#1367 The Post Office and the Census, Unmaking the American Institutions That Most Bind Us Together (Transcript)

Air Date 9/15/2020

Full Episode Notes

Download PDF

Audio-Synced Transcript

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of Left podcast in which we shall learn about two of America's oldest institutions which are both currently under attack: the US Post Office and the Census. The clear through-line of the attacks on both is a classic struggle over power. Clips today are from On the Media, The Real News, Democracy Now, Planet Money, Counterspin, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and Another Way by Lawrence Lessig.

The Long, Slow Chipping Away of the USPS - On the Media - Air Date 8-21-20

BOB GARFIELD - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: Now over the past couple of months, we've observed Trump's overt meddling into the post office, in the person of his new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. He is an under-qualified  Trump meg- donor with financial ties to postal service competitors. And next thing you know, he was cutting overtime for workers in the middle of a pandemic in advance of an election, and had removed mail sorting machines from post offices nationwide, which raised media eyebrows, but not exactly at first, at least alarm. Until about a week ago, when Trump blurted out his sabotage scheme on Fox Business. These "aha" journalistic moments about public sector institutions follow a pattern. 

ALEX SHEPARD: Yeah. In the case of U S P S there are a few things happening where, you know, at the same time, Louis DeJoy is fulfilling this long-standing conservative project of hobbling U S P S, of creating space in which its competitors can thrive. He is also doing so at a time where it will almost certainly, if not aid the president's reelection campaign, then certainly bolster claims that he may make challenging the legitimacy of the election. The press is largely focused on the second one of those still, and the first part is, I think, a little still gone unnoticed. 

BOB GARFIELD - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: You said that the Republican strategy over the decades has been to defund the post office, for example, by forcing them to fund their pension plan going out 75 years, in order to actually force their service to deteriorate, in order ultimately to privatize the organization.

ALEX SHEPARD: What Louis DeJoy has been doing since the spring, is familiar to anyone who's covered the private equity industry in America in recent years. You look at an organization that's losing money and then you strip resources from it in the name of efficiency. And then of course it becomes less efficient and you're in this endless cycle of taking things away. But the larger project I think, is ideological as much as it is practical, that conservatives don't like the fact that this is a government institution that works. That the USPS should be treated like a business. That's put a giant target on its back. The postal service itself, is a kind of American value saying that, we're all Americans and we all should be connected together, no matter what that costs. The drive to privatize that not only would have dramatic consequences for people who rely on USPS to get medication or to keep in touch with loved ones, particularly incarcerated people. But it also would be a betrayal of what I think is an ideal, which is that we should have a system that brings us all together. 

BOB GARFIELD - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: You believe that we've allowed a distorted picture of the public sector to form in the public's minds over decades. And that we've even internalized the Reagan doctrine that big government is not the solution, but the problem. Drunk the Koolaid, have we? 

ALEX SHEPARD: Yeah. I think that the image of a postal worker sort of remains Newman from Seinfeld. 

SEINFELD CLIP: You don't even have to lick the stamps. [Laughter] 

But it's not to be, so I'm hanging it up. 

You quit the post office?

Kind of. I'm still collecting checks. I'm just not delivering mail. [Laughter] 

Somebody 

ALEX SHEPARD: who's lazy. They take a three hour break. The post office itself is a drab and dreary place where you wait in line for hours and then are told to go somewhere else. It's sort of the DMV next door. Part of the issue I think, is political, and that Democrats have also internalized a lot of these ideas. But I think that there's also a sense that journalists walk into a post office and they see not the connective tissue of this country. They see another failing organ of big government. One of the strange things about all this hand-ringing about if the USPS can handle the election, is that they just finished a substantial project, which is handling the United States census. The USPS does this kind of work all the time and they've done it despite the fact that they've been hobbled by staffing cuts and demands to run like a business when it's not a business. 

BOB GARFIELD - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: And how do we get the narrative that you just provided back into the minds of the media? If in fact we have drunk the Koolaid.

ALEX SHEPARD: Well, I think that there's a real shyness about communicating values in media. That's not true when it comes to sort of first amendment issues. Members of the press will always beat their chests when they're kicked out of a White House briefing room or something, but you don't get that with other values.

Instead, there's a real reliance on others. You need advocacy groups, you need a postal workers' union, or members of the Democratic party. But there are a lot of cases where those voices aren't going to be forthcoming and that you need to look at institutions for what they provide beyond profit and efficiency.

It's a public service and the American people, for the most part, recognize it as that. It's Congress that hasn't. And if it does do that, then I think things will get a lot better.

A wildcat strike in 1970 solved the last crisis at USPS - The Real News - Air Date 8-24-20

MARC STEINER - HOST, THE REAL NEWS: What we're facing now with COVID, what we're facing now with vote-by-mail, Trump's attacks on that, and his allies attacks on the post office on voting by mail. This is also an attack on the working class, the working class who work in the post office. And you see most polls say that 90% of Americans are happy with the post office.

There's a confluence of events here that don't parallel 1970, but clearly for me have the roots there, but talk about what you see now, I mean, you've been involved as a labor activist, you know a lot of folks who involved in the postal struggle as well. So can you make those connections for us?

PAUL PRESCOTT: Yeah , and it's kind of an interesting moment. I'm really glad that all of a sudden the Postal Service is in the news. It's all the rage now, but generally, from MSNBC, CNN, they're coming at this from the angle of the election and of course that's important to protect  our voting rights, but I think even more importantly is the Postal Service as a working class institution. And this goes to show why they want to privatize it. DeJoy's move to delay mail, it's not just about the election. I think they also were doing this as one more step to undermine it and privatize it.

So, the Postal Service is home to over 600,000 living wage jobs, the average salary as $55,000 a year. So obviously postal workers, aren't living large. It's not like a worker's utopia, but in the United States in 2020, it is harder and harder to come by good, solid, union jobs, with good benefits and stability.

So that's a big reason why they want to attack it, and you can think of it as a form of union busting. And also I'll just say a little bit about, particularly for Black workers historically, and today Postal Service has been a very crucial, institution for upward mobility. I mean, this goes all the way back to the 1940s, and it's continued all the way till today. 21% of postal workers are Black so they're disproportionately represented in the postal workforce. And again, there's been a crisis in jobs for everyone, but especially Black workers. For a lot of them, public sector jobs are like the very thin line between some kind of stability and being impoverished.

So it doesn't seem like it's a racial justice struggle, but I think people should recognize when we talk about Black lives matter—we can hold police accountable, we could defund the police, but if at the same time the Postal Service is privatized and these jobs are destroyed, that's going to be a disaster, especially for Black workers who have gotten so much out of this institution over the long term.

MARC STEINER - HOST, THE REAL NEWS: So as somebody who thinks deeply about the history of labor, and is also a labor activist in your own union and have this sense of solidarity with a postal workers, where do you think this struggle is going to go and how do you think that labor solidarity fits into all of this and what we may not be aware of this unfolding?

PAUL PRESCOTT: The old slogan from labor "injury to one is an injury to all", many people in the labor movement don't take that as seriously as they should. But I think we're at an interesting moment where again, the public is overwhelmingly on the side of the Postal Service.

