How Susan Collins Helped Wreck the Postal Service

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.

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Night One of the Democratic Convention

The Daily Escape:

Morning mail, Tulare County, CA – 1938 photo by Dorothea Lange via Shorpy. Free home delivery began in 1863. Daily deliveries were common, though cutbacks reduced them during the Depression and World War II.

Night one of the Democratic convention got off to a shaky start. As Wrongo thought might be the case, the first impression was of low energy, flatness, and of a too-slow pace. But the intimacy of not being in a big hall grew on Wrongo, and worked to give real emotional impact to some speeches, particularly by those who didn’t stand behind lecterns.

A few things stuck out as great. First, the use of Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising”. The 3:30 minute video montage worked to establish the theme of Monday night. With the video, the Dems offered the nation less identity politics and more of an American identity. That they were able to return to it to set up each new thematic segment worked particularly well.

Second, Kristin Urquiza nailed her shot. She had lost her father to Covid, and said:

“I’m one of the many who have lost a loved one to Covid…. My dad was a healthy 65-year-old….His only pre-existing condition was trusting Donald Trump — and for that he paid with his life.”

Being able to look directly into the camera and speak directly to us without the distractions in a stadium filled with drunken delegates made her attack on Trump’s failure to deal with the pandemic devastating.

Third, the Biden-Amtrak video. It also had an emotional point to make, showing Biden as a decent guy.

Finally, Michelle Obama was the star of the night. Her ability to connect with viewers was extraordinary and her takedown of Trump was one for the ages:

“So let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can. Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is.”

Her speech, which also wouldn’t have worked as well in a big hall, makes Wrongo think that our political culture has moved away from normal convention performances. She was eloquent in a personal and direct way that will set the bar for the rest of this convention, and beyond.

Axios says that 18.7 million people watched last night’s coverage between 10 and 11 p.m. on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC, Nielsen said. Four years ago, Democrats’ opening night drew just under 26 million viewers. However, the Biden campaign said that it tracked 10.2 million views on digital streams, taking the total to 28.9 million. Kind of an apples to oranges comparison.

From a campaign strategy perspective, this week, the Democrats will make their points about how no one is better off than they were four years ago.

They will finish just in time for the Republican convention that will be all Trump, all the time. Despite Trump’s efforts to paint Democrats as radical leftists and facists, the Democrats aren’t radical, and the Republicans really only have more Trump to offer America.

After a week of a soothing convention focused on everyday people, who will believe the GOP?

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Thoughts on Biden’s Election Strategy

The Daily Escape:

A “modern” equivalent of the pony express arrives at the post office in Pie Town, NM – 1940 photo by Russell Lee via Shorpy

(Wrongo is aware that blog comments aren’t working. We’re efforting a solution)

Wrongo is writing this Monday evening before the start of tonight’s Democratic convention. It will be interesting to see what happens. Are you planning to watch?

The Democrats are running against Trump and only secondarily, in favor of new policies. Their strategy harkens back to Ronald Reagan’s question of the American people in a presidential debate vs. Jimmy Carter in 1980, when Reagan asked: “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?”

America’s answer in 1980 was no, it isn’t. Trump is probably the only incumbent president in this country’s history that thinks it will help him get re-elected if he makes America’s situation worse by deliberately creating chaos. From the Atlantic:

“Trump is systematically enlisting agencies, including the Postal Service, Census Bureau, Department of Justice, and Department of Homeland Security, that traditionally have been considered at least somewhat insulated from political machinations to reward his allies and punish those he considers his enemies. He is razing barriers between his personal and political interests and the core operations of the federal government to an extent that no president has previously attempted…”

While the post office dismantling is a threat to the election, it is also about the dismantling of the connective tissue of American society. There have been “privatize the post office” arguments for years. But Trump isn’t proposing legislation, he’s simply shutting down the post office before our eyes.

Today, unemployment stands at 10.2%, higher than during the peak of the 2008 financial crisis. The death toll from Covid-19 has passed 170,000, and it isn’t under control. Vast swaths of the US remain at varying levels of lockdown, while other parts of America are sending their kids back to school without social distancing. Trump has failed to manage the pandemic.

How should Biden communicate all this in a way that will get Americans to vote Democratic in huge numbers in November? Wrongo is reminded of the lyric from Simon and Garfunkel’s tune, “The Boxer”:

“All lies and jest, still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest”

So who is listening, and what will they think?

