Conflict of Interest– no such thing

Just as “abuse of power”, Republicans argued, was not grounds for impeachment of the president, “conflict of interest” should not, apparently, be considered anymore in government appointments or the awarding of contracts.  Trump has done this over and over, appointing lobbyists for coal and petroleum to key environmental posts, elevating unqualified loyalists and donors (Betsey DeVos, to name just one) to other posts and so forth.   

The things that made this practice formerly unacceptable were “norms,” long-observed standards of decency, the appearance of fairness and propriety, that impose no legal penalty for their violation.   Therefore, if you are opposed to decency on general principle: screw ’em.  Norms are no longer a thing.

That norms are no longer observed is easy enough to see and  understand in Trump’s America.  But why has the reporting about Trump’s new Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, million-dollar Trump 2020 donor (and until recently, lead fundraiser for Trump’s now cancelled convention in Charlotte),  been so consistently fact poor?

Wikipedia has this succinct description of a couple of  items consistently left out of articles about Louis DeJoy:

DeJoy is the first postmaster in two decades without prior experience in the United States Postal Service.[12] DeJoy’s appointment was controversial because DeJoy and his wife have assets between $30.1 million and $75.3 million in USPS competitors or contractors, such as UPS and trucking company J.B. Hunt.[13][14]

Upon assuming office as Postmaster General, DeJoy began taking measures to reduce costs. Critics claim these measures may result in slowing of the mail service.[15][16][17] On August 7, 2020, DeJoy announced he had reassigned or displaced 23 senior USPS officials, including the two top executives overseeing day-to-day operations.[18][19] DeJoy said he was trying to breathe new life into a “broken business model.”[20]

One gigantic reason for the “broken business model” is a 2006 law, signed into being by George W. Bush during the lame duck days of the Republican 109th Congress [1], requiring the Postal Service to fund its retiree health care plan SEVENTY-FIVE YEARS into the future– at an initial cost of $110,000,000,000.00.   

To, in fact, fund retirement health care for employees not yet even born. 

No other government agency (or any private corporation in the world) has a remotely similar financial burden imposed on its operations.   All of USPS losses in the last seven years have been as a result of this deliberately crippling requirement to fund retiree health care SEVENTY-FIVE YEARS into the future.

Add to this that the US Postal Service, an essential agency mandated by the US Constitution (and predating it), is entirely self-funded.  Unlike other federal agencies, it does not receive an operating budget directly from taxpayer funds.  So pass an outlandish law to unreasonably hobble it, make it compete with the “private sector”, send it into debt, criticize its “broken business model” while cutting overtime, ignoring the concerns of longtime USPS leaders, supervisors and the union, and “reorganize” it to ensure maximum … inefficiency — right before an election that, because of a raging pandemic, will be largely by mail.

NPR did a piece about DeJoy when he was appointed in May 2020 that identified him as a top GOP fundraiser but failed to raise the crippling 2006 law and other points salient to an informed discussion of the US Postal Service.   NPR did note:

DeJoy has contributed more than $1.2 million to the Trump Victory Fund, and millions more to Republican Party organizations and candidates, according to Federal Election Commission records. He was also in charge of fundraising for the Republican National Convention.

You can read an article about DeJoy’s recent testimony in front of Congress, over his order to cut overtime, (he testified right before his seemingly random reorganization of Postal Service leadership,) his disparagement of the USPS’s supposedly crappy business model, without learning anything about the law that sabotaged the Postal Service’s finances.  (In fairness to the second article, which seems to take pains to make DeJoy seem like a defender of the Postal Service, it did contain this paragraph:)

Without an intervention from Congress, the agency faces an impending cash flow crisis, [DeJoy] said. The Postal Service is seeking an infusion of at least $10 billion to cover operating losses as well as regulatory changes that would undo a congressional requirement that the agency pre-fund billions of dollars in retiree health benefits.

A “congressional requirement that the agency pre-fund billions of dollars in retiree health benefits,” hmmmm… mysterious…

Why are we unable to see this basic information, this crucial context — the 2006 law that imposes a crippling burden on the Post Office [2], the glaring conflicts of interest involved in a big donor with tens of millions of dollars of stock in the Post Office’s major competitors — in the reporting on Trump’s appointment of an inexperienced donor who immediately takes steps to to make sure the USPS is not a party to the projected “massive fraud of fake mail-in ballots” that Trump and Barr, without a shred of any kind of proof except “common sense,” are always railing about?

Simply sloppy reporting by overwhelmed news outlets exhausted by the gushing fire hose of administration lying, scandal and bad faith?  Democracy dying in darkness?   Innocent until proven guilty?   Presumption of Regularity?   Manifest Destiny?   The Peculiar Institution?   The Lost Cause?   All the News that’s Fit to Print?   What the fuck?

Get your ballot and mail it today, return receipt requested.  Support your local post office, however they may sometimes make you mad.

 

 

[1]  source

In 2006, Congress passed a law to require the USPS to prefund 75 years worth of retiree health benefits in the span of ten years—a cost of approximately $110 billion. Although the money is intended to be set aside for future Post Office retirees, the funds are instead being diverted to help pay down the national debt.

No other private enterprise or federal agency is required to prefund retiree health benefits on a comparable timetable. The mandate is responsible for all of USPS’s financial losses since 2013.

 

[2]   Wikipedia:

The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) is a United States federal statute enacted by the 109th United States Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush on December 20, 2006.[1]

The bill was introduced in the United States House of Representatives by Tom Davis, a Republican from Virginia, and cosponsored by Republican John M. McHugh of New York and Democrats Henry Waxman of California and Danny K. Davis of Illinois.[2] The bill was approved during the lame duck session of the 109th Congress, and approved by a voice vote.[3]

PAEA was the first major overhaul of the United States Postal Service (USPS) since 1970.[4] It reorganized the Postal Rate Commission, compelled the USPS to pay in advance for the health and retirement benefits of all of its employees for the next 50 years, and stipulated that the price of postage could not increase faster than the rate of inflation.[5][6] It also mandated the USPS to deliver six days of the week.[7] According to Tom Davis, the Bush administration threatened to veto the legislation unless they added the provision regarding funding the employee benefits in advance with the objective of using that money to reduce the federal deficit.[2] When he signed the bill on December 20, 2006, Bush issued a signing statement that says that the government can open mail under emergency conditions, though Waxman asserted that the government cannot do this without a search warrant.[8]

source

 

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