It's a good flashpoint to unite around. In Philly we've been working with the Postal Workers Union. These unions should see this as a fight they need to double down on because it's also about saving the public sector more generally. If they can prioritize this, you know they're going to go to the next thing.

And I also think this is an opportunity for, after this crisis, hopefully where we do save the Postal Service. And you're even seeing, centrist Democrats are now coming out, at least for the time period of now to save the Postal Service. Let's think about the future. So the Postal Workers Union has talked about postal banking, and this is a demand that Bernie Sanders, lifted up—I mean, that's the only reason I  first heard about it. And that's to offer basic banking services in the post office. We used to have it in this country. Many other countries do it. And it would be a big attack on the payday loan industry. And again, I think you can look at this through a lens of racial justice.

I think you see these. Basically these loan sharks are most active in working class communities of color. And this would be a win for everyone. So not only have you provide good banking options for working people, you would create more employment in a post office. So more good living wage jobs.

It's also a way of increasing revenue for the Postal Service. so I think people should be thinking about after this crisis, labor and community allies uniting around the Postal Service, not just to save it, not just the repeal that 2006 law, which absolutely needs to happen, but how can we expand the Postal Service? Postal banking. People have talked about having electric car charging stations at post offices. People have talked about, internet, as an internet hub for communities that don't have as much internet access. We should be thinking bigger. Of course, this is going to take funding and, it's going to be a political struggle, but I think we've seen in this moment that the public is actually on our side on this, and I think there's a lot of material to work with in terms of mobilizing people around this public service.

"The Damage Has Been Done" Historian Says Trump's Postmaster Has Undermined Faith in 2020 Election - Democracy Now! - Air Date 8-24-20

AMY GOODMAN - HOST DEMOCRACY NOW!: While postmaster DeJoy is refusing to reconnect the sorting machines, postal workers in Dallas, Texas, and Tacoma, Washington have defied orders and reconnected the machines. This all comes as more questions are being raised over the role of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in the post office shake-up. The New York Times reports Mnuchin met with two Republican members of the Postal Service’s Board of Governors in early February and pressed them to select a Postmaster General to push Trump’s agenda.

We’re joined now by Philip Rubio, history professor at North Carolina A&T State University, author of Undelivered: From the Great Postal Strike of 1970 to the Manufactured Crisis of the U.S. Postal Service. Prior to becoming a history professor, Rubio carried mail for the postal service for 20 years. It's great to have you with us, professor Rubio. 

PHILIP RUBIO: Thank you for having me.

AMY GOODMAN - HOST DEMOCRACY NOW!: If you can talk about the latest developments, the Senate hearing on Friday, the bill that was passed, and what's expected to happen today with the House hearing. This isn't just Democrats accusing the White House and the post office of making it difficult or delaying the mail so that mail ballots won't get in on time. That was clearly stated by the post office itself, saying that they did not think they would be able to handle all this mail. Though DeJoy told a very different story when he testified before the Senate Friday.

PHILIP RUBIO:  That’s correct, and this Postmaster General really does have a credibility problem. He came into office just two months ago with claims that he was going to run it like a business and correct past inefficiencies, and he was going to, first of all, clean house, replacing 23 senior management positions, and cutting overtime, banning late leaving from mail processing plants and also from stations , slowing the mail down in effect, and added to that, pulling up thousands of blue mail collection boxes and decommissioning these mail sorting machines, and then denying that, and then admitting that but saying it’s not had that much of an effect, but the damage has been done. I think he's demoralized postal workers. I think he has discouraged a lot of voters who are hoping to vote by mail to vote safely and securely because of the pandemic. And he has also made, I think people, as postal consumers, discouraged by promising that he will resume decommissioning these machines and these other policies of his after the election. 

AMY GOODMAN - HOST DEMOCRACY NOW!: Have you seen anything like this before? For example, the post office in, Tacoma, Washington in Dallas, Texas reconnecting letter sorting machines that were disconnected under orders from the Postmaster General.

PHILIP RUBIO: Well, I can't think of anything like that, but we have to remember on the one hand, these are isolated incidents, but on the other hand, they are revealing of what postal workers have always done in the past—taken measures into their own hands. And it's a promise of what might happen in the future. That is, postal workers, because we have to remember postal workers are really the heart of what I would call the service culture that's still alive in the post office – OK? – as opposed to the business culture of, just trying to cut costs. And so to actually take a risk at being fired for insubinsubordina plugging  those machines back in, that takes a great effort and we might see something like postal workers defying bans on overtime to make sure that ballots get through. 

AMY GOODMAN - HOST DEMOCRACY NOW!: I want to go to David C. Williams, the former Postal Service inspector general, former vice chair of the Postal Board of Governors. In his opening remarks to the House Progressive Caucus last week, Williams criticized Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

DAVID C. WILLIAMS:  I recently resigned as the vice chairman of the Postal Board of Governors, when it became clear to me that the administration was politicizing the Postal Service. With the Treasury Secretary as the lead figure for the White House in that effort. By statute, the Treasury was made responsible for providing the Postal Service with a line of credit. The Treasury was using that responsibility to make demands that I believe would turn the Postal Service into a political tool, ending its long history as an apolitical public infrastructure.

AMY GOODMAN - HOST DEMOCRACY NOW!:  Can you respond to that, Professor Philip Rubio? 

PHILIP RUBIO: Well, David C. Williams was the watchdog and he was one of two watchdogs, the other being Ronald Stroman, who also—well, he resigned under pressure. So they were looking out for the Postal Service, and they both resigned because they saw it being politicized.

You know, the Postal Service, or the post office, that we've had around for 245 years. Most of that time was a political institution, but we didn't see that kind of partisan  intervention—well, of course with the exception of Andrew Jackson and the spoils system with hiring, but as far as manipulating the Postal Service and driving it into the ground. So, I'm glad to see him testifying. I’m glad to see Ron Stroman, former Board of Governors member, testifying.

Crisis At The Post Office - Planet Money - Air Date 8-21-20

KEITH ROMER - HOST, PLANET MONEY: The idea that the United States government would have a hand in delivering the mail goes back at least as far as the Constitution.

REPORTER - ARCHIVAL AUDIO: The United States post office, since it was founded 173 years ago, has helped to make America great.

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: It's right there, Article I, Section 8 - the Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties - yada, yada, yada - and to establish post offices and post routes.

KEITH ROMER - HOST, PLANET MONEY: And, yes, people have to pay to send their letters from Philadelphia to Charleston, but there's a recognition that mail delivery is this useful service and that taxpayers should subsidize that service.

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: The mail is going to bind the country together. It's going to keep people informed about issues of national importance. It's going to let us all communicate with each other. And for the first 150 years or so, the system works pretty well. It's a service worth paying for. And whenever the post office ends up in the red, Congress throws them the money to cover it.

KEITH ROMER - HOST, PLANET MONEY: But by the 1960s, the postal system is kind of a mess. Rates are super low. There's a huge surge of mail, and the post office is less and less able to deal with it. At one point, there's a backlog of more than 10 million pieces of mail in the Chicago Post Office. Management seriously discussed just burning it all.

