trump says would be likely to read the Times. 

I have only one quibble with Hasen’s essay–his assertion that Trump’s relentless attacks on mail-in voting are part of a “strategy.” After watching Trump for nearly 4 years, it is my considered opinion that the development of a strategy–let alone adherence to it–is far beyond his capacities.

Be that as it may, Hasen says there are two possible reasons for the assault: to create an excuse in advance of a loss, or an effort to create chaos that will both drive down turnout and undermine the legitimacy of the election. Hasen “very much fears” that the latter is correct, and that Trump is laying the groundwork for contesting his loss in a close election.

You can’t say he isn’t giving it his all. As Hasen reports,

Mr. Trump has made at least 91 attacks on the integrity of voting so far this year (and more than 700 since 2012) and backed up his complaints about mail-in ballots with lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Nevada and Iowa. He has repeatedly tweeted the unsupported claim that increased use of mail-in ballots in November, necessitated by the Covid-19 pandemic, will lead to voter fraud and a rigged election.

These attacks have been more than a little contradictory–evidencing Trump’s usual scattershot and illogical approach to most issues–and raising a not-insignificant possibility that they will end up hurting Republicans as much as–or even more than–the Democrats who are his targets.

The end game here is a bit curious because Republicans traditionally have relied on mail-in balloting to get out the vote, and there are already signs that Republican turnout might be hurt by his rantings. How else to explain the president seeking to distinguish between good “absentee” voting and bad “mail-in” balloting and urging Floridians to vote by mail? And how else to explain the president not only repeatedly voting by mail but using a third person — what Mr. Trump refers to as “ballot harvesting” — to deliver his own ballot to election officials in the Florida primary on Tuesday?

Hasen patiently explains why Trump’s claims of fraud are bogus (or as he phrases it, “unsupported by the evidence.”) Absentee ballot fraud is rare. There have been fewer than 500 prosecutions for such behavior over a 12 year period in which more than a billion ballots were cast, and Hasen tells us that they tended to involve small elections “when there wasn’t an active press looking for chicanery.”  (An observation that reinforces the importance of a robust local press…but that’s a subject for another day.) Furthermore, Hasen says that the relative rarity of cases shouldn’t surprise us, because states have all kinds of security measures in place. Those security measures go well beyond signature matching, to include ballot tracking and statements signed under penalty of perjury.

The real danger posed by this campaign of disinformation is in the event of close election results on November 3d.

A “blue shift” toward Democrats as later votes are counted is now a well-established phenomenon; as Democrats vote later, their ballots are counted later, leading to a good number of elections where Republican leads on election night turn into Democratic victories when the full and fair count ends.

Trump could claim, as he did in a 2018 U.S. Senate race in Florida, that later-counted ballots are fraudulent (a claim he abandoned when Rick Scott, a Republican, won the race). It could lead millions of his supporters to believe that Democrats stole the election, when in fact all that happened was that battleground states engaged in a close and careful count of ballots to ensure the election’s integrity.

To the extent that Trump has a “strategy,” my guess would be that this describes it. And after years of anti-government rhetoric, topped off by the in-your-face-illegality of this administration, Americans’ distrust of our institutions will feed those suspicions.

Vote early–and if at all possible, in person.

Kicking Them When They’re Down

A few days ago, I referenced President Obama’s efforts to console family members of the worshippers gunned down during bible study in Charleston, and said I found it impossible to imagine Trump trying to comfort anyone.

Not only does he not console– or even empathize with–people who are suffering, Trump’s instinct is to kick them when they’re down. Just as he insisted that John McCain wasn’t a hero “because he got caught,” he considers Americans who are disadvantaged “losers” –his favorite epithet. And “losers” have absolutely no claim on his sympathies (assuming, in the absence of any evidence, that he has the capacity for sympathy) or on government largesse. To the contrary.

Time Magazine recently reported on the difficulties disabled poor people are experiencing buying groceries during the pandemic. As the story noted, it can be difficult getting to the store in normal times, but in some states–where “stay at home” orders keep the elderly and “medically fragile” residents from venturing out, it has become a huge problem– because unlike other Americans, recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) aren’t permitted to use those benefits for grocery delivery in most states, including Indiana.

Speaking of food stamps, Vox and a number of other media outlets recently reported on the administration’s effort–in the middle of a pandemic that has triggered massive unemployment–to cut over 3 million people from the rolls.

The Trump administration is proposing bumping 3.1 million people off of food stamps (about 8 percent of the total program) through the federal rule-making process — cutting out Congress.

The rule cracks down on “broad-based categorical eligibility,” or BBCE, a policy that enables states to enroll people in food stamps (formally called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP) if they’ve already applied for other benefits limited to low-income people, most notably Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The claim (which doesn’t have much basis in evidence) is that this provision is easy to game and keeps benefits from going to the neediest people.

In fact, Trump and his administration seem to be mounting a positive vendetta against Americans who have the nerve to be disabled and/or needy. Another recent proposal from the Social Security Administration would cut $2.6 billion dollars over the next decade from the two programs that anchor the disability safety net: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Recipients of these safety net programs aren’t exactly living high on the hog: the maximum amount that SSI will provide to a disabled beneficiary is just 74 percent of the federal poverty level — currently $12,490 for an individual– and the average for SSDI was just $14,855 per year.

Speaking of vendettas, Trump is clearly intent upon destroying the nearly 250-year-old Postal Service, evidently because he is convinced that the post office delivers Amazon purchases at a loss. (That–like so much of what Trump believes–is demonstrably untrue.) And he hates Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post.

Trump blocked a bipartisan plan to provide $13 billion to the post office, which was already struggling due to a 2006 Congressional requirement that it pre-fund employee retirement obligations to the tune of several billion dollars a year. Trump has now appointed a crony with no postal experience to be the new postmaster general, and is demanding a hefty raise in postal rates.

The Post Office employs 600,000 workers. It supports a $1.6 trillion mailing industry that employs close to another 7 million. (It also employs black workers at double the rate of the overall workforce.) Only someone as clueless–or heartless– as Donald Trump would try to throw another seven and a half million Americans out of work at a time when unemployment is at an all-time high.

The post office is also critical to American healthcare: in 2019 alone, it delivered 1.2 billion prescriptions, including almost 100 percent of those ordered by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Those who are inclined to minimize the importance of the postal service might take a look at its performance during the current pandemic. Letter carriers are delivering much-needed items and at much lower cost than services like FedEx or UPS–everything from masks to stimulus checks. As states have migrated to vote-by-mail primaries, they’ve delivered the ballots. In fact, it isn’t much of a stretch to attribute the attack on the post office to Republican efforts to defeat vote-by-mail.

SNAP recipients, disabled people, poor folks, postal workers–to Trump, they’re all “losers” who can be kicked to the curb.

I think it was Maya Angelou who said “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.”