In reality, the US economy just contracted at the fastest quarterly rate on record. This leads the Democrats to say: We need to pump more money into the economy, extend and expand unemployment benefits, give money to the states to prevent massive budget cuts, expand health spending, and help the post office!

McConnell and Trump say: This means we need to cut unemployment benefits, give more power to employers, and leave the states to fend for themselves. Also, people just need to get out more.

While the independent voter says: I just can’t see any difference between the parties. I really can’t.

Luckily, McClatchy reports that the number of undecideds in this cycle has shrunk dramatically. In October of 2016, 20% of voters were still undecided. Today that number is down to about 5%.

So, running against Trump and the Republicans is just about the only strategy Biden needs to employ. Trump on the other hand, is actually goading the country into responding to Reagan’s question by saying, “No, we’re not better off than we were four years ago”.

Trump thinks that his winning argument once again will be “I alone can fix it.” Wrongo doesn’t like his odds.

Some are saying that the 2020 election is a choice between the lesser of two evils. Some are saying they just won’t vote. Since there’s so much effort at voter suppression, voting must still be very important, so everyone should make certain that they get to vote.

The lesser evil shouldn’t even be a debate. We have seen the massive damage that Trump has foisted on the US, increasing in intensity in the past few months. His lack of leadership has led to those 170,000 COVID deaths. He is taking brazen steps to game the electoral process. Over the past 3 ½ years, we’ve watched solid public policy be dismantled and then, flat out wrecked.

A Biden regime will appoint departmental heads that will follow the law, and not terrorize minorities outright.

Finally, the lesser evil can potentially (not a guarantee) give Americans room to maneuver and to grow. The maximal evil is sure to kill us.

Let’s see what strategy the Democrats decide to follow.

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Monday Wake Up Call – Democratic National Convention edition, August 17, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Heceta Head Lighthouse, Florence, OR – photo by pnw_roaming

Wake up Monday convention watchers! The 2020 Democratic National Convention kicks off tonight not in Milwaukee, but almost entirely in cyberspace. The Dems will be staying physically distant. They’ve decided to go big, with a solution that looks more like the cheering fan screens courtside in Orlando’s NBA bubble than the typical milling around chaos of past national party conventions.

The plan is to broadcast to the nation hundreds of live video feeds from living rooms, national monuments and stages around the country. Sort of like New Year’s Eve on TV.

Not even the delegates will be attending the event in Milwaukee. Instead, they will “attend” the convention from their states, participating in virtual caucus meetings, voting to nominate Biden on Tuesday night. The roll-call vote of the states, often an hours-long ordeal, has been redesigned as a 30-minute, lightning round of all 57 states and territories with only some of the delegates broadcasting live.

The major thing Wrongo has noticed about virtual meetings is that they usually seem flat, largely unemotional by-the-numbers performances. Even the best lack the spontaneity of a live performance. Politicians are used to taking a beat between sentences, drawing in energy from the crowd. But at a virtual convention, all those pauses offer to a viewer is dead air in an empty space, whether it’s from Biden’s basement, or from Trump’s unfilled stadium in Tulsa.

They need to speak with high energy, and speak quickly, eliminating as many of those pauses as they can. Hopefully, internet coaches have been hard at work retraining them in how to communicate effectively in what’s now an Instagram and TikTok world of 15-second and 30-second bites.

So, hopefully it won’t be the equivalent of your family’s Zoom meeting.

Biden’s message will be that he can heal a fractured country. Making Kamala Harris his choice for VP, will be portrayed as a bridge to a future of a diversifying America. Her mixed heritage is more like America’s future than is Biden’s background, or that of Trump and Pence.

Axios points out that Harris’s Indian-American heritage may have value in swing states:

  • There are more than 4 million Indian Americans, and the population is growing quickly.
  • In the battleground states of Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Georgia and Texas, the number of eligible Asian American and Pacific Islander voters grew more than 117% between 2000 and 2018, to nearly 1.7 million.
  • Indian Americans represent the largest share of Asian Americans in each of those states.

The convention’s main events will run for just two hours each night, with speeches by Harris on Wednesday and Biden on Thursday. The overall production will rely on a fast-moving, video-heavy version of a convention including celebrity appearances and first-person stories by Americans who will say they have been hurt by the Trump presidency.

Those first-person stories can easily be the most compelling memory that we take from the convention. Remember that at the 2016 Democratic convention Khizr Khan, the father of Humayun Khan, an Army captain killed in Iraq, grabbed national attention for a speech denouncing Trump over a plan to ban Muslims from the US.

