Thursday, April 23, 2020

Last Call For Going Postal, Con't

The White House is making its move to "save" the US Postal Service by amputating its limbs for a infected, festering wound that Republicans inflicted on it a decade ago

The Treasury Department is considering taking unprecedented control over key operations of the U.S. Postal Service by imposing tough terms on an emergency coronavirus loan from Congress, which would fulfill President Trump’s longtime goal of changing how the service does business, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Officials working under Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who must approve the $10 billion loan, have told senior officials at the USPS in recent weeks that he could use the loan as leverage to give the administration influence over how much the agency charges for delivering packages and how it manages its finances, according to the two people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks are preliminary.

Trump has railed for years against what he sees as mismanagement at the Postal Service, which he argues has been exploited by e-commerce sites such as Amazon, and has sought to change how much the agency charges for the delivery of packages. (Amazon’s founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Under the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus relief passed last month, the Treasury was authorized to loan $10 billion to the USPS, which says it may not be able to make payroll and continue mail service uninterrupted past September. Mnuchin rejected a bipartisan Senate proposal to give the Postal Service a bailout amid the negotiations over that legislation, a senior Trump administration official and a congressional official previously told The Post.

The borrowing terms have only been discussed among both agencies’ leadership and have not been made public because the Postal Service hasn’t officially requested the loan, the two people familiar with the matter said. Mnuchin could still decide not to pursue tough terms as the September deadline nears. The Postal Service would not have to use the entire $10 billion loan at one time, but could borrow up to that amount at any given time.

In discussions with senior USPS personnel, Treasury officials have said they are interested in raising rates on the Postal Service’s lucrative package business, its sole area of profitability in recent years. Treasury also could review all large postal contracts with package companies to push for greater margins on deliveries.

Treasury officials have said they may press the agency to demand tougher concessions from its powerful postal unions — among the public-sector unions that still retain significant leverage in negotiations with the government.

The officials have also said Mnuchin wants the authority to review hiring decisions at the agency’s senior levels, including the selection of the next postmaster general, a decision that until now has been left to the Postal Service’s five-member board of governors.

USPS spokesman David Partenheimer confirmed in an email that the agency and Treasury have begun “preliminary discussions” over the loan, but that the Treasury had not yet asked “to impose any of those conditions on that borrowing authority.” He declined to say whether these or any other terms were under discussion.

In 2006, Republicans rammed through the Postal Accountability and Enhacement Act, which mandated that unlike any other US corporation, the US Post Office was required to pre-fund all employee retiree benefits for 50 years.

The law requires the Postal Service, which receives no taxpayer subsidies, to prefund its retirees’ health benefits up to the year 2056. This is a $5 billion per year cost; it is a requirement that no other entity, private or public, has to make. If that doesn’t meet the definition of insanity, I don’t know what does. Without this obligation, the Post Office actually turns a profit. Some have called this a “manufactured crisis.” It’s also significant that lots of companies benefit from a burden that makes the USPS less competitive; these same companies might also would benefit from full USPS privatization, a goal that has been pushed by several conservative think tanks for years.

Trump's plan is Hostage-Taking 101: either the House and Senate pass legislation to put the USPS under the control of the Treasury Department, or Trump stands by and watches the postal system fail. The collapse of the postal service would hurt Trump's voters the most, but so did Chinese and EU tariffs and they still love him for it.

We'll see very quickly if Trump is this deranged, and betting against "Trump being willing to go this far" never ends well.

Orange, Green, And Seeing Red

The Trump regime is making sure the execution of the CARES Act is massive grift and embezzlement scheme for GOP donors, because that was the only point in Republicans agreeing to the bill.  It never mattered if Trump signed it or not, it passed with an overwhelming veto-proof margin, but he was always going to make sure he and his got paid from it.

In late March, real estate investment firm Ashford Inc. was on the verge of financial ruin. But it had an ace in the hole: a pair of D.C. lobbying firms stacked with Trump fundraisers and White House alumni. 
A few weeks later, Ashford is now the top recipient nationwide of coronavirus relief aid from the $350 billion Paycheck Protection Act
The Dallas-based Ashford does extensive business in the hotel industry through a pair of real estate investment trusts. Its chairman, Monty Bennett, penned an open letter on March 22 detailing just how devastating the virus had been for his company.

