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;
‘‘(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?


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, 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.