Attacking the Post Office Means It’s Time To Impeach the Bastard Again

Title 39 of the U.S. Code says:

The United States Postal Service shall be operated as a basic and fundamental service provided to the people by the Government of the United States, authorized by the Constitution, created by Act of Congress, and supported by the people. The Postal Service shall have as its basic function the obligation to provide postal services to bind the Nation together through the personal, educational, literary, and business correspondence of the people. It shall provide prompt, reliable, and efficient services to patrons in all areas and shall render postal services to all communities. The costs of establishing and maintaining the Postal Service shall not be apportioned to impair the overall value of such service to the people.

Title 18: says:

“Whoever knowingly and willfully obstructs or retards the passage of the mail, or any carrier or conveyance carrying the mail, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.

The Washington Post reports:

President Txxxx says the U.S. Postal Service is incapable of facilitating mail-in voting because it cannot access the emergency funding he is blocking, and made clear that requests for additional aid were nonstarters in coronavirus relief negotiations.

Txxxx, who has been railing against mail-in balloting for months, said the cash-strapped agency’s enlarged role in the November election would perpetuate “one of the greatest frauds in history.” Speaking Wednesday at his daily pandemic news briefing, Txxxx said he would not approve $25 billion in emergency funding for the Postal Service, or $3.5 billion in supplemental funding for election resources, citing prohibitively high costs.

“They don’t have the money to do the universal mail-in voting. So therefore, they can’t do it, I guess,” Txxxx said. “Are they going to do it even if they don’t have the money?”

Quoting Paul Waldman of the Post:

The White House made sure that grants for the Postal Service would not be included in previous coronavirus pandemic rescue packages (“We told them very clearly that the president was not going to sign the bill if [money for the Postal Service] was in it,” an administration official told The Post in April), and as the problems at the Postal Service worsen seemingly by the day, Txxxx is sending the same message about any new rescue bill Congress might pass.

. . . Txxxx’s partner in the project to destroy the Postal Service is Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, the GOP megadonor who has given millions of dollars to the Txxxx campaign and the Republican Party, and has been on the job for just two months.

Soon after taking office, DeJoy ordered a series of changes in policy that shocked postal employees. He banned overtime and told carriers to leave mail behind at distribution centers, causing it to pile up day after day. Employees also report that sorting machines that help speed mail processing have been removed from postal facilities. The inevitable result has been slower delivery, with letters and packages arriving late and many Americans simply not getting their mail every day. You’ve probably noticed it yourself.

The implications for the election, with unprecedented numbers of Americans wary of going to polls in the midst of a pandemic, quickly became clear. As The Post reported last month, “Postal employees and union officials say the changes implemented by [DeJoy] are contributing to a growing perception that mail delays are the result of a political effort to undermine absentee voting” . .

I34 states, including the swing states of Arizona, Georgia, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, ballots can’t just be postmarked by Election Day to count. It has to be received by Election Day. If you mail it three days before, thinking you did everything right, but it doesn’t arrive at the board of elections until the day after the election, it’s tossed in the trash.

This has all the makings of an election nightmare purposefully engineered by Txxxx and DeJoy. As they know full well, due to Txxxx’s relentless campaign to convince people that mail voting is inherently fraudulent (unless Republicans are doing it), Democrats are now far more likely to say they’re going to vote by mail.

This is election theft in progress. And as awful as that is, it’s made even more despicable by the fact that to rig the election, Txxxx is trying to murder a national treasure.

Unquote.

Txxxx swore an oath to faithfully execute his duties as president. If Congress can’t agree to do anything else, the House needs to impeach him again and the Senate needs to hold another trial. That will give this issue the publicity it deserves.

But since the federal government is now partly run as a criminal enterprise, if you can’t put your ballot in the mail weeks before the election, hand-deliver it to county officials or vote in person, like Sylvia Smiles, a 77-year-old retired teacher from Charleston, S.C., is going to do. I hope she also contacts her representatives in Congress!

Noam Chomsky called the Republican Party “the most dangerous organization in human history”, given it’s denial of climate change. We have an opportunity to damage it for years to come. Maybe we can even put it out of its misery. Together, let’s get it done this November.

There Is No “Congress”

It is true that the Constitution of the United States of America created a legislature. Its principal function is to make laws. It comprises the legislative branch of the federal government, the other two branches being the executive and the judicial.

The authors of the Constitution called this legislative branch “Congress”. They also divided this “Congress” into two parts.

Article I, Section 1:

All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

When a law or a change to a law is proposed, the Senate and the House of Representatives must both endorse the proposal in order for it to become official, i.e. “the law of the land”. (The Executive branch, embodied by a “President”, also gets to participate in the process. Sometimes the Judicial branch does too.)

