President Trump, cited endlessly by Steve Daines and Greg Gianforte as someone they can influence and work with, wants to kill the US Postal Service. And Daines and Gianforte, who represent a rural state perhaps more dependent on the Post Office than any other state, have been silent.
From Rolling Stone:
“We told them very clearly that the president was not going to sign the bill if [funding for the Postal Service] was in it,” an official from President Trump’s administration told the Washington Post when discussing the $2 trillion Coronavirus Relief Aid that passed weeks ago.
Trump made it clear that he would veto the bill if it included any emergency funding for the agency that is already on unsteady ground, a situation that has been worsened by the coronavirus pandemic. The Post’s source added, “I don’t know if we used the v-bomb, but the president was not going to sign it, and we told them that.”
The threat to the Post Office is real. From Washington Monthly:
The second story involves the Post Office itself. The United States Postal Service is set to run out of money by September. The previous round of emergency coronavirus aid did not take the long-beleaguered Postal Service into account. Conservative policymakers have been eyeing the USPS with hungry privatizing chops for a long time, and have been hamstringing it with ridiculous provisions like forcing the USPS to take into account 50 years of pension payments in advance in its budget, which no other corporation or public agency has to do.
Trump—and Republican—opposition to the Post Office is currently rooted in the fear that COVID-19 will lead to expansion of voting by mail, a system that they admit will hurt Republicans because more people will vote. Republicans love the current system, not because it protects against mythical fraud, but because it will weaken their strategies of voter disenfranchisement like limiting the number of polling stations in communities of color and areas with more low-income voters.
When more people vote, Republicans lose, making the long lines and onerous restrictions that deny people the franchise a feature, not a bug, of the current, broken system.
This effort to kill the Post Office, though, is only heightened now. Republicans, including Montana’s own Denny Rehberg and Conrad Burns, started the attack in 2006:
What Rehberg doesn’t tell his constituents is that he helped create the problem, back in 2006, when the Republican-controlled Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which placed the Post Office in the almost impossible position of having to fund future health care benefit payments to retirees for the next 75 years—in 10 years’ time.
As former Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter notes, the act has turned the USPS from an institution that would have been moderately profitable to one hemorrhaging losses.
And a loss of the Post Office would be devastating to rural Montanans, who depend on it for access to the ballot, their medicines, critical information about the world, and more. Anyone who tells you, as President Trump has, that private companies like FedEx or UPS could replace the Post Office surely hasn’t tried to send from Montana’s rural communities. Those private services are incredibly expensive and far less direct for older people and others with mobility issues.
All of that takes us to Gianforte and Daines, who have been as absent in this fight as they have in most of this post. Despite their touted influence over the President and their claims that they single-handedly added elements to the COVID-19 relief bill, neither has said a word about the threat to our postal service. Daines is promising to investigate China and refusing to demand the President act to save rural postal service. Gianforte is running sham townhalls and refusing to answer basic questions about his investments and how he’d lead the state.
The Trump Administration and Congress could have chosen to save the Post Office. They found enough money to make a Trump winery eligible for a bailout and had no problem offering hundreds of billions of dollars to corporations, many of whom just took their massive tax cuts and did stock buybacks. Hell, Daines even co-sponsored a bill in this session of the Congress that would have lifted from pressure from the Post Office. Why didn’t he get it included in the relief bill? Why isn’t he fighting for it now?
The resources to save the Post Office are there. Representative Gianforte and Steve Daines claim they have so much influence that we should credit them with every dollar from the relief bill that comes to Montana.
So why didn’t they and why aren’t they fighting for the Post Office? Because they love and fear Trump more than they care about us, and the rural voters they pretend to represent matter far less than blind obeisance to the President.
It’s finally time for Daines and Gianforte to stand with rural Montana, not against it. It’s time to tell the President he’s wrong—and to use that influence they claim to have—to protect an essential part of the rural way of life.