The Daily Escape:
Old Post Office, Washington, DC – 1907 photo by Harris + Ewing via Shorpy. This building is now the Trump International Hotel.
(Update: still working on the problem with displaying comments)
Wrongo is going to talk about how Susan Collins wrecked the Post Office, but first, a little about the Democratic Convention and what comes next.
Biden is up in the polls, but there are 74 days until the election. There’s a lot of talk about how no one’s really in love with Biden (except for Jill). It would be great if the Dem’s Trump alternative was a young, smart, charismatic person who all of America loved. But we should remember that all of America didn’t love either JFK or Obama, the two smartest and most charismatic nominees of either Party in the past 60 years.
Obama’s speech on Wednesday night showed just how difficult it is to top charisma and smarts. To Wrongo, Obama gave the greatest speech of his life, making clear the gravity of the threat posed by Trump, and calling on non-voters to get in the game to help save our democracy.
So Biden isn’t charismatic. He may not be your cup of tea, but think about Trump as a tumor on America that must be removed. We don’t need to love the surgeon. We need him to do the job, and put us on the road to recovery.
Maybe 2016 was a correctable mistake. Maybe it was the beginning of the end of our Republic. If it isn’t to be the end, we need people to work for a November landslide.
Item two: Sen Susan Collins (R-ME), and her undermining of the Post Office.
Yesterday, Postmaster General DeJoy bowed to pressure, and said that he was halting further changes to the USPS until after the election. It seems he isn’t willing to roll back the removal of sorting machines and post boxes, or to reinstate overtime for postal carriers. This isn’t sitting well with Democrats, so we’ll see DeJoy at a hearing with the Senate on Friday, and with the House on Monday.
So far, the vast majority of Congressional Republicans have responded with near silence, except for a few, including Sen Collins who is in a close race to keep her Senate seat. She is currently trailing her Democratic opponent, Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, by five points.
Collins sent a letter to DeJoy asking him to address the mail delivery delays across the nation:
“I share the goal of putting the USPS back on a financially sustainable path…However, this goal cannot be achieved by shortchanging service to the public.”
From the Washington Monthly:
“As it turns out, Collins is actually one of the members of Congress most responsible for the Postal Service’s devastation. Long before DeJoy started manipulating the USPS, Collins was at the forefront of a bill that crippled the agency’s finances.”
The back story is that in 2005, Collins sponsored and introduced the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA), which required the USPS to pre-pay 50 years’ worth of health and retirement benefits for all of its employees. No other federal agency, or ANY private company is required to pre-fund their pension plan, and failing to pre-fund it doesn’t mean retirees won’t receive their pensions.
As Chair of the Senate oversight panel at the time, she shepherded the bill’s passage during a lame-duck session of Congress. It passed by a voice vote, without objection.
To meet the mandate for prefunding USPS’s health and retirement benefits, the measure required the Postal Service to place roughly $5.5 billion into the pension fund every year between 2007 and 2016, followed thereafter by sizable additional payments. This makes it impossible for the institution to run a profit.
The law also prohibited the agency from any new activities outside of delivering mail. This made it even harder for the USPS to turn a profit, at a time when delivery to homes was undergoing substantial disruption by the private sector.
Congress also told USPS that it can’t raise the rate for first class postage by more than the rate of inflation. The inability to raise first class rates in the face of declining volume has been catastrophic. The Postal Service currently has $160.9 billion in debt, of which $119.3 billion is the result of pre-funding retiree benefits.
Collins’s role in passing that law has become a campaign issue in Maine, as it should. USPS’s long-term problems will require repealing the PAEA’s prefunding mandate. Maine’s other Senator, Independent Angus King, has come out in favor of a repeal, while Collins has not.
It would be icing on the cake to find that Collins lost because the elderly Mainers were angry at not getting their prescriptions because she has hamstrung the Post Office.