So far, so good.

The Constitution nowhere mentions political parties, but it only took a few years for a “two-party system” to develop.

The Founding Fathers did not originally intend for American politics to be partisan. . . .  Alexander Hamilton and James Madison . . . wrote specifically about the dangers of domestic political factions. In addition, the first president, George Washington, was not a member of any political party . . . Furthermore, he hoped that political parties would not be formed, fearing conflict and stagnation . . .

Nevertheless, the beginnings of the American two-party system merged from his immediate circle of advisers. Hamilton and Madison . . .  ended up being the core leaders in this emerging party system. It was the split camps of Federalists, given rise with Hamilton as a leader, and Democratic-Republicans, with Madison and Thomas Jefferson at the helm . . . that created the environment in which partisanship, once distasteful, came to being [Wikipedia].

How does the two-party system affect Congress? If the majority in both the Senate and the House belong to the same party, it doesn’t make that much difference. If, say, the Racoon Party has the majority in both houses, there is general agreement on which laws to adopt (since senators serve for six years and representatives only serve for two, the members of the two houses sometimes have different priorities even when they belong to the same party).

But what if the Racoons are the majority in the Senate and the Otters are the majority in the House? Or the other way around? It is more difficult for the two majorities to agree on what the country’s laws should be. Sometimes it’s almost impossible.

Since 1857, when the Republicans joined the Democrats as one of America’s two major parties, there have been eighty-two sessions of Congress. By my count, the same party has controlled both houses of Congress sixty-six times, leaving sixteen sessions in which Congress has been divided. We are living through one of those sixteen sessions now, since the Democrats control the House and the Republicans control the Senate.

As we would expect, with two different parties in charge, things are not going well.

For example, the Democrat-led House agreed on legislation in May, almost three months ago, in order to deal with the suffering and disruption caused by Covid-19. Among other things, House Bill 6800 (unfortunately called “The Heroes Act”) would extend the $600 weekly increase in unemployment insurance, make another round of direct payments (up to $6,000 for a family), provide $25 billion to the U.S. Postal Service and increase aid to state and local governments.

The Republican-led Senate has not taken a vote on the House’s bill. Nor has the Senate proposed its own version of legislation to address the same issues (which would then be subject to negotiation with the House). The result is that the $600 increase in unemployment insurance agreed to earlier this year has lapsed. A moratorium on housing evictions is also ending.

So the country is in quite a pickle.

Now here’s what motivated me to express myself today. It’s a headline in The Washington Post.

Congress deeply unpopular again as gridlock on coronavirus relief has real-life consequences

Here’s one from USA Today.

Congress leaves town without a coronavirus stimulus deal, allowing $600 unemployment benefit to end

Here’s a classic example of the problem from an experienced New York Times reporter:

A conservative Republican House member profanely accosts a Democratic congresswoman as she strides up the Capitol steps to do her job during multiple national calamities.

With expanded jobless benefits supporting tens of millions of fearful Americans about to expire and a pandemic raging, Senate Republicans and the [Republican] White House cannot agree among themselves about how to respond, let alone begin to bargain with Democrats.

In a private party session, arch-conservative Republicans ambush their top female leader and demand her ouster over political and policy differences.

And that’s just the past few days.

By nearly any measure, Congress is a toxic mess . . .

Jonathan Chait is a columnist for New York Magazine. He referred to the problem twice in the past month:

If I could change one thing about political coverage, it would be the practice of attributing actions by one party to “Congress” [June 27].

The single worst practice in political journalism is attributing decisions by one party to “Congress” [July 26].

I’d make it “actions or inaction by one party”, but he made a very good point.

My suggestion is that when two different parties are in charge of Congress, people who write about politics for a living should make an effort to specify which party in which house is doing (or not doing) something. That would help readers understand where the dysfunction usually lies (hint: it’s not the Democratic side).

Since my suggesting this will have no effect, I’ll alternatively suggest that when we readers see references to Congress in times like this, we keep in mind that Congress has two parts and that one of those parts (same hint) is totally screwed up.

In fact, in times like this, “Congress” doesn’t really exist.

She’s Angry, Really Angry, and Should Be

Jennifer Rubin worked as a lawyer before joining The Washington Post as a columnist. Before that, she mainly wrote for right-wing publications. Rubin was once called “hard-right”. She’s certainly been one of their conservative writers. But she’s given up on the Grim Old Party. From her latest:

“Today’s GOP in a nutshell: Jaw-dropping incompetence and grotesque disrespect for others”

Two defining features of the Republican Party were on display Thursday. Together, they are proof that the flaws of today’s GOP are not limited to President Txxxx and reason enough to send the party in its current manifestation into the political wilderness.