“My industry and our businesses are completely crushed,” he wrote “This pandemic’s economic impact on the hotel industry is worse than all of the previous calamities combined.” 
Bennett himself is a huge Trump donor. He’s given over $200,000 to the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee, and a joint fundraising committee supporting both of them since last year, according to Federal Election Commission records. He chipped in even more in support of Trump’s 2016 campaign. 
Twelve days before Bennett wrote that open letter, Ashford had beefed up its political muscle even more. It hired its first-ever Washington lobbying firm, Miller Strategies. That firm is run by Jeff Miller, who was a finance vice-chair of President Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee. He has raised more than $2.8 million for the RNC and a Trump joint fundraising committee so far this cycle, including $2.5 million in the first quarter of 2020 alone, according to FEC filings. Miller’s firm also employs Jonathan Hiller, the former director of legislative affairs for Vice President Mike Pence, and Ashley Gunn, Trump’s former director of cabinet affairs. 
Miller’s lobbying registration form said it would be working on “issues as they relate to the hotel industry” on Ashford’s behalf. He didn’t respond to inquiries about whether he helped the company secure PPP aid. 
Miller’s work on Ashford’s behalf shows how some large companies have attempted to leverage political connections into a greater share of the massive amounts of federal money being doled out to mitigate the economic damage caused by the coronavirus. It also shows how some large chains have attempted to maximize their assistance from the PPP program by treating each of their franchises as a separate business, enabling awards to multiple firms owned by the same parent company. 
On the same day that Ashford hired Miller, it inked a separate lobbying deal with another Trump-connected firm. Bailey Strategic Advisors is run by Roy Bailey, a Trump fundraiser who served as finance chair of pro-Trump super PAC America First Action and on the board of an affiliated dark money group, America Fist Policies.

Bailey’s firm was more specific about what it would be doing on Ashford’s behalf, saying in lobbying registration forms that it would work on “issues related to COVID-19 relief for the hotel industry.” 
News of the $53 million in PPP funds that Ashford eventually received—more than any other company—has fueled criticism this week of the large amounts of money from the program steered to large firms, ostensibly at the expense of smaller ones. The PPP program is set to get another $300 billion injection after its initial funds were depleted in a matter of days. 
“As small businesses are struggling across the country, it’s still mega-donors first for Donald Trump and his administration,” said Jeb Fain, a spokesman for the Democratic super PAC American Bridge, in a statement on Ashford’s work in securing PPP funds. “Hardworking Americans deserve better than a president more focused on special favors than managing a major crisis.”

To recap, Ashford got over $ 50 million in PPP  "small business" taxpayer funds.. More than any business in the country.

No doubt a healthy chunk of that will be donated back to Trump's campaign and the RNC.

This is happening all over the country.  It's a massive scheme.

They're stealing from the bank in broad daylight because nobody gives a damn.

Expelling The Experts

I've wondered openly why Donald Trump hasn't fired Dr. Anthony Fauci or Dr. Deborah Birx, the two medical experts often seen at Trump's press conferences, and it's because Birx is willing to placate Trump, and Fauci is a 30-year veteran and firing him would be too much of a stretch for even Mitch McConnell to support.

However, given Trump's nearly infinite capacity for petty vengeance, it doesn't mean other, less visible medical experts haven't been let go.

The doctor who led the federal agency involved in developing a coronavirus vaccine said on Wednesday that he was removed from his post after he pressed for a rigorous vetting of a coronavirus treatment embraced by President Trump. The doctor said that science, not “politics and cronyism,” must lead the way.

Dr. Rick Bright was abruptly dismissed this week as the director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, and as the deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response.

Instead, he was given a narrower job at the National Institutes of Health. “I believe this transfer was in response to my insistence that the government invest the billions of dollars allocated by Congress to address the Covid-19 pandemic into safe and scientifically vetted solutions, and not in drugs, vaccines and other technologies that lack scientific merit,” he said in a statement to The New York Times’s Maggie Haberman.

“I am speaking out because to combat this deadly virus, science — not politics or cronyism — has to lead the way,” he said.
The White House declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Alex Azar, the health and human services secretary, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. The medical publication Stat reported on Tuesday that Dr. Bright had clashed with Bob Kadlec, the assistant health secretary for preparedness and response.

Dr. Bright, who noted that his entire career had been spent in vaccine development both in and outside of government, has led BARDA since 2016.

In the statement, he said: “My professional background has prepared me for a moment like this — to confront and defeat a deadly virus that threatens Americans and people around the globe. To this point, I have led the government’s efforts to invest in the best science available to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Unfortunately, this resulted in clashes with H.H.S. political leadership, including criticism for my proactive efforts to invest early into vaccines and supplies critical to saving American lives,” he said. “I also resisted efforts to fund potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections.”

Dr. Bright, who is a career official, pointed specifically to the initial efforts to make chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine widely available before it was scientifically tested for efficacy with the coronavirus.

“Specifically, and contrary to misguided directives, I limited the broad use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, promoted by the administration as a panacea, but which clearly lack scientific merit,” he said.

Since the corrupt Trump regime purchased 29 million doses of the drugs, boosting the coffers of the pharmaceutical companies that undoubtedly several regime members have stock in, Dr. Bright had to go, as Trump needed somebody's head to serve as a warning.

As Rebecca Sugar once commented about her Cartoon Network show Steven Universe, when the network agreed to do special PSA programming about standing up to bullying using the show's characters a few years ago, "the difference between interpersonal conflict and being a bully is that a bully only wants to hurt people."

It's an important lesson, and it explains the man in the Oval Office very well.  When somebody disagrees with Trump, he doesn't want conflict resolution, he doesn't want to improve on his viewpoints or learn anything new, he only wants to cause them pain.


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