News, Trump Administration

U.S. Senate sets Postal Service hearing as Congress scrambles to respond to complaints (UPDATED)

Commentary, Trump Administration

Trump’s stunning hypocrisy on voting by mail

Not that it comes as any particular surprise, but the news surrounding President Donald Trump’s latest actions related to the issue of voting by mail in the fall election have to set some kind of new standard when it comes to hypocritical dishonesty.

In case you missed it, Trump admitted yesterday that he is withholding funding from the U.S. Postal Service to make it harder for people to vote by mail. This is from an AP report:

“President Donald Trump frankly acknowledged that he’s starving the U.S. Postal Service of money to make it harder to process an expected surge of mail-in ballots, which he worries could cost him reelection.

In an interview on Fox Business Network, Trump explicitly noted two funding provisions that Democrats are seeking in a relief package that has stalled on Capitol Hill. Without the additional money, he said, the Postal Service won’t have the resources to handle a flood of ballots from voters who are seeking to avoid polling places during the coronavirus pandemic.

‘If we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money,’ Trump told host Maria Bartiromo on Thursday. ‘That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting; they just can’t have it.’

Trump’s statements, including the false claim that Democrats are seeking universal mail-in voting, come as he is searching for a strategy to gain an advantage in his November matchup against Joe Biden. He’s pairing the tough Postal Service stance in congressional negotiations with an increasingly robust mail-in-voting legal fight in states that could decide the election.”

Meanwhile — we are not making this up — Trump himself has requested his own vote-by-mail ballot. This is from CNN:

“President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump requested mail-in ballots for Florida’s primary election on Tuesday, according to Palm Beach County records, despite the President’s frequent attacks on voting by mail.

The records from the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections website show the ballots were mailed Wednesday to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club, which he made his permanent residence last year.”

You really can’t make this stuff up.

But, of course, double standards and favored treatment for rich and powerful people have been hallmarks of the so many Trump administration policies that the president probably can’t even see it anymore when he takes such outrageous, cringe-inducing actions.

COVID-19, News, Trump Administration

Trump’s $400 a week jobless aid could be just $300. It depends on where you live.

Commentary, Trump Administration

The Right’s war on the Postal Service goes back several decades

For those who haven’t been paying especially close attention, it would be easy to get the mistaken impression that the recent assault on the U.S. Postal Service by President Trump and his Postmaster General — Greensboro plutocrat, Louis DeJoy — was something driven only by recent events and, in particular, Trump’s obvious desire to manipulate voting by mail in order to secure reelection.

As a report issued by the good folks at the national research and advocacy organization In the Public Interest documented a couple of weeks back, however, this is not the case. The American Right’s war on the Postal Service actually goes back 50 years and is linked closely to — surprise!! — efforts of the infamous right-wing billionaire, Charles Koch.

This is from the executive summary to “The Billionaire Behind Efforts to Kill the U.S. Postal Service”:

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the already-struggling U.S. Postal Service to the brink of financial collapse. But the most trusted and popular institution in America hasn’t been struggling by accident. Since the 1970s, a concerted effort to popularize the fringe idea of privatizing the Postal Service has been advanced for nearly five decades with the support of one man: the billionaire and libertarian ideologue, Charles Koch, chairman and chief executive officer of Koch Industries.

It’s a sobering and maddening read, but it’s worth a few minutes to get a fuller grasp of how greedy ideologues are aiming to destroy one of the most important public institutions in our country.

Click here to explore the report.

COVID-19, News, Trump Administration

Trump moves to extend unemployment benefits, suspend payroll taxes after talks break down

President Donald Trump on Saturday circumvented Congress and took action into his own hands, after weeks of unsuccessful negotiations over another coronavirus relief package on Capitol Hill.

He signed three presidential memoranda and an executive order, at his private golf club in Bedminster, N.J. Trump would provide $300 per week in federal unemployment assistance with another $100 a week kicked in by states, consider temporarily stopping residential evictions, pause federal student loan payments and defer payroll taxes.

Trump said the actions would “take care of pretty much this entire situation, as we know it.” But Democrats in Congress are likely to continue pushing for a broader legislative package similar to the $3 trillion relief bill the House passed in May.

The president’s actions on unemployment benefits in particular and the attempted transfer of funds from another federal agency are likely to be met with loud objections from Congress and state officials and potentially a legal challenge.

“Trump is trying to put a bandaid on the economic crisis with unconstitutional, illegal, logistically unworkable executive orders that contain bad policy,” Democratic Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia tweeted. “This isn’t a solution, it is a con.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in a statement Saturday night said Trump’s announcements would mean “little real help” for families.

“For instance, not only does the President’s announcement not actually extend the eviction moratorium, it provides no assistance to help pay the rent, which will only leave desperate families to watch their debt pile higher,” they said. “Instead of passing a bill, now President Trump is cutting families’ unemployment benefits and pushing states further into budget crises, forcing them to make devastating cuts to life-or-death services.”

The memo on unemployment benefits provides $44 billion from a Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster relief fund that would make up 75 percent of the extended benefits. States would have to contribute the other 25 percent.

That means unemployed Americans would receive an extra $400 per week on top of their normal state benefits, with the federal government providing $300 and the state $100. Unemployment benefits approved in an earlier coronavirus relief package, which amounted to $600 a week in addition to state unemployment aid, expired in July, leaving millions without cash assistance they are relying on to stay financially afloat during the pandemic.

Trump encouraged states to use the money they received directly from the $2 trillion relief bill he signed in March, but states have said they need those funds—and more—for other pandemic responses.

Groups representing state and local governments have also criticized the administration’s accounting of state spending, creating even more uncertainty about how much is available. A July 23 Treasury Department report said states had spent only 25 percent of the $139 billion they received in the earlier relief bill. The National Association of State Budget Officers responded that states had allocated nearly 75 percent.

The executive order on housing directs the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to “consider” whether more action to halt evictions is necessary. It also tasks the departments of Treasury and Housing and Urban Development with looking for additional funds to provide renters and homeowners with “temporary financial assistance.”

The student loan memo allows borrowers not to pay for the rest of the year and sets interest rates to 0 percent, a suspension Trump also had ordered earlier this year that was included in the CARES Act.

The last memo allows employers to defer until 2021 the payment of payroll taxes for employees making less than $104,000 per year. “This modest, targeted action will put money directly in the pockets of American workers and generate additional incentives for work and employment, right when the money is needed most,” Trump said in the memo.

At the signing ceremony, he said, “If I’m victorious, November 3 I plan to forgive these taxes and make permanent cuts to the payroll tax and to make them more permanent.”

Trump on Friday had blamed congressional Democrats for not reaching a legislative deal. Read more