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: That is one way to get to mailbox zero.

KEITH ROMER - HOST, PLANET MONEY: In the end, they did not, in fact, burn the mail.

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: On top of all this, postal workers are increasingly unhappy with their wages. Their unions keep asking Congress for a raise, not really getting anywhere. But there's only so much the workers can do because if you're a federal employee, it's actually against the law to go on strike.

KEITH ROMER - HOST, PLANET MONEY: And then in 1970, they go on strike anyway.

PROTESTING POSTAL WORKERS - ARCHIVAL AUDIO: We want to work, but this is the only means we have of letting Congress know that we cannot take it any longer. Either they give us what we should have, or we will stay out on strike until hell freezes over.

KEITH ROMER - HOST, PLANET MONEY: For a few days, Richard Nixon actually sends in the National Guard to replace some of these striking workers.

PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON: I have just now directed the activation of the men of the various military organizations to begin in New York City the restoration of essential mail services.

KEITH ROMER - HOST, PLANET MONEY: Now, Nixon and, frankly, Democrats before him really wanted to reform the post office, to do something to fix all the backlogs and the delays. 

PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON: For the past year, almost since the day we took office, both the postmaster general and I have been working to alleviate not only the legitimate grievances of postal workers but to move to eliminate the source of those grievances. That is the obsolete postal system itself. 

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: And the strike kind of gives Nixon and Congress the chance they're looking for. In 1970, President Nixon signs the Postal Reorganization Act into law. The unions get the raise they want and the right to collective bargaining. And in exchange, they agree to go along with this other change, one that fundamentally transforms the post office from a pure public service to something more like a business.

KEITH ROMER - HOST, PLANET MONEY: To try to understand why this transformation was such a big deal, we called David Trimble from the Government Accountability Office, the GAO.

And you guys are sort of explicitly militantly nonpartisan. Is that right?

DAVID TRIMBLE - G.A.O.: Absolutely. Our core values are sort of violently protected within the building.

KEITH ROMER - HOST, PLANET MONEY: Who are you going to vote for for president?

DAVID TRIMBLE - G.A.O.: That I will not say.

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: A couple months ago, the GAO put out a report that tried to make sense of how we arrived at this current moment in Postal Service history. Trimble says that 1970 law changed a lot more than just how much postal workers got paid.

DAVID TRIMBLE - G.A.O.: Until that point, the post office was a department of the federal government.

KEITH ROMER - HOST, PLANET MONEY: That old version of the post office made some of its money from stamps, but the rest of it came out of the federal budget.

DAVID TRIMBLE - G.A.O.: They received about 25% of their operating expenses in the form of an appropriation.

KEITH ROMER - HOST, PLANET MONEY: Under the new law, that money went away.

DAVID TRIMBLE - G.A.O.: And that is where mandate for them to be a self-sustaining business, a businesslike entity I think is the phrase, was introduced.

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: The deal that Congress gives this new businesslike entity goes like this. U.S. Postal Service - that's what they're called now - you get to keep all the stuff, the physical post offices and the mail trucks and the snazzy uniforms, and you get to keep the exclusive right to deliver stamped mail.

KEITH ROMER - HOST, PLANET MONEY: But Congress is going to stop giving you money because you're a business now. Congress doesn't just give money to businesses, usually.

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: Also, new Postal Service, we're going to need you to do something for us—well, several things, actually. You have to deliver mail to every single address in the country.

KEITH ROMER - HOST, PLANET MONEY: It'd be great if you could keep doing the whole six-day-a-week delivery thing.

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: Also, you have to get permission if you want to charge more for anything.

KEITH ROMER - HOST, PLANET MONEY: Or if you want to offer any new services.

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: Or, like, close a post office - you're going to need permission for that, too.

KEITH ROMER - HOST, PLANET MONEY: But otherwise, you are totally a business. Go get 'em.

DAVID TRIMBLE - G.A.O.: So you want them to operate a business, but you're telling them what services they have to provide, and you're telling them how much they can charge. So they're sort of, between a rock and a hard place for a lot of their operational decisions. 

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: But for a while, this new business version of the post office actually worked. People like mailing things, and they're willing to pay for it. Year after year, mail volumes just keep increasing, and the Postal Service is able to increase their rates to cover new costs, which means revenue keeps going up.

KEITH ROMER - HOST, PLANET MONEY: But then, in the early 2000s...Email.

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: It's cheaper. It's faster. 

KEITH ROMER - HOST, PLANET MONEY: You don't have to lick anything.

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: First-class mail delivery in the United States peaks in 2001 at 103 billion letters, and it just goes downhill from there, which is bad news for the Postal Service.

DAVID TRIMBLE - G.A.O.: The old model really depended on a high volume of first-class mail because  the moneymaker for the post office.

KEITH ROMER - HOST, PLANET MONEY: That same year, 2001, the GAO puts the Postal Service on its high-risk list, which is basically a warning that if mail volume doesn't start going up again, the post office is going to be in real danger.

DAVID TRIMBLE - G.A.O.: They had poor cash flow. They were near their debt limit. Their retirement expenses were growing.

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: The postmaster general at the time, a man named John Potter, is like, look—you want us to make real money, you've got to ease up on some of these restrictions. The number of letters keeps going down, but we could make up some of the money on packages if you just let us set our own prices.

RUTH GOLDWAY: He wanted the Postal Service to be able to make a profit.

KEITH ROMER - HOST, PLANET MONEY: That's Ruth Goldway, who at the time was a commissioner at the Postal Regulatory Commission. Later, she was the chairwoman. Side note - she was also in the movie "Dave."

RUTH GOLDWAY:  I played the Secretary of Education. I had one line. I said, "thank you, Mr. President."

KEITH ROMER - HOST, PLANET MONEY: Also, the Forever Stamp, the one that makes it so you don't have to keep buying one- and two-cent stamps to keep up with rate increases - that was her idea.

RUTH GOLDWAY: I said, gosh, you lose more money selling penny stamps to add on when you change the rates than you would if you just left it the same.

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: Goldway says by the early 2000s, there were signs that the new post office as business wasn't working the same way it had before. In 2000, it lost around $200 million. In 2001, it lost $1.7 billion.

KEITH ROMER - HOST, PLANET MONEY: If the post office was truly going to be self-sustaining, the shackles had to come off. So, in 2006, Congress passed a new round of postal reforms. And just like the last time in 1970, it was sort of a mixed bag for the post office.

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: They did get to set their own rates for packages. But rate increases for first-class mail now couldn't increase faster than inflation.

KEITH ROMER - HOST, PLANET MONEY: And there was one very big new requirement that Republicans slipped into the bill at the last minute - a requirement that the Postal Service prepay the costs for its workers' retirement health benefits.

RUTH GOLDWAY: So when the final bill came out, there were many of us who were very surprised at, what is this payment we have to make?

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: Whatever current and former postal workers were going to get in health care benefits after they retired, the Postal Service had to pay for that now.

