Yves here. We’re giving the latest USPS horrorshow, that of Postmaster General DeJoy actively trying to push the Postal Service into a death spiral by raising prices and degrading service, extra attention in the hope that citizens will call or e-mail their Congresscritter to demand their old Postal Service back.
USPS has a fake problem, its supposedly unfixable economics, which in fact result completely from punitively bogus accounting. As the Los Angeles Times’ Mike Hiltzik wrote last year:
DeJoy didn’t mention at all the single most important driver of the Postal Service’s annual deficit: the onerous requirement, enacted in 2006, that the service pre-fund its retiree healthcare costs, a mandate not imposed on any other government agency or private corporation.
According to the Institute for Policy Studies, a Washington think tank, the mandate costs the USPS more than $4 billion a year. Without this burden, the institute says, “the Post Office would have reported operating profits in each of the last six years.” Instead, “This extraordinary mandate created a financial ‘crisis’ that has been used to justify harmful service cuts and even calls for postal privatization.”
The USPS has also been afflicted by a drop in first class mail and significant growth in package deliveries, which literally place bigger loads on infrastructure. But rather than manage this demand, it’s instead another element in the trumped-up case for privatization.
Even though this article focuses on prominent calls for DeJoy’s ouster, a recent article in Slate contends theres’s no easy path to removing him:
If DeJoy served at the pleasure of the president, Biden surely would’ve fired him on Day One. But he doesn’t. The problem, ironically, originates from Congress’ desire to insulate USPS from politics. For most of American history, the Postal Service played an integral rolein the spoils system, and postmaster general was a plum post for an ally of the president. In 1970, Congress overhauled the structureof the Postal Service to end this sordid tradition of patronage by giving the agency substantial independence. To oversee USPS’s activities, Congress established a nine-member board of governors who are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. No more than five members of the board may belong to the same political party. Once confirmed to the board, governors can only be removed by the president “for cause”; that means their jobs are safe unless the president can show that they engaged in malfeasance or extreme neglect of duty. The board of governors, in turn, selects the postmaster general, who is not subject to Senate approval. And once appointed, the postmaster general can only be removed by the board, though it need not justify its decision.
This structure, in short, is why Louis DeJoy remains postmaster general under Biden. The board of governors is dominated by Trump appointees; Senate Republicans refused to confirm President Barack Obama’s nominees to the board, leaving vacancies that Trump promptly filled. Today, there are four Republicans and two Democrats on the board, plus three vacancies. One Democrat, Ron Bloom, is serving a holdover term, which means Biden can replace him at any time. Thus, Biden can fill four seats on the board of governors—a move that would flip the board, giving Democrats a 5–4 majority. The new president can then urge the Democratic members to remove DeJoy, which they can do by a majority vote.
Filling these vacancies is the simplest way for Biden to get rid of DeJoy, though there is no guarantee that it will actually work. The new board would include five Democrats—but one of them, Donald Lee Moak, is a Trump-appointed moderate who, along with the rest of the board, backed DeJoywhen he came under fire for his alleged corruption.* It appears unlikely that Moak would choose to oust a postmaster general whom he supported through this summer’s controversy. And if Moak declined to join Biden’s nominees in firing DeJoy, the postmaster general would retain his position indefinitely.
If the Democrats had a spine, an alternative would be to prosecute DeJoy for corruption if there’s enough smoke to get a grand jury to indict. Rooting around in someone’s file cabinets with discovery powers can unearth all sorts of dirt. But as we can see from how quickly the Democrats folded in the latest impeachment, all they stand for is political theater.
By Jake Johnson, staff writer at Common Dreams. Originally published at Common Dreams
Undeterred by the backlash and widespread delays that followed his disruptive operational changes at the U.S. Postal Service last year, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is reportedly planning to roll out another slate of policies that would significantly hike postage rates and further slow the delivery of certain kinds of mail.
While the plan has yet to be finalized, new details of the proposal—first reportedby the Washington Post—intensified pressure on President Joe Biden to take decisive action before DeJoy inflicts any more damage on the most popular government institution in the country.
“Fire DeJoy before he burns down the USPS,” Zephyr Teachout, associate professor of law at Fordham University, tweeted Saturday. “Biden has the power to fill the board that decides his fate. That board should be full of people who believe in public postal services. And that board must be ready to fire him quickly.”
