September 6, 2012

The Seven Deadly Sins of the GOP

Congressional Republicans seem intent on letting the U.S. Postal Service run out of cash, but even the pundits can’t figure out exactly why.

The GOP-controlled House left for summer recess last week after failing to vote on two postal-reform bills that have been languishing for months — a bipartisan Senate measure and a more conservative alternative developed by a Republican-controlled House committee. Republican leaders in the House refused to say why they have failed to bring either bill up for votes, but here are a few of the choicest theories:

  • Fear: House Speaker John Boehner is perhaps “afraid voters would blame his members for the closing of underused post offices,” wrote Gail Collins, an op-ed columnist for The New York Times. “There is nothing Congress cares more about than post offices, 38 of which the House has passed bills to rename over the past 18 months.”
  • Avoiding embarrassment: “Most likely, there’s not enough support in the House to pass any bill, so holding a vote would be an embarrassing setback for the GOP leadership,” speculates Rick Newman of U.S. News & World Report.
  • Let’s get closer to the cliff before we hit the brakes: Citing Republican sources, Bernie Becker of The Hill provided this amazing, and truly disgusting, reason: “Lawmakers don’t know exactly when the Postal Service might hit a doomsday date when they wouldn’t be able to deliver the mail.” Some Congressmen have criticized USPS for not stating exactly when it will go belly up, he wrote. They want to know whether a real crisis can be avoided in the next few months, which “could give the House even less incentive to bring the bill to the floor before their members face voters in November.”
  • Stoking incumbent disgust: GOP leaders may be planning to capitalize this fall on voters’ disillusionment with Washington gridlock, claiming that the only way to get things moving is to put them in charge of the White House and Senate along with the House. Doing anything meaningful to avert a USPS crisis would ruin the story line.
  • Privatize, or something: Newman writes of “Tea Party types who would prefer to privatize the agency, or who seemingly want to starve it of cash, so that … well, it’s not clear what purpose that would serve.” Note to the naive: FedEx and UPS have no interest in, or ability, to take over USPS’s duties.
  • The October Surprise: Perhaps GOP leaders are setting up Mitt Romney to be the hero who, a week before the election, announces a plan to save the Postal Service.
  • Fatigue: Going month after month without passing any meaningful legislation is hard work. Your Congressional representatives really, really needed their six-week summer break to rest. Oh, and to campaign for re-election.

Two things are clear: 1) People in my industry (magazine publishing), and in many others, are doing everything they can to become less dependent upon a U.S. Postal Service that is treated in such a cavalier manner by its dysfunctional 535-member board of directors. 2) Perhaps the only way to fix the Postal Service is to require that Congressmen receive their paychecks and all campaign contributions by mail.

And, as if that wasn’t enough: Here’s seven more reasons.