Tag Archives: Post Office

Kicking Them When They’re Down

A few days ago, I referenced President Obama’s efforts to console family members of the worshippers gunned down during bible study in Charleston, and said I found it impossible to imagine Trump trying to comfort anyone.

Not only does he not console– or even empathize with–people who are suffering, Trump’s instinct is to kick them when they’re down. Just as he insisted that John McCain wasn’t a hero “because he got caught,” he considers Americans who are disadvantaged “losers” –his favorite epithet. And “losers” have absolutely no claim on his sympathies (assuming, in the absence of any evidence, that he has the capacity for sympathy) or on government largesse. To the contrary.

Time Magazine recently reported on the difficulties disabled poor people are experiencing buying groceries during the pandemic. As the story noted, it can be difficult getting to the store in normal times, but in some states–where “stay at home” orders keep the elderly and “medically fragile” residents from venturing out, it has become a huge problem– because unlike other Americans, recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) aren’t permitted to use those benefits for grocery delivery in most states, including Indiana.

Speaking of food stamps, Vox and a number of other media outlets recently reported on the administration’s effort–in the middle of a pandemic that has triggered massive unemployment–to cut over 3 million people from the rolls.

The Trump administration is proposing bumping 3.1 million people off of food stamps (about 8 percent of the total program) through the federal rule-making process — cutting out Congress.

The rule cracks down on “broad-based categorical eligibility,” or BBCE, a policy that enables states to enroll people in food stamps (formally called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP) if they’ve already applied for other benefits limited to low-income people, most notably Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The claim (which doesn’t have much basis in evidence) is that this provision is easy to game and keeps benefits from going to the neediest people.

In fact, Trump and his administration seem to be mounting a positive vendetta against Americans who have the nerve to be disabled and/or needy. Another recent proposal from the Social Security Administration would cut $2.6 billion dollars over the next decade from the two programs that anchor the disability safety net: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Recipients of these safety net programs aren’t exactly living high on the hog: the maximum amount that SSI will provide to a disabled beneficiary is just 74 percent of the federal poverty level — currently $12,490 for an individual– and the average for SSDI was just $14,855 per year.

Speaking of vendettas, Trump is clearly intent upon destroying the nearly 250-year-old Postal Service, evidently because he is convinced that the post office delivers Amazon purchases at a loss. (That–like so much of what Trump believes–is demonstrably untrue.) And he hates Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post.

Trump blocked a bipartisan plan to provide $13 billion to the post office, which was already struggling due to a 2006 Congressional requirement that it pre-fund employee retirement obligations to the tune of several billion dollars a year. Trump has now appointed a crony with no postal experience to be the new postmaster general, and is demanding a hefty raise in postal rates.

The Post Office employs 600,000 workers. It supports a $1.6 trillion mailing industry that employs close to another 7 million. (It also employs black workers at double the rate of the overall workforce.) Only someone as clueless–or heartless– as Donald Trump would try to throw another seven and a half million Americans out of work at a time when unemployment is at an all-time high.

The post office is also critical to American healthcare: in 2019 alone, it delivered 1.2 billion prescriptions, including almost 100 percent of those ordered by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Those who are inclined to minimize the importance of the postal service might take a look at its performance during the current pandemic. Letter carriers are delivering much-needed items and at much lower cost than services like FedEx or UPS–everything from masks to stimulus checks. As states have migrated to vote-by-mail primaries, they’ve delivered the ballots. In fact, it isn’t much of a stretch to attribute the attack on the post office to Republican efforts to defeat vote-by-mail.

SNAP recipients, disabled people, poor folks, postal workers–to Trump, they’re all “losers” who can be kicked to the curb.

I think it was Maya Angelou who said “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.”