The US Postal Service’s Board of Governors which has had a strong tendency to rubber-stamp management’s plans, has been operating without a quorum. Board member terms are staggered and Obama served up a slate of nominees in March. I’ve attached a letter at the end of this post from The Leadership Conference to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid urging them to reject Obama’s set of five nominees in their entirety. In other words, they are telling Obama to start from scratch.
The letter singles out two particularly troubling candidates. One is Mickey Bennett, who has been a lobbyist for the payday lending industry. One proposal to fix the Postal Sevice’s trumped-up budget problems would be to offer low-cost financial services at bank branches. Needless to say, that’s the last thing the predatory payday lending industry would like to see. Separately, anyone who has worked in or served as a lobbyist for industries know to engage in widespread abuses, like payday lending and debt collection, should be deemed to be unfit for government service of any sort unless they’ve become whistleblowers.
Another nominee, James Miller, has advocated privatizing the Postal Service since his time at the Office of Management and Budget, back in the 1980s. He remains fixated on this idea, despite ample evidence that privatization leads to higher costs and worse service. Of course, I’m charitably assuming that Miller is actually interested in producing better results for the public, as opposed to a big looting opportunity for corporate interests.
Note that we were onto this issue early, and cross-posted an article from Angry Bear on the board nominees by former postmaster Mark Jamison on the heels of the nomination. I suggest you read the piece in full; it flags the considerable problems with Postal Service oversight and the Obama nominees. From his post:
The current version of the BOG has operated without a quorum for several months…In the best of times the BOG is reliant upon — if not captured by — senior postal management. At the moment that is doubly true.
The BOG has no independent staff or advisors, only a secretary who is a postal employee. The BOG has no independent legal counsel, which certainly became an issue during both theKessler and Bernstock affairs when the advice and conduct of USPS General Counsel Mary Anne Gibbons was called into question.
Considering that the BOG is a government entity, it is strangely reticent, secretive, and isolated. The Board does not request or commission independent studies. It does not typically meet with mailers, labor organizations, or stakeholders. It does not issue policy statements (aside from Postal Service publications). It does not publicly discuss its responsibilities to universal service or articulate its vision for the national post. Minutes of the BOG’s meetings indicate that occasionally members dissent on votes, but individuals are not identified, and the press releases from the Postal Service merely indicate that a majority of the Board has voted for something, like a rate increase…
President Obama’s latest nominations to the BOG will do little to improve things. They represent a betrayal of infrastructure, they insult workers, and they ignore the millions of Americans who rely on the postal network….
On the whole President Obama’s nominations are at best disappointing and, as in the case of Mr. Miller, an insult to postal customers and postal workers. The law requires that appointees be equally divided between the political parties so the nomination of a political empty suit like Barnett may be a fact of life. Surely, however, the President could have found someone who is less of a dyed-in-the-wool Reaganite and ideologue than Mr. Miller.
Mr. Shapira and Mr. Bennett appear to have been selected as a matter of political payback. They are a reflection of a system that treats public service as a revolving door for political and economic elites. This leaves a permanent imprint of the one percent on government and may be one of the primary reasons for cynicism in the electorate.
Jamison runs through the background of all the candidates, and it makes for an informative, if depressing, read.
I urge you to call or write your Senators to support The Leadership Conference’s opposition to the Postal Service’s board nominees. It’s best to add a reason, for instance, that you want to see a stronger postal service providing more services to the public, particularly in rural areas, where they are anchors for small communities; that you are in favor of a Post Office bank, particularly since big banks are creating more and more “unbanked” consumers; that low cost delivery services are important for citizens and commerce, and privatization is guaranteed to put an end to that.
You can find the contact information for your Senators here. Thanks again for your efforts.