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Keep Politics Out Of Postal Reform – Give The Postmaster Credit Where It’s Due

By Peter RoffTownhall Finance

Keep Politics Out Of Postal Reform – Give The Postmaster Credit Where It’s Due
Source: AP Photo/David Zalubowski

The beleaguered U.S. Postal Service again comes under scrutiny this Thursday as the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee begins consideration of legislation to hopefully, once and for all, put the USPS on the path to sound footing.

The hearing will inevitably get political, and needlessly so. Too much anger remains over the 2020 presidential election (in which the USPS played a significant role thanks to the emergency procedures taken by states to permit mail-in voting on a scale never before seen) for it not to happen.

With any luck though, the committee’s chairman and ranking Republican will be able to keep things on track and prevent the hearing from denigrating into a shouting match. Everyone’s attention will be required to produce a plan to rescue the Postal Service without a bailout.

The hearing is an opportunity to examine the reforms already put in motion by U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. A controversial choice when he was selected, DeJoy has been attacked relentlessly as a “political hack” put in place by then-President Donald Trump and Republicans on the Postal Board of Governors to tilt the election in Trump’s favor.

His partisan pedigree is undeniable. He was a major donor to the GOP and to Trump, which led many high-profile Democrats to call for his ouster and, when the Board of Governors refused to remove him, for its ouster as well.

It didn’t happen but that doesn’t mean DeJoy is safe. The White House has sent the names of three labor-backed nominees to the Board that, when they’re confirmed by the U.S. Senate, would give the Democrats the majority and the ability to terminate him – even though he deserves considerable credit for having remained focused on the job at hand – keeping the USPS operating in the middle of lockdowns imposed during a pandemic – all the while cutting costs where he could.

DeJoy’s been following the plan, “Delivering for America,” a multi-faceted ten-year program to get things on track that he’s driven with the Boards’ approval. It, and he, deserve a chance to see where things go.

The plan is focused primarily on helping the USPS do what it is intended to do: deliver mail and packages efficiently to every address in America six days per week, rain or shine, sleet or snow, and, if necessary, “in the gloom of night.” By recommitting the Postal Service to this fundamental tenant and recognizing it is a core strength, DeJoy and the Board have put the USPS on the path to recovery without a taxpayer bailout.

That’s what we want – the ability to send and receive mail and packages throughout the country, direct to another address without someone at the other end having to travel to a drop-off and pick-up point, affordably and efficiently. I still send letters; and I receive lots of packages from online shopping (this year more than ever, just like most Americans).  Some of my relatives receive vital medications via the Postal Service. And millions of small businesses depend on the Postal Service to ship their products – a function which will expand nearly exponentially if efforts to bring broadband to rural America happen as the White House wants.

Fortunately, neither the “Delivering for America” plan nor the draft of the legislation about to be considered in committee adopts any of the dangerous proposals to force the USPS to increase package prices by arbitrarily assigning that part of the business costs which the Postal Service then must pay for. As required by law, the Postal Service already covers cost caused by delivering packages as well as a share of the overhead. Driving artificial package price increases above levels set in the market would kill the one part of the Postal Service business that is succeeding and helping to keep mail service going – by more than $10 Billion last year over and above the costs of providing the package delivery service.

Less positive are the plan’s proposal calling for mail rates to increase several times the rate of inflation, while at the same time reducing first class mail service standards from 3 to 5 days (by substituting trucks for airplanes). People don’t want to have to pay more for less. Moreover, the actual savings from the service change are uncertain and pressure to raise mail rates would be less if USPS took a more aggressive stance on controlling labor costs.

The USPS has already begun implementing the plan taking preliminary steps to consolidate mail processing facilities and announcing planned investments to better deal with growing package volumes.  It is also proceeding with the procurement of new delivery trucks (the existing ones you see on the street are over 20 years old, are falling apart, and represent a safety hazard to the people who must drive them).

Rather than being criticized, DeJoy should be commended for keeping his eye on the ball and not jumping into the political debate into which so many people tried to drag him.

DOJ Brings Charges Over Mail-In Ballots Found in Dumpsters

By Josh ChristensonThe Washington Free Beacon

Getty Images

A New Jersey postal worker was arrested Wednesday for dumping almost a hundred mail-in ballots into dumpsters in multiple towns.

