The War on the Postal Service

What is the Republican Party at peace with?

There is the War on Women.

There is the War on Voting.

There is the War on Entitlements.

There is the War on Science.

There is the War on Public Schools.

I’m probably forgetting something….

But who knew there was the War on the Post Office?  Quite a stealth war, with the main offensive push taking place back in 2006 when the Republican congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act which was then signed by President Bush.

Section 803 of Title VIII of the act

Establishes in the Treasury the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund, to be administered by OPM. Requires the Postal Service, beginning in 2007, to compute the net present value of the future payments required and attributable to the service of Postal Service employees during the most recently ended fiscal year, along with a schedule if annual installments which provides for the liquidation of any liability or surplus by 2056. Directs the Postal Service, for each year, to pay into the above Fund such net present value and the annual installment due under the amortization schedule.

The act includes this:

‘‘(3)(A) The United States Postal Service shall pay into such Fund—
‘‘(i) $5,400,000,000, not later than September 30, 2007;
‘‘(ii) $5,600,000,000, not later than September 30, 2008;
‘‘(iii) $5,400,000,000, not later than September 30, 2009;
‘‘(iv) $5,500,000,000, not later than September 30, 2010;
‘‘(v) $5,500,000,000, not later than September 30, 2011;
‘‘(vi) $5,600,000,000, not later than September 30, 2012;
‘‘(vii) $5,600,000,000, not later than September 30, 2013;
‘‘(viii) $5,700,000,000, not later than September 30, 2014;
‘‘(ix) $5,700,000,000, not later than September 30, 2015;
and
‘‘(x) $5,800,000,000, not later than September 30, 2016

That’s $55.8 billion dollars over ten years.

And you thought the Postal Service was in financial straits because it was not run efficiently.

Why would the Republican Party be at War with the Postal Service?  I have no idea. But my guess would be that UPS and FedEx would prefer to not have to compete with the Postal Service. In defense of UPS and FedEx, I suspect the Postal Service does enjoy the advantage of the legacy of taxpayer support in that many of the buildings were constructed with taxpayer funding.

But note that neither UPS or FedEx or anyone else wants to do what the Postal Service does: deliver mail to 150 million addresses throughout the country.

Or it could be the Republican Party has it in for the Postal Service because

The Postal Service has been named the Most Trusted Government Agency six consecutive years and the sixth Most Trusted Business in the nation by the Ponemon Institute.

We must not have the populace trusting a government agency.

Here is the posting I first read of this (I was referred to it on Facebook).

Here is another I found when I Googled.  It is from six months ago, but it references H.R. 1351: United States Postal Service Pension Obligation Recalculation and Restoration Act of 2011, which still sits in committee for almost a year now.

It Does But It Does Not

In the continuing saga of the GOP House efforts to undo the Affordable Care Act, the House is currently working on a repeal of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB).

Speaker of the House John Boehner’s office:

The House will act this week to repeal another part of ObamaCare: IPAB, which empowers a board of unelected bureaucrats to deny care and raise costs.

If the IPAB will raise costs then repealing it will save money, right?

Well…

Tea Party activists are upset about something else entirely. GOP leadership has opted to fund the $3.1 billion cost of repealing IPAB with legislation written by Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) that would reform medical malpractice laws.

So repealing the IPAB will cost 3.1 billion.

The bill has to have a “pay for” element to offset the costs of repealing IPAB. Boehner’s office simply makes reference to the IPAB raising costs.  Which to believe….

Keystone Pipeline

As part of the two-month extension of the payroll tax cut, GOP officials demanded an expedited decision on the project.

And Obama did the only thing he could do given that limitation.  He stopped the project.

Steve Benen at The Washington Monthly, at the end of his post on the subject, includes this claim that Obama’s decision was an act of courage:

Bill McKibben, 350.org founder and Keystone XL protest leader,issued a statement this afternoon, lauding President Obama. “[T]his isn’t just the right call, it’s the brave call,” McKibben said. “The knock on Barack Obama from many quarters has been that he’s too conciliatory. But here, in the face of a naked political threat from Big Oil to exact ‘huge political consequences,’ he’s stood up strong.”

