Why Is Louis DeJoy Still Running The Post Office?
I would have imagined that firing DeJoy-- to begin with-- would have been a week one priority for Biden. A corrupt Trump crony, part of his assignment was credibly rumored to be to help Trump steal the election. In the process he ruined the postal service. Yesterday, reporting for the Washington Post, Jacob Bogage looked at how the Democrats hope to fix this particular mess-- in part defined as "slower and more erratic service" for starters-- that Trump left behind.
It's hard to believe that someone is allowing DeJoy--backed by a Trumpist governing board-- to "outline a new vision for the agency, one that includes more service cuts, higher and region-specific pricing, and lower delivery expectations." But that is expected next week. I have different expectations and Bogage wrote that "congressional Democrats are pressing President Biden to install new board members, creating a majority bloc that could oust DeJoy, a Trump loyalist whose aggressive cost-cutting over the summer has been singled out for much of the performance decline. The fight over the agency’s future is expected to be fraught and protracted, leaving Americans with unreliable mail delivery for the foreseeable future." This is unacceptable and Biden should just declare an emergency and replace the board and DeJoy Monday morning. A new Ipsos poll released this morning by ABC News shows that an appetite for convicting Trump has risen significantly since his first impeachment. Now 56% of Americans say Trump should be convicted and barred from holding office again, and 43% say he shouldn't be. I bet they'd like their mail delivered on time too.
We all know at least part of the problem DeJoy's tenure has brought: "customers are fuming on social media and to postal workers about late holiday packages and days-long delivery gaps. Only 38 percent of nonlocal first-class mail arrived on time in late December, compared with 92 percent in the year-ago period, according to data reported in federal voting lawsuits. The agency has not disclosed performance data in 2021."
Former Republican congressman and Army Secretary John McHugh, currently chairman of the Package Coalition, an advocacy group of businesses that rely on mail delivery, told Bogage that "One of the biggest problems the Postal Service has is its own fault. It has historically done its job so well that you got to a point that the American people never questioned the Postal Service… When something in your life is so important and it’s under pressure, you begin to worry about it in ways you never had to before." Bogage notes that "three months before DeJoy took over, 91 percent of respondents polled by Pew Research had favorable views of the agency."
Boosters consider it a tentpole of the middle class, offering stable wages and benefits to its 644,000-member workforce and a low-cost shipping option to hundreds of thousands of businesses. Where some of its private-sector competitors have cut costs by hiring cheaper independent contractors, the Postal Service’s career workforce is its strength, they contend.
But the coronavirus pandemic set off a chain reaction of crises: Package volumes swelled as Americans leaned into online shopping to limit outings. DeJoy’s summer overhaul hobbled long-held delivery protocols and jettisoned hundreds of sorting machines just as the pandemic was flattening its staff.
What’s more, hundreds of millions of pieces of election mail flowed through the system during the primaries and through the November election. But DeJoy’s long support of Republican causes and million-dollar donations to President Donald Trump raised suspicions about how his postal changes might compromise ballot delivery, especially as Trump’s baseless attacks on the integrity of vote by mail grew louder.
Through it all, the Postal Service’s financial position worsened: It lost $9.2 billion in 2020, despite collecting $73.2 billion in revenue.
Democrats in Congress want a new postmaster general, which could happen only if the nine-member governing board changes. Though the administration has signaled it will move aggressively to rehabilitate the agency-- Biden replaced the Republican chair of the Postal Regulatory Commission with a Democrat on Jan. 25-- there’s not much the president can do to intervene immediately in postal operations.
...Separately, lawmakers are considering an unusual accounting maneuver to give the Postal Service a nearly $100 billion credit for years of pension overpayments, according to four people familiar with the proposal, who spoke anonymously to discuss legislative plans. The move, which legislators in both the House and Senate have discussed and has not been previously reported, would shift responsibility for those funds onto the federal government.
...DeJoy, a former logistics executive, was in charge of fundraising for the Republican National Convention when he was tapped in May to replace Megan Brennan, the first woman to lead the agency.
Although she was popular with the rank and file, then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin-- injected into the agency’s operations by Trump-- deemed her not forceful enough at repairing its finances, according to several people familiar with his thinking, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations. The Trump-appointed board of governors acted at his behest to find a replacement.
Change came rapid-fire with DeJoy: One month in, he slashed overtime hours, prohibited late and extra mail delivery trips, and set stricter delivery schedules. More than 7.5 percent of the first-class mail was late in the five weeks that followed, data shows, after the agency weathered pandemic-related disruptions in the months earlier without service suffering.