The first, and most important, feature is the party’s jaw-dropping incompetence. We not only have Txxxx’s failure to address the coronavirus pandemic (as well as dozens of other examples ranging from a wall you can saw through to a government shutdown), but also the incapacity of the Republican-controlled Senate to do its job.

The Post reports: “Senate Republicans killed President Txxxx’s payroll tax cut proposal on Thursday but failed to reach agreement with the White House on a broader coronavirus relief bill.” That, in turn, sent lawmakers into “a frantic scramble with competing paths forward . . . and the entire effort appeared to teeter chaotically on the brink of failure.” They have had more than two months to consider a plan following the House’s swift passage of the Heroes Act. They have heard from Txxxx-appointed Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome Powell, who urged the Senate to put together a substantial relief package. It still doesn’t have its act together. (Can you imagine if they invalidated the Affordable Care Act and were charged with finding a replacement?)

At a joint news conference on Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could only gape in amazement at Republicans’ ineptitude. “Now that Senate Republicans have finally woken up to the calamity in our country, they have been so divided, so disorganized, so unprepared that they have struggled to even draft a partisan proposal within their own conference,” Schumer said. “They can’t come together. Even after all this time, it appears the Republican legislative response to [Covid-19] is un-unified, unserious, unsatisfactory.” He added, “The Republican disarray and dithering has potentially serious deadly consequences for tens of millions of Americans. 1.4 million Americans applied for unemployment last week, the first time the number rose since March.”

Pelosi, arguably the most competent legislator of the last 20 years, barely controlled her disdain for Republicans’ utter failure. She declared: “They don’t believe in science. They don’t believe in governance. . . . It is another example of their dereliction of duty.” Asked whether she had gotten a phone call or a piece of paper from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, she tersely replied, “No.”

Understand that this is not a matter of coming up with a proposal acceptable to Democrats. Republicans do not even know what they want. More than six months into the crisis, the slothful Senate seems ready to leave for the weekend. . . . If they cannot perform their jobs, they should turn over the reins to Democrats.

The second defining feature of today’s Republicans is their grotesque disrespect for their fellow Americans, with a deep strain of misogyny. We have become so accustomed to Txxxx’s ugliness that we sometimes ignore outbursts from other Republicans. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was not about to let that happen on Thursday.

She took to the floor to rebut Rep. Ted Yoho for his non-apology over his verbal assault on her earlier in the week, during which he reportedly called Ocasio-Cortez a “f—ing b—h” . . . Had Yoho made an equivalent statement concerning an African American male colleague, leadership would have been under pressure to condemn him, strip him of privileges (as was the case in handling remarks made by Rep. Steve King of Iowa) or even boot him from the House. With a woman as the victim, they were prepared to do exactly nothing.

Ocasio-Cortez elegantly skewered not only Yoho but the men who silently stand by after such displays. “This issue is not about one incident. It is cultural,” she said. “It is a culture of . . . impunity, of accepting of violence and violent language against women, and an entire structure of power that supports that” . . . She added: “Having a daughter does not make a man decent. Having a wife does not make a decent man. Treating people with dignity and respect makes a decent man. And when a decent man messes up, as we all are bound to do, he tries his best and does apologize.”

Instead, today’s Republican Party rewards displays of insensitivity, disrespect, meanness and bigotry as a sign one will not be contained by “elites” or “political correctness.” It tolerates support for the Confederate flag and white nationalism. It ignores protesters screaming in the faces of health-care workers to protest one’s right to go mask-less, thereby endangering others. The culture of bullying and the disdain for others is not an incidental part of the GOP; it is central to its identity.

A party that disdains government should not run for office. A party that celebrates rudeness, incivility, meanness and bigotry should be shunned. Rehabilitation for the GOP? It’s impossible to imagine, given its cast of characters.

Unquote.

Recent polls show Biden beating Txxxx in important states the maniac won in 2016:

Florida: Biden 51%, T 38%
Michigan: Biden 49%, T 40%
Pennsylvania: Biden 50%, T 39%

Is it any wonder?

No More Bad Bailouts

An opinion piece from The Boston Globe describes a policy a sensible government would adopt:

Twice in a dozen years, Congress has undertaken enormous bailouts to rescue companies and individuals in the economy. In 2008, the federal government drafted legislation on the fly that bailed out the big financial institutions, but left many homeowners drowning with underwater mortgages. Amid popular outcry, Congress then promised to end bailouts forever with the passage of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act in 2010.

Less than a decade later, Congress has authorized an even more enormous bailout. This time, the legislative process has been even more complicated. Congress once again scrambled, drafting legislation to address both the public health and economic emergencies stemming from COVID-19. So far it has rushed through five separate relief bills in a matter of months because each successive bill was insufficient to address not only the public health crisis but also the economic crisis. Congress will now likely take up a sixth bill in late July [assuming Sen. Turtle Face, the Kentucky Republican, agrees], in part to deal with the imminent expiration of expanded unemployment insurance benefits.