The Justice Department charged Nicholas Beauchene, a 26-year-old mail carrier with “one count of delay, secretion, or detention of mail and one count of obstruction of mail” for discarding approximately 1,875 pieces of mail on his route. The discarded mail included “99 general election ballots” and was recovered from dumpsters in two different New Jersey townships.

Beauchene faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for delay of mail and six months in prison and a $5,000 fine for obstruction of mail. And with weeks left until Election Day, problems with mail-in ballots are flaring up in other parts of New Jersey and across the country, intensifying concerns about errors and fraud affecting results in November.

On Monday, almost 7,000 voters in Teaneck, N.J., received misprinted mail-in ballots that swapped their congressional district’s race for a neighboring one, rendering the ballots useless. Bergen County election officials are working to rectify the mistakes and say they will only count corrected ballots that will soon be sent out. They recommended voters shred the misprinted ballots.

These are just the latest problems in the Garden State regarding the efficacy and authenticity of mail-in voting, as elected leaders were charged with fraud in a special election in Paterson this summer. A judge eventually nullified the entire process, ruling that a new vote would take place in November.

New Jersey is also not the only state making news this week for its mishandling of mail-in ballots. Over the weekend in Virginia, mail collection boxes in three different localities were broken into. Virginia election officials announced the break-ins Monday.

“Six outdoor mail collection boxes were broken into sometime between Saturday afternoon and this morning,” Virginia officials said in a statement. “At this time, the United States Postal Service is investigating. Neither the Department nor USPS has any information about whether any election mail was contained in the boxes.”

Officials urged voters to contact USPS if they dropped mail into the boxes between Saturday afternoon and Monday morning.ADVERTISING

Mail-in ballots are also the subject of various legal battles around the country as Election Day nears.

The Nevada Republican Party asked federal law enforcement to investigate a Culinary Union chapter for illegally tampering with mailboxes while canvassing for Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Republicans are also challenging election officials in Minnesota and Michigan for saying they would allow ballots to be counted past Election Day even if they are not postmarked.

Why It’s Common Sense That Universal Mail-In Ballots Are A Terrible Idea

Everyone who has considered universal mail-in ballots for any length of time knows it would be disastrous.

By Auguste MeyratThe Federalist

With the upcoming presidential election, the left is increasingly dispensing with logic and common sense as they push for universal mail-in ballots. It doesn’t take much to see what a disaster this election would become under such an approach. As Attorney General Bill Barr rightly responded when asked if he had evidence that a mail-in ballot election could be rigged, “No, but I have common sense.”

The same logical fallacies that plagued the ridiculous 2+2=4 controversy are now repeated ad nauseam to convince Americans they should adopt universal mail-in ballots to ensure a fair and safe election. In states such as California and Nevada, residents have received mail-in ballots automatically.

Many have gone along with universal mail-in ballots because “experts” endorse them, not necessarily because they have examined the reasoning behind the movement. Arguments from authority, a popular logical fallacy these days, will successfully sway many people who have no interest in looking into the matter. If a so-called fact-checker such as Snopes labels “mostly false” the claim that universal mail-in ballots are vulnerable to fraud, many will agree and assume the issue is closed.

The Left Loves Logical Fallacies

For those who bother to examine the reasoning for universal mail-in ballots, they will find more logical fallacies behind it all. Beyond relying on arguments from authority, many advocates of universal mail-in ballots will primarily mix up the terms to muddy the waters and derail the conversation, conflating absentee voting, early voting, and universal mail-in voting and treating them all alike. As a bonus, they then accuse President Donald Trump of being a hypocrite for applying for a mail-in ballot himself, and pop-star pundits such as Taylor Swift will stridently condemn his refusal to increase funding for a dysfunctional U.S. Postal Service.

To be clear, an absentee ballot requires an application and various forms of authentication from the person making the request. Universal mail-in ballots do not require an application or much authentication from the voter, so no one can say where they go or who is filling them out. Early voting is simply another option for people to vote before the Election Day rush. Each method works differently, so no one should equate the success of one method with the others. Trump successfully mailing his ballot to Florida doesn’t somehow justify sending a random mail-in ballot to a deceased cat.