Rep. Gerald Connolly (New Dem-VA), chairman of the House subcommittee in charge of postal issues, likened DeJoy’s changes to “deliberate sabotage” and suggested DeJoy was a patronage appointment.
[Former social media influencer Donald J.] Trump, meanwhile, continued to undercut the Postal Service, telling Fox News on Aug. 12 that he wanted to deny it emergency pandemic funding specifically in order to prevent mail-in voting. Throughout the election season, he routinely and baselessly accused postal workers and election officials of trashing ballots and skewing election results.
Later in August, more than 90 House Democrats called on the agency’s governing board to fire DeJoy. “He has already done considerable damage to the institution,” the group wrote, “and we believe his conflicts of interest are insurmountable.” Senate Democrats made clear they would pursue more oversight of the USPS Board of Governors-- specifically Chairman Robert Duncan, also who leads a PAC aligned with Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (KY)-- and the postmaster general if they won control of the chamber in the November election.
DeJoy implored Trump’s campaign to ask the president to stop badmouthing the Postal Service, he told a congressional panel in late August. Privately, DeJoy bristled at scrutiny from Democrats in the House.
“Thanks, again for your support,” DeJoy wrote soon after the Aug. 24 hearing in an email to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who defended him over questions from Democrats in an earlier Senate hearing. The Washington Post obtained the email in an open-records request. “Made a big difference in my preparation for Monday’s BBQ in the House.”
The hearings catapulted DeJoy into the public eye and raised the hackles of some postal experts and voting rights activists. Connolly called DeJoy a “Trojan Horse” sent to disrupt the agency. Saturday Night Live later made him a punchline of a comedy sketch.
“Given who Trump is and given the tenor of the times and given people believe what they want to believe, it was just terrible timing for him,” said Tom Davis, the rector of George Mason University and a former GOP congressman from Virginia who helped write the 2006 postal reform bill. “Had he come in on day one and put together something, it might have worked differently. But this guy had no political finesse at all.”
Part of that inability included DeJoy’s struggle to mark the agency’s successes. The Postal Service processed a staggering 135 million mail-in ballots, a tide that political analysts say helped Biden carry Georgia and other swing states. It also moved more than 1.1 billion packages during the holiday season, a number, Partenheimer said, was that driven up by UPS and FedEx turning down business. In the last full week of December, package volume jumped 61.5 percent year over year, the agency told Congress.
Lawmakers already have embarked on postal reform discussions, including a wider proposal allowing the agency to offer non-mail services that many legislators hope will be enacted by a new postmaster general.
One Senate aide involved in postal policy discussions, who asked not to be named given the sensitivity of the conversations, described postal reform as one of Democrats’ best ways to advance their voting rights agenda, and said DeJoy inspires anger among lawmakers. “You’re going to see a push by House Democrats and Senate Democrats to demand the removal of people,” said another Senate aide.
In a Jan. 25 letter, Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-NJ) urged Biden to fire every member of the board of governors. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) made the same request on Jan. 29. Biden can remove governors “for cause,” which is not clearly defined by law. There is no indication the president is interested in such a move.
“The board members’ refusal to oppose the worst destruction ever inflicted on the Postal Service was a betrayal of their duties and unquestionably constitutes good cause for their removal,” Pascrell wrote.
DeJoy has told mail industry officials he intends to remain in office to roll out an agency reorganization as soon as next week. The plan, parts of which were outlined to a Senate panel in August, includes geographic pricing and longer delivery windows. He’s entertained leasing out Postal Service properties and offering non-mailing services, such as private financial services.
...The president’s most linear path to mail changes is by appointing governors to the agency’s nine-member board... Securing that majority may be months away, as the administration prioritizes Cabinet and sub-Cabinet nominations.
The president also could push Congress to pass reform legislation for the first time since the 2006 bill that created the Postal Service’s prefunded retiree health-care obligation. Members of both parties in the House and Senate introduced legislation Monday to repeal that requirement and allow the Postal Service to pay off health-care costs annually, as most private corporations and government agencies do. That legislation passed the House in the last Congress but failed in the Senate.
...That repeal, combined with elevated package volumes and a new postage rate hike, could be enough, some experts say, to put the Postal Service on more stable financial footing and stave off more congressional intervention.
Congressional Democrats say the basic framework of a $25 billion grant and another $25 billion in new borrowing authority are likely starting points, according to aides in both chambers who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss details of potential legislation.
Lawmakers also are considering giving the agency credit for years of overpayments to the Civil Service Retirement System, the federal pension program that covered workers until 1983, according to four people involved in the deliberations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss legislative plans.
Postal officials argue that when Congress spun the Postal Service into a self-sustaining agency in 1971, the federal government did not contribute its fair share to the pension fund, and the mail agency is entitled to between $80 billion and $110 billion in repayment, according to inspector general and Postal Regulatory Commission reports.
