Friday, July 22, 2016

Adrift for 19 Months: The U.S. Postal Service

If you want to understand why the U.S. Postal Service seems so dysfunctional, look no further than its governing board.

If you can find it.

The USPS Board of Governors is a ghost ship (our latest Publishing Word of the Day), set adrift 19 months ago when its vacancies outnumbered its members. Now it's down to three members -- the Postmaster General, the Deputy Postmaster General, and a former Congressman -- and eight vacancies.

The USPS has become "another front in the lasting conflict between the White House and Congress over the appointment process," writes the R Street Institute, a think tank that apparently first applied the ghost ship moniker to the USPS board.

Before it lost its quorum, the board appointed the remaining governors as a Temporary Emergency Committee to guide the nation's second-largest employer.

"There is a question about whether the courts would hold this valid, but no one has challenged it," Chairman James Bilbray, the lone independent member, has been quoted as saying. "We can't function. We can continue to deliver the mail for now but we can't do the things we need to do. We can't change policies or make major purchases like a new fleet of trucks. There could be lots of problems."

And with PMG Megan J. Brennan and Deputy PMG Ron Stroman holding a majority of votes, it's nearly impossible to institute any changes or restructuring of USPS's top management.

Feel the Bern
Congress has not filled a vacancy on the board since 2010. Multiple reports indicate the hold-up is Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, who has reportedly blocked President Obama's nominations to protest the closing of some USPS processing and distribution centers.Or perhaps he thinks President Trump will appoint members more to his liking.

In any case, the Postal Service is "Berned": The Senate's arcane rules don't allow it to approved a nomination that a single senator has placed on hold.

For those of us in the magazine industry, it's quite comforting to know that we're turning over, oh, 80% or so of our copies to an organization that is so neglected by its Congressional overseers. And I'm sure the 630,000-plus USPS employees just love working for such a political football.

In honor of the magazine industry's largest vendor, Dead Tree Edition's Publishing Word of the Day series includes such USPS-related terms as inadvertent, cap carping, and U.S. Parcel Service.

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