RUTH GOLDWAY: No other government agency and almost no other business puts money away for future health care retiree benefits claims.

KEITH ROMER - HOST, PLANET MONEY: Starting in 2007, the Postal Service had 10 years - until 2017 - to put together this giant pool of money to cover those costs for what would be literally millions of current and former workers.

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: All of a sudden, because of this last-minute addition to the new law, the Postal Service is committed to putting aside $5 billion every year for the next decade, which for an organization that was already struggling to turn a profit is just devastating. 

KEITH ROMER - HOST, PLANET MONEY: For a few years, the post office does pay into this fund. Then, in 2011, they just stop. They can't afford to anymore. And now they owe a lot of money, and not just for the weird prefunding the retirement health care benefits thing. On top of that, they also owe tens of billions of dollars for pensions and for workers' compensation.

DAVID TRIMBLE - G.A.O.: In 2019, that liability totaled $161 billion.

KEITH ROMER - HOST, PLANET MONEY: That's David Trimble again from the Government Accountability Office.

DAVID TRIMBLE - G.A.O.: The scale of this is massive. The challenge facing them is massive financially.

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: That top-line number, $161 billion, that's more than twice the money the post office brought in last year.

DAVID TRIMBLE - G.A.O.: The current business model is no longer feasible. It's financially not sustainable, and its mission is at risk unless there are significant reforms made. 

KEITH ROMER - HOST, PLANET MONEY: It's worth pointing out that if the Postal Service was, in fact, a company, there would be something it could do, something that airlines and car manufacturers, these companies with giant obligations to pension funds and health care benefits that they can't afford, something that they do all the time, declare bankruptcy, reorganize its finances, renegotiate with its workers. But in this sense at least, the Postal Service is not a company.

DAVID TRIMBLE - G.A.O.: Bankruptcy laws would not be available for the post office to exercise, and really, it's up to Congress to address this issue.

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: The series of choices that Congress has made over the last 50 years about how the Postal Service is conceived and what kinds of requirements and limitations should be placed on it—those choices have made the post office a sort of Frankenstein's monster.

KEITH ROMER - HOST, PLANET MONEY: It's kind of a business, except it has so little control over how it makes money or how it cuts costs. It's kind of a part of the federal government, but except for a few tiny allocations for overseas voting and mail services for the blind, Congress doesn't pay for anything.

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: The Postal Service did get a loan of $10 billion as part of the CARES Act. But that's just a loan. They're supposed to pay it back.

DAVID TRIMBLE - G.A.O.: So that 10 billion doesn't resolve any of the core issues in terms of the fundamental challenges facing the post office. That may get you a year or something, but your essential costs are still going to sink that boat.

KEITH ROMER - HOST, PLANET MONEY: Trimble's basic point was that the financial problems with the Postal Service go way deeper than you could solve by just cutting back on overtime or taking out some mailboxes. Whatever the solution is, it's not going to come from the office of the Postmaster General. It has to come from the same place that created the problem in the first place—Congress. 

DAVID TRIMBLE - G.A.O.: The Congress needs to step up and address the core policy questions, which is, what is what are the core missions we want the postal service to provide and given those missions, are we going to pay for it?

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI - HOST, PLANET MONEY: Is the post office a service the government provides? Is it a business? Those are political questions, and ultimately, they're going to need political answers.

KEITH ROMER - HOST, PLANET MONEY: For Democrat Carolyn Maloney, the answer is clear.

REPRESENTATIVE CAROLYN MALONEY: The bottom line is that the post office is a service, and it is an American service that the American people need.

Voting Is Not Enough- Know Voting Rules & Best Practices - Best of the Left

AMANDA HOFFMAN - ACTIVISM, BEST OF THE LEFT: You've reached the activism portion of today's show. Now that you're informed and angry, here's what you can do about it. Today's activism, voting is not enough: know your state’s 2020 voting rules & voting best practices.

As of the publishing of this episode, there are exactly 49 days until election day. That’s seven weeks, less than two months. To make sure every one of those days count, we’ve launched our 2020 Election Action Guide, which we’re calling “Voting Is Not Enough.” Because…it’s just not.

From now until election day, we’ll be highlighting different ways you can be spending time and/or money to support a free and fair election, as well as Democrats down the ballot and all the way up to the Biden-Harris ticket. All of this information can be accessed from the “Voting is Not Enough” banner at bestoftheleft.com, or directly at bestoftheleft.com/2020action.

As you’ve heard today, the Republican attacks on the United States Post Office are nothing new. But in an election year, with an authoritarian wannabe as president and a pandemic gripping the nation, these attacks have reached a new level with dire consequences for democracy.

By design, damaging the Post Office not only puts more of the burden on the voter to figure out the best way to vote, but also forces them to weigh their personal health risk. The resulting voter suppression should not be underestimated. While many will vote no matter what, millions of people are feeling overwhelmed.

That’s why it is critical to understand and share the resources that make the new 2020 rules and voting options as clear and concise as possible. The statistical analysis publication Five Thirty Eight has put together a regularly updated project called “How to Vote in the 2020 Election.” It color codes each state by how easy or difficult it is to vote by mail, then you can click on each state to instantly see everything from the voter registration deadline to early voting information, to how to request a ballot, to how to vote in person. It also provides a brief summary with links on any pending lawsuits related to voting and notes whether any plans to close polling places have been announced. New rules in place for 2020 are noted so you can easily see what, if anything, has changed.

The link to the “How to Vote in the 2020 Election” project is in the show notes, but you can also find it listed at projects.fivethirtyeight.com.

But even if you know all of the rules, there are still some best practices to follow: 

1. If you are planning to vote absentee, request your ballot NOW. Do not wait one more second. The ballot will be mailed to you, so you must factor in not only delays but the unfortunate possibility that you never receive the ballot at all. You’ll need time to re-request one or find out if you can pick up the ballot at your local election office. 

2. When you get your absentee ballot, do not wait to vote. Time is of the essence, but be sure you follow your state’s absentee ballot rules to the letter. There are many reasons a ballot could get rejected, like you forgot to sign it, or your signature doesn’t match the one on file, improper marking, or the ballot arrives too late. The Associated Press reported just last week that absentee ballot rejections could triple in battleground states because voters who usually vote in person are unfamiliar with the absentee ballot rules. So, be methodical! 

3. Find your local dropboxes. If you are concerned about relying on the Post Office - and that’s a valid concern - go to your state’s Secretary of State website or call your local election office to find out the location of ballot dropboxes. During the primaries, these boxes were often located at local city halls, but more rural areas may have more options. 

4. Track your ballot. Most states provide a way to track your ballot online and see if it has been received and accepted. The sooner you submit your absentee ballot, the sooner you will know wether or not your vote counted and the more time you’ll have to try to resolve any issues that may arise. 

And finally, voting in person is still an option. Experts are saying that as long as safeguards are in place - like mask requirements, 6-ft distance rules, and frequent wiping down of surfaces - your risk is relatively low and about the same as a trip to the grocery store. However, this is America, and the sad fact is that you cannot always rely on your fellow citizens to abide by the health rules. Additionally, if we don’t have enough poll workers and polling places, lines could be extremely long. We say all this not to discourage you, but to help you make an informed decision and to help you help others in your life as well.