This should be a no-brainer for Biden and the Democrats. Appoint new governors immediately-- let Manchin pick one-- and fire DeJoy the next day. And then back instituting Bernie's proposal for postal banking: "We must ensure all Americans have access to basic financial services and end the exploitative practices of these modern day loan sharks. We will utilize the 31,000 post offices across the country to provide basic banking services. This isn’t radical, or even unusual. More than 1.5 billion people across the world have access to some form of banking at their local post offices. In fact, we used to do it here. From 1911 to 1967, you could bank at your local post office in the United States. In the middle of the 20th century, our postal banks serviced 4 million customers. The Postal Board of Governors and Postmaster General must work with the postal unions to provide banking services. Together, we can create a fair banking system for all. Post offices would offer basic checking and savings accounts, debit cards, direct deposit, online banking services, and low-interest, small dollar loans. It would end the racial disparities in access to banking and access to credit, while also stopping financial institutions from reaping massive fees off the poor and underserved. USPS must act now to use existing authority to implement pilot postal banks. The post office guarantees to deliver your mail in snow and rain, in heat and in gloom of night. It delivers your mail whether you live in a city skyscraper or down a long country road. It can do the same for banking."
He reintroduced his postal banking act in September, noting at the time that "It is absolutely unacceptable that communities all over America lack traditional banking services, During the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, we need to make sure that everyone in America is able to receive the affordable banking services that they desperately need. No one in America should have to pay a 400 percent interest rate on a $375 loan from a payday lender. The time has come to put predatory lenders out of business and provide affordable banking options to all Americans through the United States Postal Service. And that is exactly what our legislation will do."
Kirsten Gillibrand, co-sponsor of the bill added that "Being poor in America was expensive before the pandemic, and this unprecedented crisis has made it even harder for under-served communities to access the financial services they need. In addition, the administration’s relentless attacks on the Postal Service and push for privatization is compounding the challenges faced by American families. The USPS is the only institution that serves every community in the country, from inner cities to rural America. The Postal Banking Act would reinforce the Postal Service, provide critical revenue, and establish postal banking for the nearly 10 million American households who lack access to basic financial services. I’m proud to reintroduce this legislation with my friend Senator Sanders, a leader in the fight against predatory financial institutions."
In an L.A. Times column this morning, Doyle McManus wrote about Biden's choice to either go big or to try to go "bipartisan," an impossible dream that the corporate media is forever pushing on Democrats, albeit never on Republicans. "Biden and his advisors," wrote McManus, "say two experiences during the administration of Barack Obama have shaped their actions. One is the economic stimulus bill of 2009, which they trimmed to $787 billion in hopes of winning GOP support. The measure wasn’t big enough to jump-start the economy, and unhappy voters revolted against Democrats in the 2010 midterm election. 'We can’t do too much' this time, Biden said Friday. 'We can do too little and sputter.' The second experience was Obama’s fruitless search for bipartisan support on his healthcare legislation in 2010, a months-long quest that nearly torpedoed the entire bill. Biden said it was 'an easy choice' to avoid similar negotiations this time. His calculation is straightforward: In 2022, voters are more likely to remember whether he delivered enough aid to revive the economy than whether the bill passed with Republican votes... [T]o the relief of progressives, it’s now clear that Biden, who once promised that Republicans would experience an epiphany once he landed in the Oval Office, isn’t really a starry-eyed romantic. 'I’m not naïve,' he told Democratic skeptics during the campaign. It turns out he was right. He’ll keep talking about unity. Given a choice between enacting progressive programs and reviving bipartisanship, he’ll still try to do both. But if he can have only one or the other, he’ll stick with the big programs he promised."
Virginia progressive activist Ally Dalsimer is a constituent of Connolly's and, like many of his northern Virginia constituents, would like to see all that verbiage turned into action. She's going to be announcing a campaign for his congressional seat this week. This morning she told me that he's "been in office for more than a decade, and chair of the House Subcommittee on Government Operations that oversees the Postal Service since January 2019. In that time, he's done a lot of vocalizing and beating the proverbial drum, but aside from voting for the USPS Fairness Act along with 300 of his colleagues and calling for 'debt relief,' he's offered very little in the way of substantive solutions to transform the Postal Service. Postal workers are the backbone of communications in our communities and, unlike Mr. Connolly, I will work with colleagues to find innovative and creative ways-- like signing onto the Loan Shark Prevention Act, which Mr. Connolly does not support-- to make the Post Office solvent and ensure its 600,000 employees nationally and 15,000 here in Virginia have the support they need to do their jobs."