Another tactic that abuses the same fallacy is to equate one state’s experience with that of every other state. Mail-in voting proponents love pointing to Utah’s universal mail-in ballots — and what conservative American could argue against anything Utah does? Utah, however, has built up the infrastructure to distribute and collect universal mail-in ballots while other states, such as New York and California, have not, which explains the long delays in tallying votes and innumerable ballots being voided.

If those opposing universal mail-in ballots can make it through these bad arguments, they will then run another one: that mail-in voting has shown little actual evidence of fraud. This statement begs the question because few people ever explain how fraud is detected for a mail-in ballot. In most cases, ballots are verified by a simple signature. If election officials detect a difference between the signature on the ballot and another signature presumably on file, they can report an instance of fraud, which a court can then arbitrate.

This means a person counting votes has every reason to accept a signature and no reason to contest it, unless he wants to go through a messy legal process he might not be able to win. If this is the case, there could be many instances of fraud in mail-in voting, but no one would ever really know.

Furthermore, instances of election officials losing ballots or throwing them away, which happens often, does not actually count as fraud. Even if one-fifth of ballots from New Yorkers might never be counted, that doesn’t necessarily translate to massive fraud in universal mail-in ballots, but massive incompetence. This distinction thus allows Trump’s opponents to attack him for using the word “fraud” when “failure” would be a much more accurate term.

Common Sense Argues Against Mail-In Ballots

Using universal mail-in ballots would be like giving a test to a class without bothering to proctor it, count out the number of tests correctly, nor even pass it out to the correct students. No one reports any cheating — not the students, the random kids who have a copy of the test, nor the negligent proctor. When the administrator collects the test, he finds many copies in the trash. In the end, however, everyone involved claims the test was fair and that changing this method of testing would be unwarranted and discriminatory.

That’s why everyone who has considered universal mail-in ballots for any length of time knows it would be disastrous. As Barr said, common sense strongly argues against universal mail-in ballots.

Nonetheless, common sense means little when so many people accept the false dilemma of risking their health to exercise their right to vote. As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a woman who said marijuana could be used to treat COVID-19declared without a hint of irony, “People should not have to choose between their health and their vote, and that’s very important.”

Pelosi is right to say voting is important, but she’s wrong to say it’s a choice between health and voting. It really a choice between accepting reason or succumbing to insanity.

COVID-19 is Real, but Some Bailout Demands are as Phony as a Three Dollar Bill

By George LandrithRed State

The COVID-19 virus, which was effectively shipped to the U.S. and around the world from China, and the political response to the virus seem to be the lead story every day.

In this veritable flash flood of virus news coverage, one thing many media outlets have missed is the U.S. Postal Service’s release of its second quarter financials. Perhaps, Postal Service financial information sounds boring, but we must pay attention because they’ve been requesting $85 billion in what is essentially bailout funds as part of the numerous stimulus packages.

If the Postal Service gets its way, you and your children may be on the hook once again for the Postal Service’s failed business model and its refusal to get its finances in order. After all, the USPS has lost more than a billion dollars for 13 consecutive years. And it has promised time and again to revise its business model and reform itself but has not made good on that promise. As a result, they are coming back to the taxpayer asking for billions in bailouts.

Maybe the public doesn’t really care if the USPS is losing money or uses a failed business model. After all, if some local business operates inefficiently and loses money, the problem will solve itself as it will go out of business and others who perform the service or provide the product more efficiently will take its place. But that’s not how government related things work.

When a government related organization loses money and begins to fail, the taxpayer is asked to pump billions into it to keep it afloat. It refuses to change its business model or to right its financial ship because it doesn’t have to. It can go to Congress and ask for more cash. Why restructure? Why innovate? Why focus on core profitable business products? Just ask Congress to give you billions to maintain the inefficient and wasteful status quo. That’s the Postal Service’s business model.

One of the curious things revealed in the financial report is that the Post Office claims that its package delivery business is highly profitable and it experienced an almost exponential increase in its package delivery business. That should be good news. Anytime a normal business is able to sell more of its profitable goods or services, that means higher profits. But not so with the Postal Service which still claims to be losing billions. How do you dramatically increase the sale of your most profitable products and still lose money?