The segment notes include all the links to this information as well as additional resources, and, once again, this segment is available on the “Voting is Not Enough” page at bestoftheleft.com/2020action.

So, if making sure every vote is accepted and counted is important to you, be sure to spread the word about knowing your state’s 2020 voting rules and voting best practices via social media so that others in your network can spread the word, too.

Liz OuYang on Census Sabotage - CounterSpin - Air Date 8-14-20

JANINE JACKSON - HOST, COUNTERSPIN: The coronavirus pandemic had already added difficulties to the 2020 census. Now the Census Bureau says workers will only have until September 30th to solicit responses, despite having previously established a deadline of October 31st. The maneuver follows the Trump White House's insertion of two new political appointments into the Census Bureau, whose job descriptions it won't make public; and Trump's order in late July, calling for excluding undocumented immigrants from the census count used to apportion congressional representation. 

Given the transparently political nature of these actions,  headlines like one in the New York Times expressing worry that they might lead to a botched count, seemed needlessly delicate. 

Here to talk about efforts to hijack the 2020 census, and resistance to those efforts, is long-time civil rights attorney and advocate Liz OuYang. She serves as a consultant on the census to community-based organizations, and adjunct professor at Columbia University Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, and New York University's Department of Social and Cultural Analysis. She joins us now by phone. Welcome back to CounterSpin, Liz OuYang. 

LIZ OUYANG: Thank you. It's unfortunate that I'm back for these reasons. 

JANINE JACKSON - HOST, COUNTERSPIN: Absolutely, absolutely. Well, when we spoke with you in November of 2018, the Trump administration was trying to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census over the vehement objection of not just immigrant advocates, but statisticians and previous census directors. The Supreme Court ultimately shot that down, though I'm reminded only by five to four, but what we're seeing now and this executive order in particular, it's just that same effort back again, right? 

LIZ OUYANG: It is. The Trump administration is using its abuse of its executive powers in a way that's even more direct, by orders to the Census Bureau to do certain things, which is just going to wind itself back in the courts again. But I think what's even appalling is just the continual attempt to try to instill fear among immigrants in completing the census. This is yet another attempt after the community successfully rallied against getting this citizenship question off the census with less than two months or three months, we are in August, September, October, left to complete the census. He tries yet again to instill fear in people in completing it. 

And what makes it outrageous, just simply outrageous, the abuse of power here, is that the Census Bureau's own experts, their own seasoned long-time employees, said in April of this year, that they were not able to, because of COVID-19, complete the census in a timely and accurate way, so that they requested that the deadline for self-completion be extended until October 31st. And then for this administration to not only, one, defy what the Supreme Court ruled in 2019, and try with directives to the Census Bureau to exclude undocumented aliens from the apportionment base, but then also to abruptly shorten the deadline from the extended one to October 31st because of the challenges of COVID-19 and then move it up to September 30th, which is less than a month and a half--approximately a month and a half away. When the Census Bureau's own people said in April, there's no way they can do an accurate census, and so they wanted the deadline for self-reporting to be extended to October 31st. And they wanted the deadline for reporting to the President, the apportionment numbers from the end of December to April 30th, 2021, that they would not have enough time to complete and get these results to the President, whoever it is following this election, by December 31st. And they requested an extension until April 30th, 2021. 

And so to blatantly ignore the Supreme Court's ruling, ignore the Census Bureau's own employees' determination that it could not be done in an accurate and an efficient way, is amazing, especially because this is a survey that is the most cited for statistics. It is a national survey. Businesses, governments, local cities, state, federal--all base information and planning based on the 2020 census. As critical  to that is redistricting. An attempt to politicize it so that people do not complete the census so that political lines can be drawn to favor one party and a complete obstruction of power and justice and all in the name of representative democracy. There's nothing more autocratic than this usurpation of power that both the Supreme Court and the people were successful in getting the citizenship question off the census. It's just outrageous. 

JANINE JACKSON - HOST, COUNTERSPIN: Well, and it sounds as though directing Commerce, which runs the census, to exclude undocumented immigrants, that's just unconstitutional, isn't it? I mean, legally it's a nonstarter. And I do want to say that that doesn't mean it won't have an impact. But there's no way that that passes constitutional muster. The constitution and the 14th amendment are pretty clear about this, aren't they? 

LIZ OUYANG: They are. It's supposed to be a count of all persons living in the States. And you can turn a blind eye, but there are more than 11 million undocumented persons living in the United States. And they're contributing to the statistics that lead to the growth of businesses, as to planning, et cetera. I mean, they're very much an integral part of this country. No--whether as essential workers, you name it, to keep this economy thriving.

And so their numbers definitely should be counted as far as planning goes. So the Constitution is very clear that it is a count of all persons living in a state. And they are definitely persons. 

JANINE JACKSON - HOST, COUNTERSPIN: It's not like they didn't think about it. You know, they had thought about it. We'd been through the three-fifths of a person thing. There was an understanding that you needed to have an accurate picture of who was in the States, regardless of their citizenship status. It's not like they didn't think about it.

LIZ OUYANG: Right. And then it goes again to accuracy. It goes to civic participation, that all persons--we're interdependent, we are interconnected.

The census is supposed to be apolitical. And there's a reason for that. We have to have reliable data. You have both Republican and Democrat businesses. You have, particularly now with healthcare, we are interdependent upon each other and our survival and our health is dependent on a collective responsibility of everybody living in this country. And not to have an accurate count, it's shooting ourselves in the foot.

Census Suppression & Why It Matters - The Daily Show with Trevor Noah  - Air Date 7-15-20

DULCÉ SLOAN - THE DAILY SHOW: The census is here and you might think, "who gives a shit, the revolution is here too." But as I learned in my last installment, the census has a lot to do with how your community is treated. 

ROBERT GROVES - 2010 CENSUS BUREAU DIRECTOR: Participating in the census, allows your community its fair share of over $800 billion in support for education, health, school lunches, highways. If you don't respond, your community is going to get cheated. 

DULCÉ SLOAN - THE DAILY SHOW: But something doesn't add up. If an accurate count is as important as Bob says it is, you'd think the states would want to make sure they get their count right, but half the states don't spend any money on the census, $0. That's the same amount of money I spent on WiFi since I moved next to a Starbucks. To find out why, I called someone doing census outreach in Georgia.

So some states don't want to be counted accurately? Explain to me what's going on here. 

DR. JEANINE ABRAMS MCLEAN: Unfortunately not all states have invested in the census. You have some states like California that have invested over $180 million, which is about $4 per person, but then on the other hand, you have the State of Texas, which is investing $0 in making sure they get a complete count

DULCÉ SLOAN - THE DAILY SHOW: So you're saying that there are places that are not trying to get the census, right. Why? 

