by Bob Barr
Marches, demonstrations and even riots have been sweeping cities across the country. Protesters have literally taken over a sector of downtown Seattle. Calls to “defund the police” are being heard even in the halls of the Congress. Some health experts are predicting a resurgence of COVID-19. Amidst all this chaos the U.S. Postal Service is begging Congress to give it another bailout. Congress should respond to this request with a resounding “NO.”
The United States Postal Service (USPS) has suffered from well-documented structural problems for years; long before the coronavirus pandemic hit early this year. However, in recognition of the difficulties the Postal Service faced along with almost every other business sector hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, it received $10 billion as part of the CARES Act. For any well-run business, that should have sufficed to get it over the pandemic hump. Not for the folks at the USPS.
Now, just a few months after that huge cash infusion, the Postal Service is coming back begging for another bailout; this time for a whopping $25 billion. In the absence of meaningful structural reforms to the failed business model under which the USPS long has operated, Congress should not even consider granting this request.
For one thing, in light of recent jobs numbers and other signs that the economy already is bouncing back, there may be no need to pass the most recent proposed COVID-19 “stimulus” package, the HEROES Act. Even aside from this broader perspective, however, it is clear that giving the USPS as it currently is structured more taxpayer money, would be throwing good money after bad. The Service needs reform – major structural reform – not a bailout.
The Postal Service operates according to a broken business model. It has lost billions for more than a decade and will continue to lose billions endlessly as it currently is configured. Its operational losses are continuing to increase, yet its leadership is not proposing any reforms. They are asking for debt forgiveness while facing a huge and increasingly negative balance sheet. The Service hides the revenues it loses on package deliveries by calling them “institutional costs;” it increases fees for First Class mail and for mass mailings. None of these steps have stemmed the fiscal hemorrhaging.
It is hardly a winning argument to say that giving money to the U. S. Postal Service is only fair because without such largesse it is forced to operate as a government-run service at a disadvantage in competition with private sector delivery businesses. Private sector delivery services are profitable and strong (especially in today’s economy) because of how they are structured, how they operate, and perhaps most important, how they respond to changes in the marketplace. Compared to companies like UPS and FedEx, the USPS is the Pony Express.
Numerous reforms have been recommended but are routinely ignored. The Department of Treasury conducted a comprehensive study of the USPS and recommended substantial changes. President Trump has called the USPS a “joke” and has demanded reforms. A 2018 White House Task Force issued recommendations, but the Postal Service failed to act on any of them. Congressional Democrats labeled the reforms “privatization” — the kiss of death for Democrat Party members of Congress and voters.
On April 30, 2019 the House Committee on Oversight and Reform held a hearing titled, “The Financial Condition of the Postal Service,” at which Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), now President Trump’s Chief of Staff, made a number of strong statements in support of reform measures. His suggestions for meaningful reform were, of course, summarily rebuffed by Democrats on the Committee. What did emerge from the hearing is that the Postal Service faces a $125 billion gap but has no plan to restructure itself now or in the future.
Adding insult to injury, at the same time that the USPS is demanding debt forgiveness, it seeks to have its retirees dumped into Medicare, so the taxpayers at large pick up the huge tab for health care benefits the Service promised its retirees.
The reforms must be real, and they must deal not only with the structure of the USPS, but also with the manner by which federal monies are used to disrupt market forces throughout the package delivery sector. Reform of the Postal Service is essential, and the time to do so is now, but not disguised as pandemic stimulus.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s 7th District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003 and served as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia from 1986 to 1990. He now serves as President of the Law Enforcement Education Foundation based in Atlanta, Georgia.
The Fed Overreaches With Real-Time Payment Systems
By Bob Barr
December 16, 20197:00 AM ET
As a former member of Congress who served eight years on the Financial Services Committee, I have long been concerned with the lack of transparency and unchecked authority enjoyed by the Federal Reserve System, when it comes to the manner by which it “manages” our nation’s financial system. The “Fed” was created by statute more than a century ago and has become the de facto “Central Bank of the United States,” largely immune from the checks and balances that to a large degree keep Congress and presidents accountable to voters.
This never has been a healthy state of affairs, and if anything, may be worsening.
