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John Nichols: Pocan is right: Fire Postmaster General Louis DeJoy

John Nichols: Pocan is right: Fire Postmaster General Louis DeJoy

Election 2020 Postal Service (copy)

U.S. Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., on screen, questions Postmaster General Louis DeJoy during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing Monday on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

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When Postmaster General Louis DeJoy appeared last month before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan asked the head of the Postal Service to grade his performance on a scale of A to F.

The postmaster general responded, "I would give myself an A for bringing strategy and planning and effort to here."

Unfortunately, DeJoy's strategy has been to run the United States Postal Service into the ground. Indeed, as Pocan noted, since DeJoy stepped in, service in Wisconsin and other states has deteriorated dramatically.

That's one of the reasons why Pocan says DeJoy should be fired. The other is that DeJoy now proposes to accelerate the process to dismantling and destroying the USPS.

On March 23, DeJoy announced a 10-year “reorganization” plan for the Postal Service that would slow down delivery times for first-class mail, hike postage rates and reduce hours for post offices. The postmaster general and his cronies tried to portray the proposed changes as a streamlining project, but The Washington Post correctly characterized it as a strategic initiative “that diminishes delivery standards and raises prices.” The effect of those changes makes this — in the words of Chuck Zlatkin, the legislative and political director for the New York Metro Area Postal Union — “DeJoy’s 10-year plan for the de facto privatization of the post office.”

Even if DeJoy’s slashing and burning does not immediately lead to the dismantlement of the agency, it will do severe harm to the Postal Service, and to the communities that most rely on it.

“Cuts to service standards for first-class mail, limiting hours at local post offices and making it more difficult for people to access postal products would adversely impact USPS customers across the nation, including in rural and underserved communities,” explained Sen. Gary Peters, the Michigan Democrat who chairs the committee with oversight responsibilities for the Postal Service.

Save the Post Office, a coalition of labor and progressive groups, offered a blunter response: “Asking Louis DeJoy to make a 10-year plan for the post office is like asking the fox to build a better henhouse. After his record of destruction, incompetence and self-dealing over the last nine months, the only plans he’s qualified to make at this point are his own retirement plans.”

Unfortunately, DeJoy, an ally of Donald Trump whose efforts to dismantle the Postal Service during last year’s debate over voting by mail sparked national outrage, is not showing any inclination to retire on his own. Asked recently about how long he intends to remain at the head of the USPS, DeJoy told the House Oversight and Reform Committee, “A long time. Get used to me.” DeJoy’s hubris is rooted in the fact that he is not directly accountable to President Biden or Congress. He serves at the behest of the nine-member Postal Board of Governors, a bipartisan board that is still dominated by Trump appointees.

But that does not mean DeJoy can’t be fired.

Biden can and should use his authority to reorganize the Postal Board of Governors and to appoint members who are committed not just to saving the Postal Service but also to remaking it in ways that expand and strengthen it — by setting up a postal banking system and by freeing it to compete with private carriers. In addition to making appointments when positions come open, Biden has the power to remove Trump appointees “for cause.”

Members of Congress are now urging Biden to act decisively.

Last week, more than 50 members of the House wrote to the president with a message: “The entirely Trump-appointed Postal Service BOG has politicized the most beloved agency in the federal government and allowed its service standards to tank.”

To address “the Postal Service’s continued failure to meet its own standards of service, the repeated failure of the current Postmaster General (PMG) to effectively and appropriately engage Congress and other stakeholders, and the gross negligence of the current Board of Governors (BOG) in fulfilling its statutory responsibilities to run an effective Postal Service,” the members urged the president to consider “removing the six current Board members and replacing them with nominees of the caliber of your recent nominees for the three vacant board seats.”

A key signer of the letter, Oregon Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer, declared, “The USPS Board of Governors is complicit in Louis DeJoy’s gross mismanagement of the postal system, which has caused real harm to people across the country. In the fight to #SaveUSPS, we need a clean slate. Today, I’m calling on (Biden) to fire and replace the entire USPS Board.”

Biden has already taken several steps in the right direction. He has submitted the names of three nominees for the Board of Governors: Ron Stroman, a former deputy postmaster general who resigned during Trump’s presidency; Anton Hajjar, a former general counsel of the American Postal Workers Union; and Amber McReynolds, the head of the National Vote at Home Institute.

“The Senate must move to immediately confirm three new appointees to the board, and President Biden must nominate two additional members later this year, to begin to restore the Board of Governors’ leadership in setting the Postal Service’s future direction and hiring postmasters general,” said Porter McConnell of the Save the Post Office coalition.

If the Senate confirms Biden’s nominees, the board could in short order have a majority, perhaps even a supermajority, that is committed to firing DeJoy and saving the Postal Service.

Pocan is right when he argues — with fellow members of Congress — that "Mr. DeJoy has used his time as Postmaster General to sabotage the United States Postal Service and he must be removed immediately to protect this critical institution."

John Nichols is associate editor of The Capital Times. jnichols@madison.com and @NicholsUprising. 

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