DR. JEANINE ABRAMS MCLEAN: When the census is done, those numbers are used in a process called re-districting, which is a fancy word for redrawing voting districts all the way down to the school board level. If you're able to keep a certain type of person out of the census then you also keep them out of the redistricting process, which redraws the maps and distributes political power.

DULCÉ SLOAN - THE DAILY SHOW: Now, when you say certain people, do you mean us? 

DR. JEANINE ABRAMS MCLEAN: You know who I'm talking about. Anytime a map is unfairly drawn, the only way we have to fight it is on the basis of racial gerrymandering. And if you don't count all the races, if you don't have the complete demographic picture, then we don't have anything to stand on to fight unfair maps.

DULCÉ SLOAN - THE DAILY SHOW: A suppressed census leads to many of the problems we are seeing today, like disparities in healthcare, education and representation. 

Okay, this all sounds like it makes sense, but it also sounds like a conspiracy theory for a very good movie. Am I being paranoid? I'm not being paranoid, right? 

DR. JEANINE ABRAMS MCLEAN: You're not being paranoid Dulcé, and we have evidence to back it up. If you remember, the Trump administration tried to add a citizenship question to the census that the Supreme Court shut down. They were working with the guru of gerrymandering, Thomas Hofeller. When he died, his daughter found his hard drive and on those hard drives, there was a study out of Texas where he found that if you added a citizenship question to the census it would benefit that the Republican party and white voters. No conspiracy, data, straight facts. 

DULCÉ SLOAN - THE DAILY SHOW: You got to work so hard to be so shady. 

DR. JEANINE ABRAMS MCLEAN: There's one more thing. If you don't complete the census and you don't answer the door, the Census Bureau uses a process called imputation. If you are a black woman living in a place that is majority white and you don't respond to the census, they say, "Hey, this person might be a White guy."

DULCÉ SLOAN - THE DAILY SHOW: You're telling me if I don't turn it the census paperwork and don't fill it out online and then don't answer the door when they come to my house, because you know that I'm not answering the door, I could be a White man in the eyes of the U S government? 

DR. JEANINE ABRAMS MCLEAN: Could be.  

DULCÉ SLOAN - THE DAILY SHOW: Uh uh. The only time I don't want to be assumed to be White is when a cop show up. 

DR. JEANINE ABRAMS MCLEAN: In the same way when we talk about voter suppression, this same thing is true for census suppression. 

DULCÉ SLOAN - THE DAILY SHOW: So wait, so I have to worry about police oppression, voter suppression and census suppression too? That's too many 

"essions"

DR. JEANINE ABRAMS MCLEAN: That's what they want Dulcé. They want you to be overwhelmed so that you just throw your hands in the air and say, forget it. But we can't do that. We have to fight back. To fight voter suppression, we gotta fight census suppression. And that's why my sister Stacey Abrams started two organizations that do just that. 

DULCÉ SLOAN - THE DAILY SHOW: So when you say sister, you mean like sister [fellow black woman], or sister, sister [sibling]

DR. JEANINE ABRAMS MCLEAN: We got the same mom and dad.

DULCÉ SLOAN - THE DAILY SHOW: You're sister's Stacy Abrams?

DR. JEANINE ABRAMS MCLEAN: Yeah!

DULCÉ SLOAN - THE DAILY SHOW: Oh. then you know firsthand how important it is to count people in the State of Georgia. It was shady how to they did her.

DR. JEANINE ABRAMS MCLEAN: They're doing all of this to discourage us, but what we have to do is show them that we see them. We see that you are leaving certain communities out and stripping away their political power. And we can't let them win. 

DULCÉ SLOAN - THE DAILY SHOW: Because they wouldn't be doing all of this stuff if it wasn't important for us to take it.

DR. JEANINE ABRAMS MCLEAN: Yep. 

DULCÉ SLOAN - THE DAILY SHOW: So please y'all, take the census just to let all those shady manipulators know, we see you. 

Why The Census Matters - Another Way, by Lawrence Lessig - Air Date 1-30-20

BETH HUANG: We are working with some organizations that provide tax prep services to low income people, which happens every spring. And so we want all of those tax prep services to share information about why the census is important. We are working with lots of civic engagement organizations that knock on doors in low income communities and communities of color to make sure that everyone understands how to fill out the census and why it's important, much like a get-out-the-vote operation. 

ADAM EICHEN - HOST, A BETTER WAY: I mean, it really is almost like a get-out-the-vote operation, right? It really is almost--you have a start date, you have an end date, and you have to just go 24/7 until that ends. Right? I mean, if you've done so much get-out-the-vote, then you are... 

BETH HUANG: [Twelve years!]

ADAM EICHEN - HOST, A BETTER WAY: An election machine and it really is a similar process, right? It really is kind of a pure adrenaline rush from start to end of every additional person. I mean, as you said, that's the difference between thousands of dollars in money that basically,the people going out there, they're are really bringing money home to the community.

BETH HUANG: Totally. I mean, we are going to be knocking on doors across the state, especially in communities of color and low income communities and in Boston and in gateway cities; basically wherever the federal government redlined during the New Deal, we are going to knock on doors to make sure that people get their fair share of resources and representation in the next decade. The other groups that I think are vital to an accurate count, are the local municipal governments. People might not trust the federal government, but often they call their city counsellor because there's a pothole on their street. 

ADAM EICHEN - HOST, A BETTER WAY: Right, right, right, right, right, right. So sort of retail 

BETH HUANG: politics. 

Totally. So we're relying on government officials who have the trust of communities because they have provided decent services and have listened to people. So those are the many tracks of what I call census land. We're all in it together to get a complete count.

ADAM EICHEN - HOST, A BETTER WAY: It is also one of the few times--right, Beth? I know your work--that you're actually really on the same side as state house leaders, because state politicians, they, well, not all, but at least most of them, do want an accurate count because it makes their job easier. 

Right. 

BETH HUANG: There's no state legislator in Massachusetts that wants to raise taxes because they didn't get enough funding from the federal government. That seems extremely unpopular. So it is much easier to invest on the front end in an accurate count that allows them to make the public policy decisions that are accurate and reflective of who actually lives in Massachusetts. 

ADAM EICHEN - HOST, A BETTER WAY: There are States though, like Texas, that had allocated no state money whatsoever to ensure an accurate count. So why they're doing that, we can argue about. But I will just say that not every state government is on the same track as you are. It's certainly clear that across the country, there is real contention over who is fit to count as a member of this American community. 

BETH HUANG: That's right. 

ADAM EICHEN - HOST, A BETTER WAY: So I want a story. I want something from you in terms of, has there been a moment so far that you've been  doing the census work, where you have gotten someone who may not be willing to fill out the census form? 

BETH HUANG: Oh, yeah, there's so much skepticism about the federal government, and for good reason, right? The federal government is using the public charge rule to make people choose between the security of their immigration status and any benefits that they need, like SNAP and other public benefits that they need.

The federal government is raiding workplaces in the South in particular. There are lots of reasons right now not to trust the federal government. 

But what I think is really impactful is when we break down all of the ways that federal services and funding impact our communities. And basically whenever we talk about the impact of the community development block grant on affordable housing and Section VIII, people really perk up because the housing crisis in greater Boston and across the state have gotten so bad that people will take almost any action that they need to, within reason, to help get more resources for affordable housing.