Ann Althouse thinks the decision was pure politics:

 It wasn’t so much a question of whether he should make the right decision or do what would help him get re-elected. It was which way to decide would better help him get re-elected.

Althouse is probably closer to the truth.

I may be mistaken, but I detect a hint of snark in Althouse’s comment.  Since Obama has stopped trying to compromise with the Republicans and started being more confrontational, I have come across many complaints from the right about how Obama is now in “campaign” mode.

Of course they complain of it. Obama is very good at campaigning, too good from the GOP perspective. If they did not want him in campaign mode, they should have been more cooperative when he was in “governing” mode.

Also from Benen’s post:

I’d argue that this is the outcome Republicans wanted all along. The GOP didn’t really want the pipeline; they wanted the ability to whine about the absence of the pipeline. This wasn’t, in other words, about energy production; this was about creating an issue for the 2012 campaign.

I agree with that. But I think this backfires on the GOP (though in the end it won’t mean much either way). Obama now gets credit from the liberals for stopping the project and can persuasively argue to moderates that the GOP tied his hands.

 

Only a Matter of Time?

President Obama has received no end of grief over his rush to compromise right out of the gate.   I have felt all along that this was due to his insistence when campaigning that he would change the tone of the debate in Washington.

For some time now it has been more than clear that it takes two to change the tone and that the Republicans were not participating.

So now Obama is finally putting bills with progressive ideas in them on the table and insisting that they be passed, as well as bringing out the veto threat in what seems a more serious way than previous.

So how long will it take before a Republican accuses Obama of breaking his campaign promises to change the tone in Washington?

Need a Crisis? Create One!

Eight months ago many Republicans ran for office on a platform of jobs, jobs, jobs.  Of course, the principle tool the government has for creating jobs is stimulus spending.  Republicans do not do stimulus spending so once they were elected they had to come up with an alternative to the jobs crisis.

Just a few months ago, there was no debt crisis and there was no debt ceiling crisis.  No one was talking about refusing to raise the debt ceiling.  No one was talking about lowering the countries credit rating.

But the Republicans had run through all the symbolic votes they could think of (none of which had anything to do with jobs) and were suddenly faced with the prospect that the country might start asking about jobs.

So they decided that the debt was a crisis.  It wasn’t.  By historical standards, the debt is still well below its historical high.  The country still has (for a bit longer) top grades from the rating agencies.   United States bonds are still considered the safest investment on the planet and buyers were still lining up to buy them at very low interest rates.

But the Republicans decided the debt was a crisis, and they found a way to make their beliefs reality:  refuse to raise the debt ceiling!

Three days ago, Reuters reported that

Ratings agency Moody’s on Monday suggested the United States should eliminate its statutory limit on government debt to reduce uncertainty among bond holders.

The United States is one of the few countries where Congress sets a ceiling on government debt, which creates “periodic uncertainty” over the government’s ability to meet its obligations, Moody’s said in a report.

“We would reduce our assessment of event risk if the government changed its framework for managing government debt to lessen or eliminate that uncertainty,” Moody’s analyst Steven Hess wrote in the report.

And today:

Standard & Poor’s reiterated on Thursday it sees a real risk that future U.S. government deficits may meaningfully miss discussed targets and that there is a 50-50 chance the U.S. AAA credit rating could be cut within three months, perhaps as soon as August.

The deficit reduction debate is coming up against an August 2 deadline when the $14.3 trillion limit on America’s borrowing capacity is exhausted, putting in jeopardy payments on U.S. Treasury debt as well as paychecks for federal employees and soldiers.

If an agreement is reached to raise the debt ceiling but nothing meaningful is done in terms of deficit reduction, the U.S. would likely have its rating cut to the AA category, S&P said.

