Who Do You Trust?

There was a TV quiz show in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s with the grammatically incorrect title Who Do You Trust?  (The show became the springboard for Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon, who later spent the next three decades together as fixtures on late-night TV.)  The premise was simple: three couples would appear on the program, and Carson would ask the male a question and he’d have to decide whether to answer it himself or ask the female contestant.  (Attitudes toward gender roles were different back then.)

Though that format may not be applicable in today’s postal world, the title question is very relevant.

Politics

Significant numbers of people hold fairly strong, and usually opposing, opinions on a variety of topics, and the general media is not exempt from this divergence of perspective. Suffice to say that, accordingly, the current political climate is very polarized, in the population, in the media, and at the federal level, and few people lack an opinion about the current president and Congress.

All of us see a constant flow of news that, depending on the outlet, is colored by the opinions of the presenter.  While people can argue over “fake news,” the existence of skewed news is easier to confirm: it stresses, or minimizes, adds or omits, points that help or hurt the subject of the story.  Where the truth lies is seldom easy to discern as a result, so whom can you trust?  Believability does not equal accuracy.

Many of us are seeing first-hand how the circumstances of the Postal Service have been sucked into the whirl of Washington politics – and media reports – where “facts” and quotes are assembled to provide the reader with the impression the writer intends. Again, whom do you trust?

Whom to believe

There’s a fairly small community of postal wonks who know (more or less) the facts of the Postal Service’s situation, and who have the experience to offer a somewhat dispassionate perspective about what’s going on. But for most of America’s population, fed a diet of carefully chosen sound bites and pieces of fact, what’s really going on likely is hard to discern. John and Jane Q Public don’t know who’s trustworthy.

Since 2018 - when the presidential commission issued its report on the Postal Service, the White House issued its plan to overhaul the federal government (including the USPS), the president got animated over Chinese shipments paying artificially low postage rates, and the administration, angered by criticism in The Washington Post, called for scrutiny of the rates paid by its owner’s other company (Amazon) - the Postal Service has become the focus of media coverage and political attention having little to do with the realities of its finances or operations.

By spring 2020, the president nominated, and the Senate confirmed, new members of the USPS Board of Governors, and David Williams, the former Inspector General, resigned from the Board, reportedly over the political nature of the search for a successor to Megan Brennan.  By early May, Louis DeJoy, a name that some observers claim wasn’t originally on the list, was named the next PMG.  Brennan at last retired (she’d planned to leave by February), followed by Deputy PMG Ron Stroman, and DeJoy took over in mid-June.

Who presented DeJoy’s candidacy and why, how, and for what purpose he was picked, and what he was expected to do in the job was quickly parsed, invariably through the lens of politics.  Looking at the circumstances surrounding his selection, it was easy to conclude he was the president’s man, sent to the USPS to bend the agency to his wishes.

Time to succeed or fail

During the August 7 open session of the Board of Governors meeting, DeJoy sought to dispel the doubts about his freedom from political influence (see the article on page 2, in the Aug 17 issue of Mailers Hub News).  Depending on the inclination of the listener, by his statements, DeJoy was either trying to correct misinformation and wrongly-based assumptions or simply saying what he wanted people to believe. Regardless, and aside from the aforementioned presumption that he’s a tool of the administration, it will be through his policies and actions that DeJoy will prove either his truthfulness or the suspicions of critics.

Meanwhile, it would seem timely to call a hiatus in the hyper-politicization. It might be useful to the determination of whom to trust if, at some point, The Washington Post, the union bomb-throwers, their sycophants in Congress, and other political opportunists would stop their escalating political rhetoric, pause their use of DeJoy as a proxy for the administration, and stop using him as a tool to do battle with the president long enough to let him succeed or fail.

DeJoy’s directives about becoming more efficient and reducing costs, and his reorganization of headquarters functions, show he wants to run the Postal Service differently than his predecessors. Every PMG has taken similar steps, sometimes more than once. Introducing a bill in Congress to forcibly undo what he’s doing hardly seems like anything other than the same meddling of which the White House is accused.  And it’s highly doubtful that Congressional politicians are themselves all that qualified to dictate how to run the USPS.

Let me be clear: this is not an endorsement of the PMG, of anyone or anything affiliated with the administration, or any aspect of DeJoy’s career or his selection; nor is it a concurrence with the frenzied rants of the postal unions and their Congressional cronies that DeJoy is the postal version of Satan.

Rather, it’s simply a frustrated observation that, at some point, critics and the media need to move past the well-covered facts (and theories) of how and why DeJoy got to be PMG, and onto something more germane to whether his policies, decisions, and actions – assessed objectively – are working for the best interests of the Postal Service or not.

Whom should we trust to responsibly foster and advance the USPS?  Congressional politicians, the administration, the unions, the popular media?  To me, none has shown the honesty, integrity, and objective judgment to merit such trust.

To use a sports analogy and, again, setting aside politics, one could say that DeJoy now has the ball and is calling the plays.  Trust him or not, winning or losing will be on him, and praise or condemnation will ensue; we’ll know soon enough which it will be. 

Meanwhile, we all need to take a breath.

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