In what is an admission both startling and frightening in its implications, in recent congressional testimony the Fed as much as admitted its decisions have in fact damaged our economy. Earlier this month, the Fed testified before Congress that its poor oversight and supervisory practices over the banking industry were a likely reason the Fed found it necessary to provide market liquidity for the first time since the financial crisis a decade ago.
Fed Vice Chair Randal Quarles, appearing before the House Financial Services Committee said, “We have identified some areas where our existing supervision of the regulatory framework … may have created some incentives that were contributors.” He admitted to lawmakers that decisions by the Fed, “were probably not the decisive contributors, but they were contributors, and I think we need to examine them.” If history is any guide, the rest of us should best not hold our breath waiting for the Fed to actually do something.
The concern here is not one that should be viewed through the partisan lens by which virtually every issue coming before today’s Congress is considered.
The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office recently concluded that some of the Fed’s self-styled “guidance” actually is “designed to implement, interpret, or prescribe law or policy.” Stripped of its veneer of bureaucratese, the GAO has put its finger on a serious problem – the Federal Reserve is inventing its own rules. And in so doing, extending even further its power over the financial sector.
A perfect example of this type of power grab is a plan by the Fed to create a national “real-time payment system.” In financial parlance, “real-time payments” refers to banking actions that allow for financial transactions to be processed immediately, rather than the next business day as has been the practice for decades. The private banking sector – actually following earlier Fed directive – has been busy over the past biennium implementing an RTP system, which is anticipated to connect 100 percent of banking transactions by the end of this year.
Rather than simply let the private banking sector continue to implement a workable, market-based real-time payment system, the Fed, on its own and contrary to federal law, is inserting itself arrogantly into this process – moving not to compete with, but to override private sector initiatives.
As the Competitive Enterprise Institute has pointed out, the 1980 Monetary Control Act provides that the Fed may launch its own payment services only if “the service is one that other providers alone cannot be expected to provide with reasonable effectiveness, scope, and equity.”
Clearly, the private banking sector is providing an effective, fair and comprehensive real-time payment system. Yet, despite being explicitly prohibited from overriding that process, the Fed continues moving forward with its own RTP initiative. When Congress questioned this action, the Fed simply has refused to answer whether it will ensure its RTP system will be fully interoperable with that of the private sector.
Here again, when the fog is waved away, this is yet another ploy by the Fed to bulldoze the private sector and create a monopoly for itself. It can do this thanks to the power it wields to “manage” the nation’s economy and finances by forcing private sector financial institutions to play only by its rules.
Efficiency and innovation – characteristics of the private sector but rarely the government – will be the victims if the Fed is permitted to force its own, one-size-fits-all real-time payment system onto all federally-regulated financial institutions. It is important that the Congress step up and do what it rarely does – engage the Fed in meaningful oversight and follow up. This should be something on which Democrats and Republicans can agree, even if for different reasons.
Trump’s Labor Department Should Let Big Tech Off The Hook For Obama-Era Offenses
By Bob Barr
December 09, 20199:45 AM ET
The Trump administration has performed admirably in reducing the regulatory red tape that has strangled American businesses and limited our country’s competitiveness. But for reasons not entirely clear, the Department of Labor has lagged behind other agencies in this regard.
One clear example is the way the department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has continued unnecessary and counterproductive Obama-era litigation against tech companies for alleged discriminatory wage and hiring practices.
To some extent, the Labor Department’s hesitancy to retreat from a series of lawsuits against Google, Oracle, and other tech giants initiated by the prior administration can be explained by President Trump’s first Labor Secretary Alex Acosta’s cozy relationship with the Washington establishment. Thankfully, Acosta’s replacement, Eugene Scalia, son of former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who took over the reins at the sprawling bureaucracy at the end of September, is no friend of the nanny state.
OFCCP is the Great Society-era agency established to ensure private companies that contract with Uncle Sam do so without discriminatory hiring, employment or wage practices. Over the decades, this agency has taken steps to reform federal contracting policies in this regard. But its overall record has been mixed, especially in recent years.
