Louis DeJoy, the Postmaster General of the US Postal Service, was a businessperson and Republican fundraiser with no experience in the area of the agency he was picked to lead by Trump. He seems intent on ruining the postal service in the name of cost savings and efficiency. Like many Trump and Republican free market enthusiasts, they do not seem to realize that some vital government services are just that, services whose goal should be to serve the public well, not to generate profits.
What is even more puzzling is that in providing uniform pricing for mail, the USPS is using the heavier volume of mail sent to and from urban areas (which makes it cheaper to handle per item) to subsidize the mail sent to and from rural and remote areas. For some rural areas, the postal service is their lifeline to the rest of the country and the way they get essential items like medicines. Since urban areas tend be more Democratic and rural areas more Republican, cutting postal services or raising prices would hurt Republicans more. And yet, Republicans, so indoctrinated against the government, seem to be on board with both those measures that are promoted in the name of ‘efficiency’ and ‘cost cutting’.
The postmaster general is appointed to that position by a nine-member Board of Governors, which is supposed to have no more than five members belonging to the same political party. (Why party affiliation is a factor for such a position beats me. Surely you would just want people who are committed to the mission of the USPS?)
At present there are only six people on the board out of the nine. Four of them are Republicans and two are Democrats. The current chair is a Democrat whose term expired in December 2020 and is a holdover and all six are wealthy white men with corporate backgrounds who were appointed by Trump. Congressperson Cori Bush has blasted this lack of diversity.
Joe Biden has now nominated three people to fill out the board.
Mr. Biden has chosen Anton Hajjar, the former general counsel of the American Postal Workers Union; Amber McReynolds, a voting rights activist and the CEO of the National Vote at Home Institute; and Ron Stroman, who recently retired as deputy postmaster general.
Hajjar is an Arab-American, McReynolds is a woman, and Stroman is an African-American and all have backgrounds in the postal system, thus bringing with them not just diversity but also relevant knowledge and expertise to their positions.
If and when they are confirmed by the Senate, Democrats would have a majority on the board but it is not clear whether the two current Democrats would vote to replace DeJoy. DeJoy himself seems confident of staying on, combatively telling a congressional hearing that he intends to be around “for a long time” and that they should “get used to me”.
Let’s hope he is wrong.
Balancing political influence is a normal problem and even in a stable reasonable government having too much influence from one political party or one side of the political spectrum would be a problem.
In the current situation in the US things are far worse. One of the things DeJoy did was screw up mail delivery in areas with heavy use of mail in ballots. It’s highly unlikely this was an accident. As soon as Biden gets around to appointing enough Democrats to the board and lining up a replacement DeJoy is out the door. He can say whatever he wants, he is on borrowed time because he isn’t on the top 10 list of problems Biden has to deal with.
Marcus Ranum says
Republican/Libertarian argument is that “government is not good at doing things, compared to the private sector.” But then, rather than letting the government and private sector compete, they hamstring the government agency, then yell, “SEE!?!”
Not only is DeJoy a nasty political water-carrier for the republicans, he’s a smug asshole, who gloated at congress that they couldn’t get rid of him while he lined his pockets. I wish the US would take more seriously the problem of political appointees -- i.e.: people who bought government positions -- why would anyone do that, unless they planned to profit by the position? It seems obviously corrupt and encouraging of corruption. Or, as Libertarians call it “market forces.”
Does one need to belong to a party to be appointed?
The right-wing fiction that the federal government is too big and is the problem, not the solution, has two origins. The first is that segregationists were outraged in the 1960s when the government began seriously attacking segregation and tried to integrate schools, public agencies, businesses, etc. The segregationists have never forgiven the government and have passed that rage on to younger generations, who may or may not recognize the origin of that hatred. That was Reagan’s first big base.
The second origin is the conservative Christians who believe governments should force their rites and beliefs on everyone, particularly on public school children. So they began hating the government in the late 1940s when the Supreme Court first started blocking Christian coercions using the government. That anger hit the boiling point in the 1960s when the court finally shut down mandatory school prayers and Bible readings. (Note: Some state courts as early as the 19th century began blocking school prayers and Bible readings. Louisiana’s supreme court issued such a ruling in 1915). Reagan was a staunch enemy of church-state separation. He gave a speech once in which he “supported” css, but turned it upside down by claiming the government could not force religious groups to obey laws they did not like. As president, Reagan gave a number of speeches in which he claimed the Christian god would punish the U.S. if we did not force Christianity on everyone.
So when you hear someone attacking the federal government as too big and powerful, you’re hearing 1960s segregationists and Religious Right fanatics speaking, whether the speaker knows this history or not.
Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says
One needs to donate a lot of money to political candidates to get appointed. Now, there are people who use their companies to give money to both Democrats & Republicans, but I doubt most of those people are political independents. Most of them consider politics of practical importance to themselves and/or their businesses. They have preferences for which political party should be in power (it’s hard not to have preferences when you’re actively involved in politics to the point of giving hundreds of thousands of dollars away per year), but they give money to both parties to ensure they have receptive ears in government when they want something.
In this way, the money givers have specific political parties (almost always one of the big two because they’re seeking actual influence or they wouldn’t spend so much on donations, and they won’t gain actual influence by joining the Greens), but they also have cross-party connections, so when Presidents need to appoint someone to a board but wish to get the label of “bipartisan” for whatever convenient benefit it provides that week, those presidents find it easy to come up with a list of people who give them lots of money but are technically members of the other party. By pulling from the donor class instead of the politician class, you’re not going to get a firebrand or a heavy partisan, but that’s okay. You can appoint firebrands from your own party while appointing big money donors from the other party and then the ideological center of gravity can be far from the actual political center on issues they are forced to consider, but the president in question is still considered “bipartisan” because look! They put 4 of the opposite party on the board with 5 from their own party. How noble! How centrist!
It is what it is.
Of course, if they’re big donors, serving on the board is going to have to be either very part time or provide opportunities for steering business or structuring markets in such a way as to dramatically increase the donor’s income. If they have that much to give away, they aren’t going to want to spend all their time on a government governing board for piddly bucks when they could work full time as a CEO and earn megabucks.
Thus it’s not only politically corrupt, but it also leads to more traditional economic corruption.
Who could have guessed?
Free-market, libertarian, conservatives have, for a long time , sought to get rid of the postal service. Its very existence offends them. It is a part of government that works, works well, and is fairly efficient. Private companies seeking to do the same job have all been less efficient and/or less well liked. Government is not supposed to be capable of doing anything as well as private industry and the USPS violates that assertion.
It also does it very publicly. Nearly everyone gets mail. Lots of people know, possibly like, their mailman. Many are veterans. We see the USPS marked vehicles and interact with the USPS several times a week and depend on them for communications and financial transactions. You can send a letter anywhere in the US for about half a dollar. Across the street or thousands of miles away to a remote village in Alaska all costs the same.
And, the kicker. The USPS is highly unionized.
None of this makes conservatives happy. They would like to see the USPS collapse and thye have tried mightily to make it happen. DeJoy is just the latest torpedo. Unique only in his intention of destroying the USPS from the inside.