To capture any potentially viral programmed (or unprogrammed) moments, the show’s producers plan to clip and post segments of the event on social media in near-real time, so supporters can share segments from the beginning of a speech before it’s even over. The length of a typical speech, about 10 minutes in a normal year, has also been brought down to three minutes or less for many speakers.

The goal is to keep people’s attention while still getting Biden’s message across.

But Biden will also sell himself as a bridge to the recent past, where character and restraint were hallmarks of the presidency, ideas that will sound like indictments of Trump. After listening to Trump’s bloviating for the past 3 ½ years, where many of his speeches turn into hours-long performances similar to Fidel Castro’s in the 1960s, shorter speeches and a constantly changing lineup may keep viewers watching.  Also, shorter pieces are instantly tweetable, a good thing in 2020.

It’s also a perfect opportunity to pitch some simple graphics to show how much worse off Americans have been in the Trump era. Simple side by side data showing how stark the differences are may be very useful.

Perhaps the Dems can capitalize on their non-traditional approach to focus the voting public on their message, and to get a bounce in public opinion and voter engagement.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – August 16, 2020

What have you heard about the storm that tore through Iowa? From the WaPo:

“The scope and breadth of the disaster is still being calculated, but by some estimates, more than 10 million acres, or 43 percent, of the state’s soybean and corn crops have been damaged. A quarter of a million Iowans are still without power.…So far, the only elected leader calling for a presidential disaster declaration is Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D)….Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) and Republican Sens. Charles E. Grassley and Jodi Ernst have toured some disaster sites, focusing on crop damage, but have remained silent when it comes to demanding national help.”

It hasn’t gotten much coverage on the east coast, although there wasn’t a lot of coverage for Connecticut’s struggle with TS Isaias. The lack of media attention and a federal response are both troubling.

Wouldn’t it be a good idea for Biden-Harris to call for disaster aid, and arrange a visit this week?

On to cartoons. Trump takes personal control of mail-in voting:

No Post Office for you:

Mailbox bashing is usually done by young punks, not old thugs:

Essential weapon against Fascism:

Senate left town. You just have to hold on, because they have to rest:

MAGA irony:

 

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Saturday Soother – August 15, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Buying stamps at the post office, Siren, WI – July 1941 photo by John Vachon for the Farm Security Administration, via Shorpy.

The Senate has adjourned until after Labor Day, despite not coming to an agreement on the much-needed next Coronavirus stimulus package. From CNBC:

“Congress and the White House have spent the past few weeks debating what to include in the package, but have been unable to come to an agreement. One of the biggest sticking points: Jobless benefits. Democrats want a continuation of the enhanced unemployment payment of $600 per week, while Republicans say that amount is too high. Democrats are also pushing for more than $900 billion for state and municipal aid, and $60 billion in food assistance, far higher than what Republicans have proposed.”

This means any deal could be weeks away. Meanwhile, around 28 million Americans remain unemployed and many of the relief provisions from the first stimulus package have dried up.

And Postal Service funding is also broken and lying in the weeds by the side of the road.

McConnell offered a new COVID economic aid bill (the HEALS Act) 10 weeks after the House had approved its version, called the HEROES Act. Then, Mitch dismissed the Senate for a month rather than allow Senators to negotiate with the House Dems about adding USPS funding to the HEALS Act, which included no funding for the USPS. The House’s HEROES Act passed in mid-May contains $25 billion for USPS.

There is no accountability for any of these birds except at the ballot box, and the GOP is making it very hard to remove them by voting. Only a very few Republicans, notably House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, (R-CA) and Sen. Roy Blunt, (R-MO) have broken with Trump on the need for funding the Postal Service.

We mentioned mail sorting machines on Friday. We now know that in May, the USPS planned to remove a total of 969 sorting machines (about 20%) out of the 4,926 it had in operation as of February. Most (746) of the sorting machines scheduled for removal were delivery bar code sorters (DBCS), the type that sort vote-by-mail ballots and other similarly sized pieces. You can view the USPS equipment removal presentation here.

WaPo reported that the USPS sent letters in July to 46 states and Washington DC warning that they may be unable to deliver mail-in election ballots by the deadlines set by the states for them to be counted. About 186 million voters are subject to the Postal Service’s heightened warning. The states that were not warned about potential issues were Oregon, Nevada, New Mexico and Rhode Island. The USPS letter was only released on Friday.

