Here we go again- Congressman Jason Chaffetz, the supposedly kinder, gentler replacement for Darrell Issa on the House Oversight Committee, is conducting his semi-annual witch hunt for public sector tax delinquents.
Jason wants to fire federal employees who don’t pay their federal taxes. Sounds kind of reasonable, until you consider that the vast majority of tax delinquents in the US work for the private sector. Don’t hold your breath waiting for Jason to go after them. More importantly, IRS statistics show that federal employees have a far lower rate of delinquency than private sector workers. While GOP planted “news” stories often target US Postal Service workers as the worst of the lot because they owe the most money, it turns out that the delinquency rate for postal workers is exactly the same as the rate for another group of federal employees:
The House of Representatives!
Here’s what we had to say about Jason’s first witch hunt, four years ago:
Congressman Jason Chaffetz had this to say today in the Daily Caller:
If you’re collecting a federal paycheck, you should pay federal taxes. That’s the premise of a bill I introduced last week to require federal employees to pay their taxes or be fired.
Going after public workers has become fashionable among right wing politicians- they follow Muslims, Gays, Hispanics and African Americans as the latest scapegoats for whatever is ailing the country at the moment. But there is a certain logic to Chaffetz’s argument. He suggests working for the federal government is a privilege, and that in order to benefit, you should satisfy all your obligations to the feds. Fair enough- and Chaffetz goes so far as to say he would include federal contractors in the deal- don’t pay your taxes, your contracts get cancelled.
But I think Jason is missing something here- he says “No one who ducks a federal tax obligation should be eligible to benefit from federal funds.” But he only targets federal employees and contractors. How about all the other people who “benefit from federal funds”? Wouldn’t that include people receiving Social Security, Medicare, veteran’s benefits, crop subsidies, disaster relief, food stamps, small business loans, Wall Street bailouts, and all the rest? Come to think of it, exactly who in this country doesn’t “benefit from federal funds”?
So shouldn’t the law be rewritten to require that ANY employer terminate any employee who is seriously delinquent in their federal taxes? Or, at the very least, shouldn’t ALL of their federal benefits be terminated? Fair is fair, right?
Somehow I don’t think the Congressman will go that far- after all, a certain subset of the tea party types that he’s desperately trying to woo have a major problem with the very idea of the federal income tax. So I’d only suggest that the Congressman correct one other logical flaw in his bill. If you’re after people who “benefit from federal funds”, remember that the big agency that always gets mentioned first in these stories, the US Postal Service, doesn’t receive any!
The Washington Post has published an update to the story of the former network TV personality, Sharyl Attkisson’s charges that the US Postal Service was spying on her computer. According to the Post story, a USPS “communication channel” was “opened into her Toshiba laptop”.
The details came in a court filing obtained by the Post. There’s no word on whether or not Ms. Attkinsson had recently been checking her local post office’s hours, or perhaps looking at the pretty stamps:
Among other findings, Ms. Attkisson’s computer forensics expert has identified an unauthorized communications channel opened into her Toshiba laptop directly connected to an Internet Provider (IP) address belonging to a federal agency, specifically the United States Postal Service, indicating unauthorized surveillance.
The Post quoted a postal service spokesperson as saying the agency had not yet received a copy of the complaint, but that the USPS does not believe there is any truth to the charges.
A little known former network television personality, Sharyl Attkisson, has filed suit in Federal Court claiming that the US Postal Service has been spying on her computer. Why the USPS would be interested in Attkisson’s computer is not clear. According to Atkkisson’s web site, her suit also names “the U.S. Department of Justice, and certain unnamed employees and/or agents of the federal government”.
Here’s the announcement of the suit, from her personal blog:
Washington, D.C., (January 5, 2015)—Investigative Journalist Sharyl Attkisson has filed administrative claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act against the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Postal Service, and certain unnamed employees and/or agents of the federal government. Attkisson has also filed a lawsuit in the District of Columbia alleging certain violations of her constitutional rights based on information implicating the federal government in illegal electronic monitoring and surveillance of her home and business computers and phones from 2011 to 2013.
Attkisson worked for CBS for 20 years, where in recent years she pushed stories about Benghazi and the “Fast and Furious” investigation. She also aired a number of stories promoting the long discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. According to Politico, CBS let her go last March amid concerns by some staffers about her “agenda-driven” stories which raised questions about her impartiality.
Aside from the lack of real evidence of hacking, Attkisson’s claim that she was targeted for her anti-Obama stories seems a bit unlikely, given her relative obscurity. Fox News, after all, relied on Fast and Furious and Benghazi for the bulk of its programming for several years, and Darrell Issa held hearings on both subjects almost non-stop during the last Congress. Attkisson’s “reports” weren’t exactly groundbreaking. Which leaves one to wonder if the lawsuit and video are part of the publicity for her recently published book Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington. It’s also worth noting that Attkisson has been backed, in previous suits she has filed, by “Judicial Watch”, a right wing lobbying group which was originally created to finance legal attcks on the Clinton Administration.