Separately, in regard to letter mail, the Postal Service has a government granted and enforced monopoly on First Class Mail. It is illegal for any competitor to provide a competing First Class Mail service. So naturally, the Postal Service makes a lot of money on First Class Mail.  Quite frankly, if you can’t make money as a legally sanctioned monopolist, you’re horrible at what you do.

The Postal Service takes the profits from that monopoly business and uses it to compete with other private companies in the package delivery business. And despite the Postal Service’s claims, it is clearly losing a lot of money on its package delivery business. Their financial records and cost attribution practices are so poor and substandard that they can lose billions and still claim that almost all of their products, including packages, are profitable. But the bottom line can’t lie and the bottom line reveals that the Postal Service is losing its shirt in package delivery.

That may explain why a group of USPS customers have come out to support the Postal Service’s request for a taxpayer provided bailout. If you could get taxpayer subsidized shipping and thereby lower your costs, you’d be for it too. It’s just a matter of self interest.

So these companies using the Postal Service’s package delivery services are effectively asking every American to subsidize their multi-billion dollar business and help them keep their shipping costs below market rates so that they can increase their profits. Wouldn’t it be great if all of us could reach into the taxpayer’s pocket to increase our salaries?

All of this is troubling. But the fact that a government sanctioned monopoly is using its monopoly profits to subsidize competition with other legitimate businesses is even more troubling. Imagine if the government set up a monopoly with guaranteed profits and then unleashed that monopoly to compete with you and used its monopoly subsidies to undercut your line of work. They could afford to lose a ton of money, but still harm your business, reduce your salary and profits, and get the taxpayer to cover their massive losses. Does that sound fair?  Is that a good use of government power and taxpayer funds?

While the Postal Service claims that its package delivery service is profitable, that simply cannot be true. If it were true, as their package business grew, they would stop hemorrhaging so much money. But they haven’t stopped losing money. Every quarter, when they release their financial reports, it’s just more bad news. If you drill down in their financial information, it is clear that the Postal Service is delivering packages at a loss. But the USPS uses its profits from First Class Mail to subsidize those losses. And when their losses overwhelm their monopoly profits, they call upon the taxpayer to bail out their failed business model.

It is time for real reform at the Postal Service. It is time to stop the perpetual taxpayer bailouts. If nothing is done, next year even after COVID-19 has passed, the Postal Service will concoct another excuse to get more taxpayer bailouts. The Administration should impose meaningful reform because it is in the taxpayer’s interests for the Postal Service to get its business model and financial house in order. COVID-19 shouldn’t be used as a phony excuse to bailout failed monopolists.

In the Current Crisis, Postal Preservation Must Come Before Postal Reform

By Peter RoffTownhall

America is – and for some time will be — a long way from what any of us would describe as normal. The COVID-19 pandemic, which has us living in near isolation, has disrupted every aspect of our lives. Which, it should go without saying, includes the way we supply and resupply our homes and functioning businesses.

The public health experts advising the president and the governors of the states say self-quarantine is vital to flattening the curve. They say it’s the only way to ensure the number of new cases — when added to those already diagnosed and under treatment — don’t overwhelm the healthcare system.

That means a lot of things. President Donald J. Trump and the Coronavirus task force have been hard at work trying to procure and distribute essential hospital supplies, create more bed space in over-burdened cities like New York, and prevent a public panic. And, despite what the critics say, they’ve done an exceptional job considering the way this all came about and how unprepared the nation was.

Who’s at fault, well, that’s a conversation for another day. What matters now is to make sure people get the care they need and those sheltered inside their homes get the food and supplies and medicines they need to survive so they can venture out as little as possible.

Thanks to the Internet, that’s happening. People can order everything from prescriptions to crackers to toilet paper (when they can find it) – from online retailers who, most of the time, can ship it right to their front door. Eventually, those shipments may also include test kits and vaccines.

The American supply chain is an amazing, resilient thing. What most don’t know, however, is how dependent they are on the United States Postal Service for all that. There are other shippers, but only the USPS is required to provide delivery to every front door in America. For many, especially those living in remote and rural areas, it’s a lifeline.