This is a huge and serious escalation in concerns that even if people follow all of their state’s election rules, the pace of Postal Service delivery may disqualify their votes.

There’s a big disconnect between the public and the government. They no longer really want to help you solve your problems. You can no longer rely on them to count your votes. You’re about to be kicked out of your apartment. You’ve got no money left in the bank, and after years of being told it’s your fault, you know nothing could be further from the truth.

Sorry, Republicans, this is what you have become. You’re now the Walrus: He is you and you are him.

Vote to flush the turds, November 3rd!

Sorry, no coffee for you this week, we’re already too jacked up by the prospect of losing our democracy. On the other hand, we still need a break from the steady beat of the Trumpian drums, so it’s time for our Saturday Soother.

We lost four large trees on the fields of Wrong last week during the half hour that TS Isaias was with us. The outcome was that we were without power for five days, and it took about a week to cut up and move all of the downed wood.

This week, we left our daily 14+ hours of summer sunlight behind. Today we have 13 hours and 53 minutes, and it, like our politics, will just get worse.

Time to settle back at an appropriate physical distance, and listen to two love themes composed by Dominic Frontiere that originally appeared in the TV series “The Outer Limits”. They are performed here on George Winston’s album “Summer”, recorded in 1991:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Trump’s Dismantle the Post Office Plan

The Daily Escape:

Motorcycle postman, Washington, DC – 1912 photo by Harris & Ewing via Shorpy

The WaPo reported that while speaking on Thursday to Fox Business Network, Trump confirmed that he opposes funding for mail-in balloting in order to make it more difficult to expand voting by mail:

“Now they need that money in order to make the post office work, so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots….But if they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting, because they’re not equipped to have it.”

It gets worse. Salon reports that mail sorting equipment is being removed from Iowa’s Postal Service offices. This was confirmed to Salon by Kimberly Karol, the head of the Iowa Postal Workers Union: (brackets by Wrongo)

“[we are losing] the sorting equipment that we use to process mail for delivery….that also hinders our ability to process mail in the way that we had in the past.”

New Postmaster General DeJoy has also made a proposal to nearly triple the postage costs to states for mail-in ballots.

It’s time for the press and the Democrats to stop pussy-footing around about what’s going on here: Trump is saying out loud that he plans to steal the election. He’s certain that if people are actually able to cast their ballots he will lose, so he’s going to try to destroy the post office.

The Democrat’s strategy has been to move as many votes as possible to “vote by mail” in order to cut down on the hours-long lines on Election Day that are caused by states gaming the election by having fewer polling places and voting machines. Not standing in long lines might also save a few lives in a time of pandemic.

Trump wants to sabotage their strategy, and so far the Dems are behaving as if not much is happening. They are basically hoping Biden’s inroads with Trump’s 2016 voters will be enough to override the weakening of voting rights in the past four years.

The NYT’s Jamelle Bouie observes that Trump’s best chance of remaining in office is to have a nominal lead on Election Day and let the Republican Courts have a shot at Trump v. Biden:

“There’s no mystery about what President Trump intends to do if he holds a lead on election night in November. He’s practically broadcasting it.

First, he’ll claim victory. Then, having spent most of the year denouncing vote-by-mail as corrupt, fraudulent and prone to abuse, he’ll demand that authorities stop counting mail-in and absentee ballots. He’ll have teams of lawyers challenging counts and ballots across the country.”

In other words, if Trump is leading on election night, there’s a good chance he’ll try to disrupt and delegitimize the counting process. That way, if Biden pulls ahead in the days (or weeks) after voting ends, Trump will have given himself a basis to reject the outcome as “election fraud.”

The only way to prevent this scenario from getting the oxygen it needs, is to deliver an election night lead to Biden.

That means people either vote in person, or they physically drop their mail-in ballot in an official ballot “drop box”. Either will protect your vote from the president’s attempt to undermine the election for his benefit. If you care about the outcome on Election Day, do one or the other.

We’re living in a time where whistleblowers are fired, the Postal Service and our voting rights are being dismantled, and the Republican Senate looks the other way.

Wrongo said that we should talk further about the concept of criminal negligence. When you have authority, like Trump, DeJoy and the Republicans, if you do something a reasonable person should know would cause harm, you are responsible for causing that harm. Presidential power comes with duties to the country, and Trump’s broadly responsible both for the welfare of the American people, and for the consequences of his actions.

