Jack Shafer, Tiger Beat on the Potomac’s resident contrarian, is pushing the USPS eff’ery into the “You’ve All Been Played For Suckers” territory:
Donald Trump is at it again. Ever since he took office, the president has been feuding with the U.S. Postal Service and claiming the mail-in votes almost cost him the 2016 election. Inducing high anxiety around the November election, he has opposed supplementary funds for the financially troubled institution just as a record number of mail-in ballots are about to drop. Critics, such as Democratic standard-bearer Joe Biden, have accused Trump of attempting to sabotage the mail—and therefore the election—and Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called the House back to session to investigate the USPS issues and grill the postmaster general, a Trump donor and loyalist who took office in June.
Trump added accelerant to the issue last week by asserting in a Fox Business News interview that he was deliberately starving the money-losing U.S. Postal Service of essential federal funds to impede universal mail-in voting in November. As soon as Trump said his piece, evidence surfaced that made it appear as though a plot to skew the election in the president’s favor was afoot. Mail collection boxes were vanishing in Montana and Oregon! Mail processing machines were being yanked from USPS facilities in Kansas and Missouri! New Postmaster General Louis DeJoy was exacerbating the delivery delays caused by Covid-19 by cutting overtime and deprioritizing the prompt delivery of late-arriving mail! He also had purged USPS’s top command and replaced it with two dozen of his own people. That DeJoy is a major donor to the Trump campaign made all his cost-cutting efforts look like an in-kind contribution to the president’s reelection campaign.
We know all that. Get to the point, Jack.
So is Trump really doing something unprecedented, and putting his finger on the election via the mail? His exceptional talents for telling lies and bluffing require us to doubt—or at least analyze—every claim and threat he makes for evidence that he’s putting us on. And in this case,the underlying postal facts suggest that he is doing more to mess with his opponents’ heads than he is to undermine vote-by-mail.
That caught my attention. Liar lies about something to misdirect us? I think we’ve heard that before. Do continue.
Reason’s Nick Gillespie did the math:The USPS’s capacity to deliver mail is immense, at an average of 472 million mailpieces a day. If every voter of the 138 million who voted in 2016 posted his ballot on the same day this year, that would compose only 30 percent of a normal day’s delivery. And that surge won’t happen; every voter casting a ballot outside his local polling precinct isn’t going to use USPS and not every voter who does is going to mail his ballot on the same day…
…What about those vanishing USPS mail collection boxes? As it turns out, the USPS has been culling the boxes since 2000, when their numbers peaked and 365,000 of them stood sentinel on U.S. streets. Today, their numbers have dwindled to 142,000. Why has the USPS deleted them? Because the volume of first-class has nose-dived. In 2010, the USPS delivered 77.6 billion pieces of first-class mail, but by 2019 that number was 54.9 billion. Reduced volume makes it cost-inefficient to collect from so many scantly used boxes, so USPS has done the logical thing and removed them. (That’s why the USPS removed those mail-processing machines, too.)
Gee, what happened around 2000? You’ve Got Mail. Yeah it’s easy to see that the email phenomena might have played some part in this game. While I can see the cost efficacy in removing little used collection boxes, I do not see what point removing the sorting machines could possibly have. They take up too much room has been floated elsewhere, but I wonder what DeJoy would do with the space? It makes no sense to me, unless they move the machines to population centers where presumably there will be more mail, it is still destruction of an asset.
I’m not saying that we’re wrong to be worried (we’re definitely right that the USPS is under assault), but maybe Shafer can also be right that this is another head game from our Stable Jenius.
UPDATE 1: TBotP morning email thingie gives us the state of play:
POSTAL PLANS — House Democratic leaders have officially scheduled a rare Saturday vote on legislation to boost the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service and protect mailing services ahead of the November election. Specifically, the bill is expected to include $25 billion in USPS funding and block organizational and operational changes that Dems worry will undermine mail delivery and jeopardize the election.
But House Democratic leadership has so far rejected suggestions from some Democrats to also vote on additional economic and coronavirus-related measures when they return this weekend. (Dems already passed a massive coronavirus package in May, which included $25 billion for USPS.) For now, it appears Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team plan to stay narrowly focused on the Postal Service.
The decision to vote on a standalone USPS bill comes not long after Democrats rejected the GOP’s push to vote on smaller chunks of a coronavirus package, calling it an insufficient and piecemeal approach. Republicans say Dems are now over blowing their postal service concerns in order to stoke fears and score political points. “Democrats have no shame. They are pushing conspiracy theories about the USPS to undermine faith in the election and distract from their own failures,” tweeted House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
But the political calculus is rapidly changing for Democrats, who view the issue as an urgent — and very real — crisis, especially since President Donald Trump keeps attacking mail-in voting and USPS has warned states that it may not be able to deliver ballots in time to be counted. The Postal Service even got several mentions on night one of the Democratic National Convention, with the issue quickly emerging as a new rallying cry on the left. All the latest from Heather, Sarah and Marianne: https://politi.co/3h5G37l.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, however, has shown no signs that he plans to cut the Senate recess short to address a standalone USPS bill. But Senate leadership informed GOP aides on a conference call yesterday that they plan to introduce a pared down coronavirus bill with $10 billion in USPS funding, scooped Marianne. Some GOP sources say it could even be paired with a short-term government funding bill, though Pelosi has said she wants to keep the two issues separate. The dispatch: https://politi.co/34bRIxM.
MEANWHILE … Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has agreed to testify at an “urgent” congressional hearing next Monday about the new controversial changes he has implemented at the Postal Service. The high-profile hearing, which will be hosted by the House Oversight and Reform Committee, is likely to be tense: some Democrats have called on DeJoy, a Trump appointee and GOP donor, to resign, while others have called for him to be arrested if he doesn’t show up to the hearing. More from Daniel Lippman: https://politi.co/3kTxDSR.
*See what I did there? How many mail-pun headliness can one blog sustain!