ADAM EICHEN - HOST, A BETTER WAY: So what you're saying, just to summarize this, you're saying that you've actually been in situations where there are people who are basically like, no, I'm not filling it out. 

BETH HUANG: Right. 

ADAM EICHEN - HOST, A BETTER WAY: If you actually articulate the kind of substantive ends of, like, this is going to, by filling this out, you will make it more likely that money will be routed to this particular purpose in the community.

BETH HUANG: Yeah. 

ADAM EICHEN - HOST, A BETTER WAY: That's enough in some respects to, if not assuasion--that's not to say that there's not reason to be fearful--but to say that the risk may be worth it. Well, I mean, there's not a risk, right? You have to articulate there isn't a risk because your information is not going to be shared, but I guess it just makes it easier for them to understand that.

BETH HUANG: Right. The two most useful things that I can share with people is, the way that federal funding directly impacts their daily lives. I think people care the most about housing, healthcare, education, and transportation. Unsurprisingly, those are the things that people depend on every day. 

And then the second major thing that tends to help people think about the census is that your individual data is confidential. Your individual level data will not be shared with your landlord. It will not be shared with your employer. It will not be shared, with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It will not be shared with your local police department. 

ADAM EICHEN - HOST, A BETTER WAY: What would be a successful year for you, Beth? I mean, what would a successful year of working on the census to ensure an accurate count look like? 

BETH HUANG: I think what a successful 2020 census means for a group like the Massachusetts Voter Table or MassCounts means is that people have stronger relationships within their communities. They have a better assessment about what are the issues that their communities really care about. It's so clear to me after doing dozens or possibly hundreds of these mini census talks to hundreds, if not thousands of people, that people care so much about their community's resources and representation. People so badly want to be reflected in the story of this country and the story of their community. And that the census is, really, an opportunity to share why their community matters so much, and what resources and representation means to them. So that's the touchy-feely version of it. 

ADAM EICHEN - HOST, A BETTER WAY: But that's about power. You actually see this as like in the process of being enumerated and you see the potential for community power. 

BETH HUANG: Right. People really want to be seen, people really want to be heard. Our goal is to convince them that being counted is part of being seen and heard. And to seize their opportunity to take power.

 In addition to an accurate count, we want people's relationships with their neighbors, with people in their congregations, with people who also receive services at the same nonprofits, people who are parents of kids in public schools or in HeadStart, to have a closer set of relationships with each other. Our people are our power. And so when our people are more connected around a shared set of goals and a shared set of issues, then we have that much power moving into the next decade. And that's what a successful 2020 community mobilization really means to us. 

ADAM EICHEN - HOST, A BETTER WAY: And in addition to that, ensuring the highest possible count as possible. The census, certainly most people think it's wonky.  And it is. And I think this conversation has been really into the nitty gritty of this stuff.

But I think like that really kind of underscores the power  here, right? It is that it really is when you're counted, it's a form of power. I mean, I keep saying that, but this, this really is just about who has power --as all these democracy reforms that we talked about on this podcast are, whether it's voting rights, whether it's money and politics, whether it's gerrymandering, whether or not it's an accurate census, it's all about power.

It's all about whose voice matters in our democracy.

Summary

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with On the Media discussing the long-held plan to destroy and privatize the Post Office. The Real News highlighted the history of the Post Office as a source of union power and upward mobility for working-class people, especially many Black people. Democracy Now discussed the politicization of the Post Office. Planet Money told the history of the political decisions that have put the Post Office in the state it's in. Then, after our activism segment, Counterspin discussed the sabotage of the census. The Daily Show explained census suppression and why it matters. And finally, Another Way drew the connection between the census and political power. 

Members will be hearing more on the history of the libertarian plan to privatize the Post Office, the history of the relationship between Black people and the Post Office and the investigation into Postmaster General Lewis Dejoy for a violation of campaign finance laws. To hear that and all of our bonus content, sign up to support the show at  bestoftheleft.com/support. And now we'll hear from you.

White people are tired of living up to the myth - Scott from Arizona

CALLER: SCOTT FROM ARIZONA: Hi, this is Scott Williams. I'm in Phoenix, Arizona.

 I wanted to respond to the myth issue. And I think of another way to look at this is: Americans, white America is tired of living up to the myth. Americans don't want to act like we care about "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness," that we care about equal justice for all.

We don't care about that. And I think that's what the whole, being PC and tired of that. I think that's what the general attraction of Donald Trump is, because he basically says, you know what? We don't have to conform to that myth. We can be exactly who we are.

This is the world that we're in. And, it's not so much that the myth isn't sufficient, you know, it doesn't make us feel good anymore. It's that, we're  tired of it. And as an African American, I'm just waiting on white folks to say, you know what? I'm tired of this. I'm tired of protest. I'm tired of kneeling. Don't want to hear it. They're booing, they're already public opinion switching. We're tired of it. They don't want to deal with it. When we move into their neighborhoods, they move out. When we go to their schools, they move out. We act like everything's equal, but they know our schools don't have the same facilities that they have.

The myth is it's not that we're tired of... it's not good enough anymore. We're just tired of putting on the facade. And we, as black folks have known that this [is a] facade. Get the GI bill, we don't get it. Get social security, we don't get it. You get VA FHA, subsidized loan, we don't get it. And just like what Bernie Sanders says, we get free colleges; we know we won't get it. Just like she said, you can get debt forgiveness; we know we won't get it. 

So I appreciate people seeing George Floyd get killed, but I saw  Rodney King get injured 30 years ago. And nothing has changed.

Final comments on the importance of a racial understanding of economic policy and contrasting two foundational myth

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Thanks for listening everyone. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show. Thanks to the monosyllabic transcriptionist trio, Ben, Dan and Ken, for their volunteer work helping put our transcripts together. Speaking of which, I was pretty excited this week when I saw the very first ever tweet using one of our transcripts to highlight it a quote from the show and spread the word about it to their followers. So, exactly as predicted, there's a million things that you can do with a transcript. That's one of them. So, if you want to share portions of the show, take note. That's one way to do it. Thanks also to Amanda Hoffman for all her work on our social media outlets and activism segments. And thanks to all those who called into the voicemail line. If you'd like to leave comment or question of your own to be played on the show, you can send us a voice memo by email or simply record a message at (202) 999-3991.

We just heard from Scott, and I wanted to use that as a jumping-off point to just reemphasize something that probably can't be said enough that Scott's perspective, while entirely legitimate and anchored in horrible history, is exactly the reason why those who either have or tend to want to focus on a purely economic or purely class-based perspective on progressive policies are missing something incredibly important. 

We need an intersectional perspective on economic issues for exactly the reason that Scott points out because basically if you don't, we know what's going to happen. And so maybe it's only within the last 10 or 20 years that that perspective has gained steam and that people with that perspective are the ones pushing for these sorts of policy changes, but that needs to be part and parcel of the discussion always. That needs to be the through line: that economic and class issues need to be inextricably intertwined with an understanding of the race dynamic so that future policies don't follow the same pattern as ones have in the past. So, Scott's doubt about our ability to do that is incredibly well-founded, and it is up to people like us pushing for policy changes to keep that history in mind and prevent ourselves from repeating it. 