Once again, the rescue legislation has been a bonanza for lobbyists, financial institutions, and big businesses, which have been able to get access to financing relatively swiftly and with few conditions. Once again, the public is left wondering where all the money went. And once again, workers and Main Street businesses have been relegated to second-class status. Small businesses have struggled to get limited rescue funds under the Paycheck Protection Act. Even with trillions of dollars going out the door, 40 million Americans remain out of work. The public health crisis continues, as testing remains woefully limited and incidence of the virus is growing in many parts of the country. Communities of color have been hit especially hard, setting back efforts to expand equality and opportunity.

This ad hoc approach to responding to economic crises is inefficient at best and malpractice at worst. Emergency response and disaster management professionals do not “wing it” every time there is a forest fire or a hurricane. They prepare in advance, developing policies and procedures so they can react swiftly and effectively. When Congress starts thinking about a response only after an economic crisis starts, it’s no surprise that the response isn’t very effective.

Policymakers should take a page from the disaster response playbook. Economic crises are emergencies, and just like with a fire or a hurricane, many aspects of a response can be anticipated — unemployment, income shocks, and liquidity constraints. What we need, therefore, is a standing set of procedures and policies — an emergency economic resilience and stabilization law that can be activated when a crisis hits.

The benefits of this approach are significant. Congress could respond to economic emergencies more quickly because it wouldn’t need to reinvent the wheel every time there is a crisis. Executive branch agencies would also be able to anticipate the administrative capacities needed to implement the program. And individuals and businesses would have a good sense of what happens during a crisis, reducing fear and uncertainty.

Because the standing law would address the major foreseeable problems, Congress could focus its attention on the unique causes of the specific downturn. In the case of COVID-19, for example, Congress would have been able to spend much of the spring focused on the public health aspect of the crisis, such as facilitating production of tests and establishing a contact tracing system.

A standing program would also reshape the political dynamics around rescue legislation. In the fog of an economic crisis, lobbyists see a bonanza: a chance to stuff goodies for their clients into must-pass legislation. Members of Congress who simply want good governance can end up using their limited political capital fighting off such bad policies or ensuring that uncontroversial provisions make it into the final bill rather than advancing the best policies.

While Congress would be free to change the economic resilience program even in the midst of a crisis, the fact that a program already exists would require members to explain any divergences. There would likely be fewer concerns about lobbying, favoritism, and corruption because the rules would be written without anyone knowing which particular companies need help—or which lobbied hardest. So what might such a program look like? We think it should have four parts.

First, it would end no-strings-attached bailouts by providing a restructuring process for large or publicly traded companies. The companies would have the option to get funding from the US government, but their shareholders would be wiped out. Their debt would be converted into equity — meaning the company would now be owned by its lenders and by the federal government, which would get a preferred equity stake. Alternatively, companies would still have the option to pursue a traditional restructuring in bankruptcy, but without federal aid.

Second, there would be a program for smaller businesses to cover payroll and operating expenses to prevent mass layoffs and closures on Main Street. The small business program would be akin to what Congress attempted with the Paycheck Protection Program, but with direct payroll subsidies for employers to maintain payroll and cover operating expenses, rather than operating through banks as third-party intermediaries.

Third, there would be reforms to the financial system infrastructure so that every person or business could get an account to which emergency government payments could immediately be credited. That would make it possible for people and businesses to get direct payments, like checks, much more quickly than they have in this crisis.

Finally, the program would include “automatic stabilizers,” a wonky term for policies that are automatically triggered based on data, rather than relying on repeated and recurrent congressional action. In the event of an economic crisis like the crash in 2008 or COVID-19 this past spring, funding for state and local governments, for example, would automatically kick in and would continue until the economy has bounced back.

A standing economic resilience program like this one is possible for a simple reason. We can predict many of the policy responses that are needed in a crisis. While every crisis undoubtedly has its own unique trigger and features, the next time won’t be very different. Rather than live through another round of ad hoc bailouts for the wealthy and powerful and suffering for everyone else, Congress should get prepared, so our country’s response to the next crisis can be quicker, fairer, and more effective.

Unquote.

This week the government was forced to identify some of the “small businesses” that received stimulus money. They included top law firms, the Secretary of the Treasury’s family business, several chains with wealthy private-equity investors, twenty-two tenants of an office building owned by the president, Kanye West’s company, the Ayn Rand Institute and the Archdiocese of New York. 

It would be cynical to say a sensible policy like this would never, ever happen in a country like ours.

(It would probably never happen in a country like ours.)