Not funding vote by mail is broadly harmful to the people, and to the Constitution.

Now, it’s unlikely that this will be resolved before November. Pelosi and Schumer are 100% right to hold out for a comprehensive stimulus bill that includes funding for vote-by-mail.

Even if they succeed, we’ll need two things: Massive voter turnout, and a long memory that deals with all of this once Trump is out of power.

This is where we are. One of our two major political parties is in open opposition to voting rights: They’re trying to stop people who don’t vote Republican from voting at all.

It’s just another national disgrace that’s happening silently in the year of the Great Pandemic.

Resist! And never forget.

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Protect The Post Office

The Daily Escape:

New from the folks at Vicks™.

(It’s nice to be back from the vacation that was extended a few days by the power outage. Wrongo got to play lumberjack, cutting up four trees that fell during the windstorm. The only limbs harmed belonged to the trees)

There isn’t much doubt that Trump wants to end both the Postal Service and voting by mail. It’s become clear that his plan of managed decay of the postal system is designed to undermine the 2020 election, increasing his chances of remaining in power.

Trump has called the Postal Service “a joke.” But, as the Economist points out: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Far from being a joke, the USPS is the nation’s favorite government agency, viewed favorably by 91% of Americans. But it is losing money: $4.5bn from January to March, more than double its losses for the same period last year.”

More from the Economist:

“The USPS’s financial woes have three main causes, one acute and two chronic. The acute one is covid-19. At least 2,400 postal workers have caught the virus and 60 have died. More than 17,000 of its 630,000 employees have been quarantined. Although package volume and revenue has grown along with online shopping, the volume of first-class and marketing mail have both declined.”

Last week, Wrongo and Ms. Right voted by mail, an option this year in Connecticut because of the COVID crisis. We shouldn’t have to worry about whether our votes are counted, but, we know that Trump’s presidential campaign and the Republican National Committee have filed lawsuits in several battleground states, including Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Nevada to challenge local vote by mail rules.

And Politico reports that Trump is pondering possible executive actions to curb mail-in voting:

“…everything from directing the postal service to not deliver certain ballots to stopping local officials from counting them after Election Day.”

We’ve all experienced low-level delays in mail service, including packages waylaid in transit. Now, the Postal Service is openly saying that they are no longer able to keep up their level of service.

This is part of the Administration’s game plan. It’s a specific assault by the new Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, a Trump mega donor, who has millions invested in competing delivery services. DeJoy and his wife own between $30.1 million and $75.3 million in assets in USPS competitors or contractors, including XPO Logistics, UPS and JB Hunt.

DeJoy started by implementing the cost-cutting directives that have created days-long backlogs in mail delivery we’re all experiencing. He’s also reorganized the Postal Service. His actions could motivate the Postal Service’s biggest customers to send their packages through competitors like UPS and FedEx.

This kind of collapse in an essential service would, at one time, have launched Senators and Inspectors General into hearings and investigations about specific post offices or delivery routes. But the outrage is limited to Democrats now.

If the USPS fails, three things will happen very quickly: the cost of sending a letter will go from $0.55 to north of $2.00, and that service will only be available within major cities. Rural areas will see much higher prices, if they get service at all. Prices for shipping small packages will jump. Package delivery service to remote areas will become very expensive. Will FedEx and UPS jump on the opportunity? You bet.

Delaying delivery of prescription medications can’t become a victim of Trump’s election strategy.

There is a legal concept called criminal negligence. It is defined as the failure on the part of a person on whom a duty is placed to take reasonable steps to prevent a certain bad outcome from happening.

You may not have explicitly known that you have that duty. For instance, as an operator of an automobile, you have a duty not to hurt others with your vehicle, even if you didn’t know that’s your duty.

Let’s extend the idea to Trump, DeJoy and the Republicans. When you have authority, if you do something a reasonable person should know would cause harm, you are responsible for causing that harm. Dismantling the Postal Service is broadly harmful to the people and potentially, to the Constitution.

Presidential power comes with duties to the country. He’s broadly responsible for the welfare of the American people, and for the consequences of his actions. We will look at other examples of Trump’s negligence in future columns.

Slowdowns of the US mail could mean thousands of ballots don’t get to voters in time to be returned for Election Day or that they don’t get to election officials in time to be counted. With the threat of coronavirus hanging over in-person voters, the election could hang in the balance.

