Months ago, several political commentators (including this one) floated the possibility that behind Donald Trump and the complicit republican party's call to de-fund the United States Postal Service (USPS) is an insidious voter suppression strategy.
We no longer need to speculate.
Trump said the quiet part aloud Thursday when he admitted to Fox Business's Maria Bartiromo he is blocking Postal Service funding in a new coronavirus relief bill to hamper Democrats' mail-in voting efforts.
But the assault on the USPS isn't just bluster.
Former Postmaster General Ronald Stroman, who ceded his position to Trump mega-donor Louis DeJoy earlier this year, warned recent "major operational changes" in the postal service, like mail sorting machines being removed, overtime being curtailed, and carriers being ordered to leave behind undelivered first-class mail, could disenfranchise voters.
Stroman, now a senior fellow at the Democracy Fund, explained:
"The concern is not only that you're doing this in a pandemic, but a couple of months before an election with enormous consequences. If you can't right the ship, if you can't correct these fast enough, the consequence is not just, 'OK, people don't get their mail'; it's that you disenfranchise people. Making these changes this close to an election is a high-risk proposition."
Although this is a way Trump can exploit his office to rig the election in his favor, he is merely capitalizing on decades-old GOP legislation designed to knee-cap the industry for which Benjamin Franklin served as the first Postmaster General.
In 2006, the Republican-led Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA), which required the postal service to calculate all its anticipated pension costs for 75 years and set aside five billion dollars per year to cover future employees.
That's five billion dollars each year for employees who haven't even been born yet.
Writing for The Week, Jeff Spross explained:
"Consider your average 30-year mortgage. What if you had to set aside a few hundred thousand dollars right now, enough to pay the whole thing, even if you were still going to make payments over 30 years? No one would ever take out a mortgage. That's the whole point: the costs only come in over time, and the income you use to pay them comes in over time as well. It works exactly the same for retiree pensions and benefit funds. Which is why, as economist Dean Baker pointed out to Congress, pretty much no one else does what the PAEA demanded of the Postal Service."
Fast forward to today, when the USPS is faced with not only this handicap but also the unprecedented economic strains the virus is imposing.
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