So why is she suing the USPS? We still don’t know- stay tuned!
When Republicans take over the Senate in January, the new chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which oversees the US Postal Service, is expected to be Ron Johnson, a millionaire tea party favorite.
Johnson wants to reduce federal employees pay and benefits, eliminate FERS pensions, and privatize the US Postal Service:
Securing the border and reducing government regulations are areas he said he thinks the committee can find agreement. Ensuring the financial security of the U.S. Postal Service should be on that list, too. But he knows his prescription for the Postal Service would draw strong opposition.
Johnson would like to see the USPS go through bankruptcy proceedings, which he said, “really would turn the post office into a private entity.” He said he realizes there are political problems and constitutional issues with that position and is open to compromise.
Neocon pundit and Cornell professor Rick Geddes has been warning of the imminent demise of the US Postal Service for decades. His solution, of course, is privatization. Now Geddes says that the postal service’s widespread snooping on Americans’ mail increases the need to privatize. His office issued this press release:
Rick Geddes, expert on the U.S. Postal Service and Cornell University professor of Policy Analysis and Management, says that recent revelations about the postal service tracking the mail of citizens – sometimes without proper authorization – only accelerates the need for major postal reform.
“Media reports about the U.S. Postal Service’s mail surveillance program, called mail covers, is decades old. It allows the Postal Inspection Service, at the request of state or federal law enforcement agencies, to direct postal workers to record the names, return addresses, and any other pertinent information from the outside of letters and addresses prior to their delivery.
“It does not allow for the opening of mail without a warrant. Now, there are media reports that the use of the mail covers program is much more widespread than previously thought, fueling concerns about privacy.
“This revelation raises an important issue for the Postal Service, since it has long touted the ‘sanctity of the mail’ as a major contributor to the value of sending mail physically through its system. Indeed, the Office of the Inspector General of the Postal Service stresses that the sanctity of the mail stems from the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which protects citizens’ against unreasonable search and seizure.
“In an economic environment of rapidly falling mail volume due to rising use of electronic communications alternatives, this development is likely to cause more rapid declines in the Postal Service’s already tenuous fiscal condition. It will thus accelerate the need for major postal reform.”
An Illinois mail handler has been fired after he ignored warnings that his campaigns for partisan political office violated the Hatch Act. Marcus Lewis, who worked at the Carol Stream IL processing plant, ran twice for the seat formerly held by Jesse Jackson Jr- first in the 2012 general election, and again in the 2013 special election that was called after Jackson resigned his office.
Lewis, a Republican, claimed he had no knowledge of the Hatch Act provision that prohibits most federal employees from competing in partisan elections- despite repeated warnings from the USPS and the Justice Department that he needed to choose between withdrawing from the election, or resigning his job. While Lewis ran as an independent, the elections were considered partisan, making them off-limits to federal workers.
In the 2012 general election, Lewis actually got 40,000 votes- but he was far behind both Jackson, and the official GOP candidate, getting just 13.5% of the vote. What little support he had mostly evaporated in the special election, when he recorded just 1,345 votes, or 1.6%, trailing even the Green Party nominee.
Not surprisingly for a failed GOP politician, Lewis has responded to the loss of his postal job by running to Fox News, which has proclaimed him a true folk hero. The network is attempting to compare Lewis’s firing to the suspension handed out to an IRS worker accused of political activities on the job, ignoring the simple fact that the IRS employee admitted that he had violated the law, and accepted his punishment, while Lewis still claims to be above the law. (Fox also conveniently fails to mention that the law Lewis violated is the 2012 update of the Hatch Act, passed by the GOP controlled House).
Lewis may also consider himself above reality- faced, he says, with the need for a job to support his family, he’s decided to- what else?- run for Congress again!
You probably weren’t wondering about this, but just in case- the rabidly homophobic “American Family Association”, which has called for a boycott of the Harvey Milk stamp, and says it will refuse to accept mail bearing the stamp, is serious about it! From the humor blog Wonkette:
You may recall that we recently challenged you to send the nice folks at the American Patriarchy Association some love in envelopes adorned with Harvey Milk stamps, which they are urging people to boycott because ew, gay. And so Alert Wonkette Operative “TK” sent them a little note, and even a small donation, in an envelope with one of the terrible horrible demon stamps. And back it came!
Last week’s announcement by GOP leaders in the House that the US Postal Service could fund highway projects across the country is so bizarre that even the Heritage Foundation calls it “absurd”:
At least one conservative group, Heritage Action for America, has already come out against the idea.
“The idea Congress would use a supposedly self-funding agency that cannot pay its bills as a piggy bank to fund another bankrupt, self-funding fund is absurd,” said Heritage spokesman Dan Holler.
In case you missed it, the House GOP leadership plans to fund the depleted Highway Trust Fund for a year by taking $10.7 billion from the US Postal Service. Yes, the same agency that the GOP has been calling “bankrupt”, and that supposedly owes the Treasury tens of billions in defaulted “trust fund” payments- that US Postal Service. John Boehner and Eric Cantor say that the USPS could come up with the money (over the course of the next ten years) by eliminating Saturday mail delivery.