So, there was no debt crisis until the Republicans needed to distract the electorate from their non-interest in jobs.  Today there is a real debt crisis. The only thing that has changed is that now no one can be certain that the US will not someday, if not next week, refuse to meet its obligations.

At this point, if the Republicans are sincere in their concern for federal spending and debt, then they have no choice but to eliminate the statutory limit on government debt.  Otherwise,   the interest the US pays on its debt is going to go up.  It will be expensive.

 

 

Hat tips to TPM and to The New Republic.

Consistency Is Not Necessarily a Virtue

Steve Benen makes an interesting comment at the end of a blog post:

the GOP has decided that every recent electoral setback should be seen as excuse to move even further to the right. When Republicans win, they become more radical, assuming they’re being rewarded for their right-wing ideology. When they lose, they become still become more radical, assuming they’re being punished for not being right-wing enough.

I think that he is correct.  It fits right in with a Republican policy goal:  tax cuts.  Whatever the current economic situation is, the Republican policy response is to cut taxes.

This kind of “thinking” does spare oneself the effort of actual thinking, so it does have that going for it.

Ahh, the sweet simplicity of ideology.

 

Dear President Obama

Well, it’s been a week since I last posted on this subject (or any subject!).   So we must be one week closer to the day the federal government runs out of money.  Are we closer to an answer?

So, where does that leave us? The House won’t pass a clean bill; it won’t pass a Grand Bargain; it won’t pass the Gang of Six proposal; and at least 80 House Republicans are prepared to try to kill the Plan B compromise.

It would seem we are not.  President Obama has not (yet) taken my advice from a week ago (could it be he does not read my blog?!?!).  I stand by it with one addition.

Dear President Obama,

You should announce tomorrow that it is clear that the deadline will not be met and that it is your intention to see to it that all the debt obligations of the United States will be met, interest and principle.  Principle will be met by paying off what is immediately due and then borrowing that much again to do the same tomorrow (thereby never exceeding the debt limit but also meaning that the process is going to start sooner than August 2).   You then should make it crysal clear what will not be paid.  You should do this in a speech, in a press conference, in a press release, and you should send administration officials to the Sunday (and any other) talk shows to explain what will not be paid.

Obviously, you will have to explain again (and again) that this situation exists because the Republican House decided it was what they wanted and that they refuse to negotiate insisting that they get 100% of what they want.

This will cause a lot of consternation, some short term hardship, and some short and long term economic costs.  It is absurd that the situation exists at all .  There is, however, a dim silver lining comprised of the fun of seeing House Republicans tripping over themselves as they rush to raise the debt ceiling after the start to hear from their constituents.

 

My Advice to the President

President Obama,

You need to be clear about what you will do when the debt ceiling is not raised.  You need to state unequivocally that the United States will not default on it’s debt, that the interest payments will be made.

It must be clear that federal expenditures will immediately be cut 40%.  You need to be clear what 40% that will be.  There ARE Americans who are going to not get their checks and you need to let us know who that will be now.

You must be clear that even though the interest payments will be made, the interest rate America pays on its debt will go up and that this WILL mean that the debt of the United States will now be even greater than what everyone has been projecting up until now.  This is because the amount of principle payments that are due in August exceed the amount of revenue that will be available to pay them.  The only way those principle payments get paid on time is to borrow the money from someone else, but the borrowing limit has been met.  When principle payments are late, the interest paid is going to go up.

You should explain that you have given up negotiating since the Republicans have brought nothing to the table and you now insist that the debt limit bill be a clean bill.  You should ask Americans who are  upset with the consequences that you have laid out to contact their congressman and insist on a clean bill to raise the debt limit.

After making these consequences clear to the American people, you need to go in to the debt limit negotiations and explain that you are done negotiating.  The Republicans have demonstrated beyond all reason that they have no idea what it means to negotiate and compromise and since no deal can be reached, the bill must come through clean.

