Postmaster General defends changes made to USPS during Senate committee hearing
Friday, recently appointed Postmaster General Lewis to Joy was grilled by the Homeland Security Committee about his sweeping cutbacks that intentionally or not fulfilled Trump's vision. But as Republicans on the committee were quick to observe, he didn't start the fire. From what I've heard so far today. Apparently the post office never had any issues. There was never any delays. There was never any male that was late. There were never any financial problems. There was never any challenge the mail in voting until 65 days ago when you arrived, and then apparently all chaos has broken out in the post office fair point Senator James Lankford, but what he and his GOP colleagues failed to point out. Was that it was their party's own policies that intentionally or not crippled the Postal Service to begin with, And according to New Republic staff writer Alex Shepherd. When journalists start talking about the public sector, they tend to be sucked into a similar partisan ideological narrative. Yeah, the postal Service exists is a kind of symbol of good government, and it's one that has been surprisingly resilient, Tio Republican attacks, particularly ones aimed at privatizing various public sector services. But that you know hasn't dimmed their enthusiasm for making widespread demands for greater efficiency that, in fact lower efficiency. These have certainly increased over the last 15 years, but it feels like we've only started paying attention to them over the last week or so. No. You just said lead to greater efficiency first by creating lower efficiency, and we'll get to that in a moment, But first we should observe that this process goes back decades. Along with the privatization, dreams for schools, colleges, social security, prisons, even parts of the military. But you write that the particular image we have of the post office today. Really has its origins in 2006. How so? Yeah, In 2006 Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, known as Pica. On that required us B s to make a number of changes. The most substantial was that it required them to fully fund all of their pensions. 75 years in advance, which created a $72 billion hole and the operating budget immediately. No other institution is required to do this, and it immediately turned a profitable arm of the federal government into an unprofitable one. Now the timing of that was interesting because That was a year in which the USPS was, as it had been for several years in the black. It was also the year that Facebook opened up, Tio everyone on and you start to see large standing changes in the way that People communicate. That also has provided a hit to the Postal Service's budget, but not as substantial as this one about pensions. Now, over the past couple of months we've observed trumps over meddling into the post office. In the person of his new postmaster General Lewis to joy, he isn't Underqualified Trump mega donor with financial ties to Postal service competitors. And next thing you know, he was cutting overtime for workers in the middle of a pandemic in advance of an election and had removed mail sorting machines from post offices nationwide. Which raised media eyebrows, but not exactly at first at least alarm. Until about a week ago, when Trump blurted out his sabotage scheme on Fox business. These Ah ha! Journalistic moments about public sector institutions follow a pattern yet in the case of U. S. P s There are a few things happening where you know at the same time Lewis to Joy is fulfilling this longstanding conservative project of hobbling USPS of creating space in which its competitors can thrive. He is also doing so at a time where it will, almost certainly if not aid. The president's reelection campaign, then certainly bolster claims that he may make challenging the legitimacy of the election. The press is largely focused on the second one of those still, and the first part is, I think, still gone unnoticed. You send that the Republican strategy over the decades Has been to defund the post office, for example, by forcing them to fund their pension plan going out 75 years. In order to actually forced their service to deteriorate in order ultimately, to privatize the organization. What Louis to Joy has been doing since the spring. You know, is familiar to anyone who's covered the private equity industry in America in recent years, it's you look at an organization that's losing money. And then you strip resource is from it in the name of efficiency. And then, of course, it becomes less efficient and you're in this endless cycle of taking things away. But the larger project, I think is ideological as much as it is practical that conservatives don't like the fact that this is a government institution that works. That the USPS should be treated like a business that's put a giant target on its back. The Postal Service itself is a kind of American value. Saying that you know, we're all Americans, and we all should be connected together, No matter what that costs. The drive, Tio privatized that Not only would have dramatic consequences for people who rely on USPS, Teo get medication or keep in touch with loved ones, particularly incarcerated people. It also would be a betrayal of what I think is an ideal, which is that we should have a system that brings us all together. You believe that we've allowed a distorted picture. Of the public sector to form in the public's minds over decades and and that we've even internalized the Reagan doctrine. That big government is not the solution. But the problem. Drunk. The Kool Aid halfway Yeah, I think that the image of a postal worker sort of remains Newman from Seinfeld. You don't even have to lick the stamps. It's not to be So I'm hanging it up. You quit the post office kind of I'm still collecting checks. I'm just not delivering mail. Somebody who's you know, lazy. They take a three hour break. The post office itself is a drab and dreary place where you waited line for hours and then are told to go somewhere else. It's sort of the The M V next door. Part of the issue, I think is political and that Democrats have also internalized a lot of these ideas. But I think that there's also a sense that journalist walk into a post office and they see Not the connective tissue of this country. They see another, you know, failing organ of big government. One of the strange things about all this hand wringing about if the USPS can handle the election is that they just finished. You know, a substantial project, which is handling the United States Census. USPS does this kind of work all the time, and they've done it despite the fact that they've been, you know, hobbled by staffing cuts and demands Teo to run like a business when it's not a business And how do we get The narrative that you just provided. Back into the minds of the media. If, in fact we have drunk the Kool Aid. I think there's a really shyness about communicating values in media. That's not true. When it comes to sort of First Amendment issues. Members of the press will always you know, beat their chests when They're kicked out of White House briefing room or something, but you don't get that with other values. Instead, there's a real reliance on others. You need advocacy groups you need opposed to workers Union or Members of the Democratic Party. But there are a lot of cases where those voices aren't going to be forthcoming and that you need Teo look at institutions for what they provide beyond. Profit and efficiency. It's a public service and the American people, for the most part recognized as that. It's Congress that hasn't and if it does do that, then I think things will get a lot better. Alex. Thank you.