It’s axiomatic that the USPS has been ill-managed for years. It’s short of money, deeply in debt, and has resisted pressure to reform for some time. Things need to change. Efficiencies need to be found. Accommodations need to be made. But now is not the time to force the issue. The pandemic has sent USPS costs up and revenues down. COVID-19 isn’t rain, snow, sleet, or gloom of night: it is even more unpleasant. Yet every day, six days a week, your friendly letter carrier continues to come to your door to deliver the things you need to survive this crisis – and will continue to do so until it runs out of money to operate.

Recognizing this, Congress, in the last COVID stimulus bill, granted the Postal Service new borrowing authority but it can only access those funds if it agrees to terms imposed by the Treasury Department.  Unfortunately, the Treasury is reportedly using that as a lever to force policy changes that would force the Postal Service to increase prices and cut back on service.

That’s a mistake. Forcing these changes now will put further strain on the pocketbooks of the American people and financial security of American business at a time when far too many people are already in need of relief.

Reforms are needed but now is not the time to wield the carrot and the stick. The USPS can no more be allowed to shut down or curtail service during this pandemic than a hospital can be allowed to close. Its continuing function is vital to the economic and personal security of every American – especially those living in rural areas who have no affordable alternatives.

The postal service needs to be more efficient. There’s a lot that can be done, much of which USPS management, its labor unions, and its employees probably won’t like. Hopefully, they’ll be willing to give a little once the current crisis is over and, if they’re not, then the politicians in Washington need to bring the hammer down. But that’s for later, not now. This is an extraordinary time and the circumstances are unique. We need to focus on keeping the lifeblood of the nation flowing which means keeping the mail going. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin needs to reverse course and approve the borrowing of the funds needed to tide it over without any strings.

USPS Neglects Its Priorities and Starts Off 2020 with Another Massive Loss

Frontiers of Freedom expressed great alarm this week over the U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS) latest financial results which showed $748 million in losses during the first quarter of FY 2020. 

George Landrith, President of Frontiers of Freedom, said: 

“The U.S. Postal Service is hemorrhaging money!  In the first quarter of FY 2020, they have already reported $748 million in losses.  And it isn’t like 2019 was a good year.  Last year, they lost an unbelievable $8.8 billion in FY2019.  To put that into perspective, the Postal Service has posted 13 consecutive years with a net loss of a billion dollars or more, and its unfunded liabilities and debt now total more than $143 billion. It is extraordinarily difficult to lose that kind of money when you are operating a government-granted monopoly like the Postal Service has on First Class Mail.”

Frontiers of Freedom President George Landrith also called out the agency over its negligence and financials, stating: 

“It is readily apparent that the current USPS business model is failing.  It is up to Congress, the Postal Regulatory Commission, and the new heads of the USPS Board of Governors to address the ongoing challenges.  This includes ending nonsensical postal subsidies, trimming down the agency’s excessive costs, and complying with new laws impacting the USPS.”

Frontiers of Freedom previously hailed the work of Congress and President Trump to address some of USPS’ major systemic flaws with the enactment of the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act in 2018.  This bill was an essential step in requiring the Postal Service to meet industry standards in data collection and monitoring practices of packages that enter the U.S. from abroad.

Despite the required protocols to protect our communities from hazardous and criminal items, the Government Accountability Office reports that USPS continues to fall short on its requirements to provide Customs and Border Protection (CBP) with advanced electronic data (AED).

Failing to keep up with the directives of the STOP Act prompts further troublesome questions as the Department of Homeland Security embarks on robust initiatives to impede the flow of counterfeit and pirated goods. However, in assessing the Postal Service, DHS finds a “significant gap in the information CBP receives,” among numerous critiques and findings. Landrith remarked, “Ultimately, the work to intercept illicit drugs and contraband is an immense challenge, and there is simply no excuse for USPS to not do its part.”  

On the USPS’ array of responsibilities, Landrith concluded:

“Americans should be greatly concerned about the USPS procrastinating on its priorities. Looking ahead, it is crucial for the board to install a new Postmaster General with well-qualified business expertise. The demands of stakeholders, legislators and citizens continue to go unanswered. The path to reform will be wide-ranging, and USPS leaders and lawmakers will need to act with urgency.” 

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