The other thing you reminded me of is the fact that Black people have always been the biggest believers in the American ideal, you know, they've always had the most to gain from it. So, holding a bunch of White people to their own standard of equality for all plays exactly into everything that Black people want for themselves: freedom and equality and so forth. But of course, it stands to reason then that White people on the other end of that spectrum tend to have the least to gain from the US living up to its ideal. So, it's kind of understandable why they drag their feet a bit. Of course, I hasten to point out that White people may not have much to gain from helping establish a free and equal society other than repairing the gaping hole in their souls caused by this deeply buried yet very real understanding that their relative success  has been built at least to some degree on the oppression of others and not just on their own individual hard work, as they want to believe. They know it's true. Many of them will refuse to admit it, but they know it's true, and that eats away at a person's soul over time, and if we helped create a fair and equal society we would all be repaired for that. 

And then, just one last quick comment on Scott's message, which is that I completely agree that there is a portion of White people in America who feel exactly as Scott was saying, that they feel constrained by what they think of as purely political correctness, and they want to be freed from that.  I've heard stories of people who went to the Trump inauguration, and on the plane ride home they were speaking really openly about how excited they were about the Trump presidency, being overheard by a strong Hillary Clinton supporter, unbeknownst to them. So, they were speaking very freely and just talking about how suddenly free they felt. They'd been constrained all this time, and now they finally feel like they can say exactly what they want. And I feel like those are the kinds of people that Scott is referring to. 

So, I completely agree those people are there, but that's not everyone. It really isn't all White people  acting that way. A step up from that, you 've got the moderates who, just referring to the Black Lives Matter protest, are the ones who are going to support the cause, but often not support the tactics. And  they've been around forever. They've they've always been part of the fabric of society, in favor of progress but really having no good advice on how to make it happen, but lots of denigration of the people who are taking action saying, No, no, no, no, you're, you're doing it wrong. The letter from a Birmingham jail from Martin Luther King,Jr. of course is one of the most famous examples of calling out those people. And then there's the group that I try to be part of myself, which is those who will not be swayed from the cause and understand that Black liberation, for instance, as one progressive goal, that Black liberation and racial equality are not contingent on the people demanding equality doing it in just the right way and being polite and catering to the needs and the emotional state of White people. I will not be swayed from that cause even if there are tactics used that I don't agree with. That is not enough to sway me from that. 

So, yeah, there are plenty of people who match Scott's description. It is our job to pull as many as we can into the other categories, those who support the progressive causes for justice and especially bringing them into the camp of people who will support that cause even when possibly disagreeing with some tactics being used. 

And now finally, I want to wrap up with another example of a powerful cultural myth. I found this one by accident. I watched a documentary called Trophy, just like one weird thought after another, one little reference made me think, you know what? I 'm finally going to watch this film. I meant to watch it a couple of years ago. It's about big game hunting. And I thought, this is totally different than what I've been focusing on, so it'll be a nice sort of mental reprieve to just learn about something interesting, but in a totally different way.  So, there are a lot of hunters explaining their passion for hunting, and people who oppose hunting. It's a very well done and balanced documentary that explains the dynamics at play in big game hunting. 

My takeaway is that it's basically people LARPing. If you're not familiar with LARPing, I think one of the best ways to learn about it is to watch the episode of Bob's Burgers, "Zero LARP 30" in which they do a whole lot of LARPing. What it stands for is live action role playing. And so people who hunt basically are LARPing Teddy Roosevelt. They don't have to go hunting. They don't have to tame nature, but they just like to pretend. So, they want to do some role playing and go kill some animals because it helps them fulfill that fantasy. 

So anyway, in that documentary, there is this guy who is followed throughout who lays out one of the oldest and most impactful myths of the Western world, I think:

PHILIP GLASS - TROPHY: You know, the Bible says He gave man dominion over all the animals, and that dominion comes with a responsibility, but it also means it's the right to use.  And so I think that is a big part of it. It's a big part of appreciating God's creation and some people think, well, how can you go out and shoot God's creation? That's a totally false statement. False point of view. God said, we have dominion over the animals. That means we can do what we choose with them. It's a very powerful statement that's in the Bible. 

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: So I think most people listening probably heard that in one form or another, man has dominion over the nature and animals and all of that.  I just wanted to highlight something that really struck us, Amanda and I, when we were reading Heartbeat of Wounded Knee, sort of  the answer to "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee," making the argument that Native people are not actually gone. We are still here. Our culture is active and evolving as we speak.  There's this  little passage I want to read for you that is such a stark contrast to the christian myths that we're so familiar with, generally speaking, that reframes humanity's position in the world in a really profound way. So, a little bit of passage here, it reads: 

Most Indians do not see themselves as merely the first in a long series of arrivals to North America. They see themselves as indigenous, and the belief in tribal indigineity is crucial to understanding modern Indian realities. The rhetorical stance that Indians are merely one group of travelers with no greater stake than any other clashes with Indian's cultural understanding that we have always been here and that our control over our place in this world, not to mention our control over the narrative and history of that place, has been deeply and unjust eroded. 

The Kiawah, for example, believe that they came into the world one-by-one through a hollow log and that a pregnant woman tried to get through, got stuck, and that's why the Kiawah are a small tribe. The Dinei or Navajo believe they traveled from the center of the earth through a series of worlds until they reached this one, arriving in the Dinei homeland which was bounded, then as now, by four sacred mountains. Many tribes have stories about emerging from the earth. They are bottom-up tribes. Others, like mine, are more top-down. We believe the creator made the heavens and the earth and then placed or draped various handiworks across it. Last of all, after the animals, we people were set down like a very small, final piece being placed in a very large diorama. And it bears mentioning that, in our cosmology, we are the most immature of all creation, having been made last, and that, as such, we have the least tenure upon the land. 

So, boy, what a difference a little change in perspective might make. If you go from believing that you've been placed in total dominance over everything versus believing that you have been placed last and therefore are the most immature and have the least control over everything, it might make you change some of your actions. I've been aware for a long time about the christian belief in dominance and have had a feeling like that might have led to some problems that we have. But I hadn't heard a distinct counternarrative as stark as that one, so I just wanted to share that.

So, as always, keep the comments coming in at (202) 999-3991. That is going to be it for today. Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to those who support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships@bestofthelleft.com/support. That is absolutely how the program survives. Of course, everyone can support the show just by telling everyone you know about it and leaving us glowing reviews on Apple podcasts and Facebook to help others find the show. 

For details on the show itself, including links to all of the sources and music used in this and every episode, all that information can always be found in the show notes on the blog and likely right on the device you're using to listen. So, coming to you from far outside the conventional wisdom of Washington, DC, my name is Jay, and this has been the Best of the Left podcast coming to you twice weekly thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show from bestoftheleft.com.

 


Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
Sign up for activism updates