Trump is abdicating his Constitutional responsibility. Let’s give the last words to Charlie Pierce:

“Destroying the USPS is the most Republican thing this administration has done, except for trying to gut Social Security and Medicare. These always have been in the game plan.”

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No Blogging Today

Happy Sunday! The world headquarters of Wrong has been without power, internet or telecom since last Tuesday, because tropical storm Isais actually did more damage in northwest Connecticut than did the ledgendary storm Sandy.

This means that Wrongo will not be resuming his crummy columns today as originally intended. He is writing this note on his mobile phone with his thumbs, a completely unstainable proposition.

Our incompetent power utility has promised we will return to the 21st century by Wednesday, so please continue to talk among yourselves.

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The Looming Census Problem

The Daily Escape:

Breckinridge, CO – July 2020 photo by doughboyme

(The Wrongologist is taking a summer vacation starting today. We will return on August 9th. Wrongo urges all readers to also take a break. Got to get ready for the silly season that starts soon.)

Time to talk 2020 census. The Census Bureau’s follow-up visits to non-responding households were originally scheduled to begin in early May, but they were delayed by a freeze on census field operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In April, the Trump administration asked Congress to extend the deadlines for the Census Bureau to turn in their head count data. The Census Bureau independently postponed finishing field operations for the census from the end of July to the end of October.

The House agreed to the extensions, but the Senate hasn’t. Senate Republicans on Monday instead proposed additional funding as part of their HEAL bill to help conclude the census on time, without extending the deadline.

The Census Bureau is required to turn over numbers for apportioning Congressional seats by Dec. 31, and the numbers to be used for redrawing state and local legislative districts by March 30. The requested deadline extensions would push back the apportionment deadline to April 30 for Congress, and to July 31 for state and local districts.

The politics of these decisions are clear. Trump no longer wants a deadline extension, and he doesn’t want undocumented residents counted at all.

The timing of Trump’s memorandum excluding the undocumented and his abandonment of the request to push back the reporting deadlines suggests that the White House wants to ensure that the numbers are undercounted. Also, that Trump  receives the apportionment numbers while he’s still in office so they can be fixed if necessary.

House Democrats are wary of what they see as Trump’s attempts to politicize the 2020 census, and want the Senate Republicans to approve the request for deadline extensions. That would mean there’s a chance the final months of the data-crunching would take place under a Biden administration, assuming Biden defeats Trump in November.

Staying on the usual deadline probably means that many people, documented or not, won’t be counted. Only about 63% of Americans have been counted so far. That means about 55 million households haven’t responded, and will require visits by census takers.

The Census Bureau is about to send its 500,000 door-knockers out to begin surveying households that haven’t yet answered the questionnaire, and Pew Research says it will be difficult to get them to open their doors:

“Among those who say they have not participated in the census, 40% say they would not be willing to talk to a census worker who came to the door…”

The 40% breaks down into 16% who say they’re unwilling to talk to the Census people at all, and 24% say they are not very willing to speak with them.

So, what does it all mean for apportioning Congressional seats?

The job is to use the census data to equitably assign the House’s 435 seats to the 50 states. The first 50 seats are automatically assigned, one per state. A series of formulas called the method of Equal Proportions is used to divide up the remaining 385 seats among the states on the basis of their populations. The method of Equal Proportions was first used to apportion House seats in 1940 and has been used ever since.

The apportionment population of a state is defined as all persons residing in the state as of April 1, plus all American military and civilian personnel of the federal government and their dependents from that state who were residing abroad.

At the last census in 2010, the states receiving the largest number of seats were California with 53; Texas with 36 seats, and then Florida and New York with 27 apiece. Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming each received only one seat, the one they are granted automatically.

Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia did a preliminary estimate of how the House seats will be distributed once the 2020 census is in. It obviously is a projection, but the results are shown on this map:

Of the 10 states projected to lose one House seat each in 2020, only two are red states. Of the seven states projected to gain House seats in 2020, six are red states.

If the 2020 apportionment followed Trump’s plan to exclude undocumented immigrants, this would be the outcome:

Eight states will lose nine seats with California leading the way. Seven of the eight seats lost would be in blue states.

Seven states would gain nine seats: Texas and Florida would gain two each. Six of the gains would be in red states.

Remember that a state’s votes in the Electoral College are equal to its seats in Congress. It’s not hard to see why Trump wants an undercount that favors Texas and Florida.

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