According to the Post, DeJoy—with the support of the USPS Board of Governors, which is composed entirely of Trump appointees—is “preparing to put all first-class mail onto a single delivery track… a move that would mean slower and more costly delivery for both consumers and commercial mailers.”
The postmaster general has also “discussed plans to eliminate a tier of first-class mail—letters, bills, and other envelope-sized correspondence sent to a local address—designated for delivery in two days,” the Post reported. “Instead, all first-class mail would be lumped into the same three- to five-day window, the current benchmark for nonlocal mail.”
“The plan also prevents first-class mail from being shipped by airplane,” the Postnoted, “forcing all of it into trucks and a relay of distribution depots.”
In addition to the new operational changes—which would be piled on top of the DeJoy policies that dramatically hampered USPS performance last year amid the coronavirus pandemic and national elections—the postmaster general intends to “push for significantly higher postage rates” in the name of raising revenue, according to the Post.
This is unacceptable. Trump may have left office, but his Postmaster General is still wreaking havoc even after the Congress just provided the Post Office with an additional $10 billion. He must be replaced.https://t.co/SxyiA1IKdX
— Senator Chris Van Hollen (@ChrisVanHollen) February 13, 2021
The new details of DeJoy’s plan came as a growing number of Democratic lawmakers and outside progressives are urging Biden—who by law cannot fire the postmaster general himself—to take the forceful step of terminating every sitting member of the postal board and filling it with officials committed to preserving and strengthening the USPS as a public service. Postal governors, who can remove the postmaster general with a majority vote, must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, which Democrats narrowly control.
Late last week, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) became the first senator to call on Biden to quickly fire and replace every current member of the postal board, arguing in a letter that such as move is necessary to “restore accountability and credibility” and “send a message to future leaders that silence in the face of a campaign of sabotage will not be tolerated.”
Supporters of the move argue that replacing the entire postal board would set the stage for DeJoy’s ouster and begin the process of undoing the damage he has inflicted during his eight months in power. Biden has the authority to fire postal governors “for cause,” and proponents of removing the sitting board members argue that their complicity in DeJoy’s assault on the USPS would qualify as sufficient cause.
“They have proven to be a cabal of cowards, complicit in DeJoy’s attacks, derelict in their duties, and unwilling to hold the postmaster accountable,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) tweeted on Friday. “America deserves a clean slate.”
Biden should fire the governors of the USPS who appointed DeJoy, install new ones, and have them fire DeJoy. He should not be allowed to continue destroying the postal service. https://t.co/JLw3yUNHVe
— Robert Reich (@RBReich) February 13, 2021
Alternatively, Biden could fill the three vacant governor spots on the postal board; combined with the two Democrats currently on the board, three Biden-appointed governors would give Democrats a majority. But as Slate‘s Aaron Mak and Mark Joseph Stern wrote last week, that more cautious approach has potentially significant limitations.
“Filling these vacancies is the simplest way for Biden to get rid of DeJoy, though there is no guarantee that it will actually work,” Mak and Stern noted. “The new board would include five Democrats—but one of them, Donald Lee Moak, is a Trump-appointed moderate who, along with the rest of the board, backed DeJoy when he came under fire for his alleged corruption.”
“It appears unlikely that Moak would choose to oust a postmaster general whom he supported through this summer’s controversy,” they added. “And if Moak declined to join Biden’s nominees in firing DeJoy, the postmaster general would retain his position indefinitely.”
But the Biden White House has signaled that it is nevertheless planning to pursue the strategy of simply filling existing vacancies, saying in a statement last week that the president is focused on appointing officials who “reflect his commitment to the workers of the U.S. Postal Service—who deliver on the post office’s vital universal service obligation.”
U.S. Mail Not for Sale, a worker-led campaign sponsored by the American Postal Workers Union and the National Association of Letter Carriers, is collecting signatures for a petition calling on Biden to nominate board members who are “fully committed to vibrant, public, and universal postal services” and opposed to DeJoy’s “agenda of cutting service and slowing the mail.”
“Filling the vacancies on the postal board,” the petition reads, “is essential to build back better the Postal Service and to serve our communities and to help heal our economy.”