Here are a couple of questions that Washington reporters should be asking- but haven’t:
How does the money actually get from the USPS to the Trust Fund? Does the PMG write a check for $10.7 billion? If so, why can’t he write a check for those defaulted trust fund payments?
You say that the plan will not only fund highway repairs, but enable “the USPS to better operate within its own revenue stream”. How? If the USPS saves $10.7 billion, but has to hand that money over to the Treasury, wouldn’t that leave USPS in exactly the same financial position it is now?
How can ten years of future savings be used to fund highway projects this year?
The USPS is self funded- and the lion’s share of its revenue comes from the mailing industry. Did you ask mailers if it was OK to use their money to fix highways instead of providing the service they thought they were paying for? How did that conversation go?
The problem with the Highway Trust Fund is that it relies on fuel taxes set over twenty years ago. Those taxes don’t provide enough cash to maintain and improve our infrastructure. In a nation run by grownups, the solution would be simple- either raise those taxes (something even the US Chamber of Commerce is in favor of), or find another tax funded federal program that can be eliminated or reduced.
That of course, would require some intelligence and some courage- something the current House leaders obviously have none of.
The National Review, that bastion of traditional entitled conservatism, founded by the quintessential erudite elitist William F. Buckley, has weighed in on the Stop Staples campaign. The Review thinks that postal workers should be attacking their union rather than USPS management or Staples.
That in itself tells you a lot about the right wing mindset. They have a problem with democracy, and can’t quite grasp the idea that postal workers belong to unions by choice, and they elect the union leadership (or as the right wingers like to call them, “union bosses”). So telling workers to attack their unions is the same as telling them to attack themselves.
Here’s how the Review explains why postal workers should apparently be lobbying to slash their own pay:
Consumers benefit from having more options, and the Postal Service may also save, if a recent internal memo is any indication. The memo estimated that private-sector retailers could offer the same mail services for less than a third the cost, which gives a bracingly clear picture of how inflated mail workers’ pay has become. The memo also added that “the [Staples] pilot will be used to determine if lower costs can be realized with retail partner labor instead of the labor traditionally associated with retail windows at Post Offices.”
So as far as the heirs of Bill Buckley are concerned, postal workers wages are incredibly “inflated”? Really? A level five clerk at top step makes around $52,000 a year. That works out to $25 an hour. I’d love to see the writers at the National Review try to survive on that. Continue reading →
In January the US Postal Service announced on the Federal Business Opportunities web site that it was planning to buy “assorted small arms ammunition”. People who know anything about the USPS wouldn’t have been particularly surprised about the announcement, given that the USPS has a sizable armed police force, the Postal Inspection Service. But right wing commentators quickly went, well, postal about the news: “USPS ANNOUNCES GIANT AMMO PURCHASE” crowed WND.com. The fact that no quantities were specified in the solicitation wasn’t mentioned.
The claims were so outlandish that even one anti-gun control site felt the need to debunk it. In February, gunssavelives.net carried a post pointing out that the USPS “contains within its organization the oldest federal law enforcement agency in the country – The United States Postal Inspection Service.” The post continues:
So the Postal Service has most likely been purchasing “assorted small arms ammunition” for over 200 years. The department has over 1,000 armed agents. Fourteen USPIS agents have been killed in the line of duty.
Move along, nothing to see here.
But conspiracy theories continued to make the rounds. This past week, Newsmax.com, the most popular right wing extremist news site carried the news. (Newsmax may be popular, but it’s apparently a bit slow on the uptake). While the story made passing reference to the Inspection Service, it also pushed a new theory- that the USPS was trying to drive up the price of ammunition.
Finally this week the USPS issued a statement denying the bizarre story:
U.S. Postal Service PR manager sets the record straight on 4-15-14 Newsmax.com article that USPS hoards ammunition.
The U.S. Postal Service is not hoarding ammunition. The Postal Service Inspection Service is a law enforcement agency and its Inspectors carry firearms. Periodically, the Inspection Service must purchase ammunition for activities like firearms training, required annual firing range qualifications and for duty. As the Postal Service’s primary law enforcement arm, the Inspection Service is a highly specialized, professional organization, which performs investigative and security functions essential to a stable and sound postal system and the security of the U.S. Mail. The Postal Inspection Service has a proud and successful record of fighting criminals who misuse postal services and products to defraud, endanger or otherwise threaten the American public.
Manager, Media Relations
U.S. Postal Service
The USPS statement probably won’t carry much weight with the committed gun nuts out there, but on the bright side, the conspiracy theory seems to be confined to the usual lunatic fringe outlets like Newsmax and Fox News.
If there is a conspiracy behind all the hysteria, the real culprit is probably the gun lobby itself. The big gun companies that underwrite the NRA and the rest of the so-called “second amendment advocate” groups are the only ones who would profit from all this. Like the fella said, “follow the money”! Smith and Wesson are no doubt laughing all the way to the bank!