Thank-you for your attention to this matter.

Rich Beckman

A constituent.

Who’s to Be Blamed?

The most important factor influencing who wins the presidency in 2012 is the economy.  If the economy is showing improvement, then Obama wins.  If the economy has double dipped into another recession, things look bad for Obama.  And if the economy is similar to today’s, limping along in a slow recovery, then it will be a close race.

There is another factor that in certain scenarios is more important than the economy.  That factor is where the voters lay the blame if the economy is poor.

I have read a lot about Obama’s (and the Democrats) poor messaging and positioning.   But we have arrived at a point where Obama has managed to be on the correct side of the messaging and positioning.

The Republicans are holding the economy hostage.  They refuse to raise the debt ceiling unless it is accompanied with huge amounts of spending cuts and no increases in revenue.  The problem for the Republicans is that they are using the language of a hostage taker.  Obama initially asked for a clean bill, but quickly “caved” and entered negotiations.  Since then, it is the Republicans who have repeatedly insisted that it is their way or the economy gets it.

If Obama had stuck to his guns for a clean bill, he would have been just as much a hostage taker as the Republicans.  He did not and the Republicans are now looking at the possibility of taking the blame for a bad economy.

Those Damn Socialists!

I am currently having to spend a few minutes each day driving my van which lacks an FM radio.  The pickings on AM radio are rather slim, so I sometimes end up listening to conservative talk radio (or “conversation radio” as the host called it today).  I have no idea whose program I was listening to today (but not Rush or Beck…does Beck still have a show?).

Anyways, the guy was going on at great length about how the Obama socialists were setting things up in the Affordable Care Act.  He was keying in on the business mandate.  Any business that has more than 50 employees is going to have to include health insurance in the employee  benefit package.  If the business fails to do this, the fine will be $2,000 per employee.

The host makes the point that any business (including ones that already offer health insurance)  would look at the choice and choose to pay the fine.  After all, it is much cheaper!  This will force all the employees into the Socialist Health Care that Obama set up…and then “they” (the Socialists) will have “them” and come election time the Democrats will say of the Republicans “They want to take away your health care!”

Where to begin.  Well, in the first place, if a business is today offering health care to its employees, why would it suddenly stop when there is a fine added to the costs of stopping?  Why not just stop now?   There is no fine today!  Hmmmm, could it be that there are reasons beyond government mandates why businesses supply health insurance?

But some businesses will not offer insurance.  Most of these are probably not offering insurance today.  So none of the employees will be forced into the Socialist Health Care that is ObamaCare.  No, they will be buying insurance from a private company just as they are doing today!  Only they will get a subsidy if they do not make enough money.

And if the individuals do not buy a policy?  They will be fined:

Impose an annual penalty of $95, or up to 1% of income, whichever is greater, on individuals who do not secure insurance; this will rise to $695, or 2.5% of income, by 2016. This is an individual limit; families have a limit of $2,085.[44][45] Exemptions to the fine in cases of financial hardship or religious beliefs are permitted

and they will not have insurance.  They will have to rely on charity and emergency rooms just like today!  (at least, I think that’s what happens.)

But wait!  What about the Socialist Health Care that is ObamaCare?  People have to buy private insurance with a subsidy if they qualify.  Jeepers, how much more socialistic can you get?

Finally, there is the host’s point about how the Democrats will use the Health Care to retain/gain power.  How DARE they try and use the policies they favor to curry favor with the voters!   This would be like a Republican saying he or she will cut your taxes to retain/gain power!

Remember, “the Republicans want to take away your Health Care!”

This is an admission that people will like the Affordable Care Act once it is fully implemented in the same way Tea Partiers protested with signs that read “Keep your government hands off my Medicare!”  Damn those Socialists creating Medicare!    Oh wait!  The Tea Partiers are voting for Republicans!

Well, it was on the radio.  It must be true.