In a 2017 study, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce agreed that the OFCCP’s mission to ensure discriminatory-free practices by corporate partners was “worthy.” At the same time, however, the report set forth in extensive detail that the OFCCP in recent years had become enamored of faulty, statistics-based challenges to companies engaged in federal contracts and had repeatedly abused its powerful remedy of threatening to debar companies alleged to engage in statistical discrimination.
A number of lawsuits reflecting this abusive approach to regulatory enforcement were filed against large tech companies in the waning months of the Obama administration. Palantir Technologies was hit with a federal lawsuit in September 2016; alleging it had engaged in unlawful hiring practices. This was followed three months later, in early January 2017, when the Department of Labor sued Google and then, just two days before President Trump was sworn in, Oracle.
In these cases, and others, the Labor Department’s contract compliance arm appears to have relied on raw statistical evidence that the companies discriminated in hiring and wage policies. This is a flawed legal strategy that fails to consider the myriad other relevant and legitimate factors employed by companies — especially those as large as Google or Oracle — in evaluating applicants and employees for jobs and wages.
Additionally, the OFCCP has a habit of hitting targeted companies with unreasonable and hugely expensive document requests, and consistently refusing to engage in good-faith efforts to resolve disagreements short of protracted litigation.
Despite risking regulatory retaliation by the government, one company being challenged by OFCCP — Oracle — has gone on the offense. Just last month, for example, the company sued the Labor Department in federal court; alleging the OFCCP was engaged in long-running abuse of its powers, to such a degree that the company’s constitutional rights had been violated.
That a company would be forced into taking such a drastic and potentially costly measure, demonstrates how far OFCCP and its parent Department have strayed from the declared goal of working with private companies doing business with the federal government to ensure non-discrimination in corporate practices. Its litigation-based strategy illustrates that the Labor Department instead has become — like many federal agencies — a regulatory bully searching for ways to punish companies.
The agency’s new director, Craig Leen, who has ties to former Acosta, has sent the corporate world mixed signals in this regard. In congressional testimony just three months ago, on Sept. 19, Leen indicated in broad terms support for transparent and cooperative enforcement policies. At the same time, however, he praised the use of “statistical analyses” as a legal tool to establish “proof of a pattern or practice of discrimination.”
Hopefully, Leen’s two bosses — Donald Trump and Eugene Scalia — will step in and make sure that the small but powerful agency he heads gets on board the administration’s drive to actually reduce federal regulatory burdens, and ensure compliance with the law and our Constitution in a manner far more fair and productive than has been the case in recent years.
DECEMBER 11, 2019
A Snowflake’s Christmas Story
12/11/2019 12:01:00 AM – Bob Barr
In the 36-years since Bob Clark’s A Christmas Story first appeared on the big screen, the movie has become as much a part of the Christmas season as Santa himself. More than just a charming holiday movie, A Christmas Story captures a time in America where kids could be kids; free to roam, daydream, tussle, and yes, even nearly lose an eye, without them (or their parents) being thrown into handcuffs or hauled in front of a family court magistrate. But no longer.
Today’s child-rearing environment, dominated by a combination of helicopter parents and overzealous nanny staters, allows no such freedom or independence for kids. From the earliest ages, today’s children are thrust into government-run schools where they’re put through horrific “school shooting drills.” They are told global warming will render the planet unhabitable by the time they reach adulthood. And, as for burning off this nervous energy? Not a chance. Recess, if not already eliminated, has dwindled in many school districts to just 15 minutes of rigidly structured time, with traditional games like tag and dodgeball banned for being “too mean.”
Of course, today’s snowflake culture does not get any easier for kids outside the school walls. Killjoy government officials have literally made trick-or-treating a crime for kids over a certain age, and similarly have outlawed throwing snowballs. Even make believe is potentially a criminal act in public. Recently, one Minnesota child was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct for his fantasy adventures in a park, when busybody citizens caused a stir online with irrational panic about a “masked predator.” The adult idiocy prompted police to investigate; and instead of dismissing the charges as a patently absurd reaction of adults to the imagination of a shy child, the judge gave him 10 hours of chores.
One must ask to what end this snowflake culture serves? Who are they protecting when playing in the woods results in an expensive and traumatizing legal mishap, or a snowball fight among friends can land kids in jail? The helicopter parents’ and nanny staters’ obsession with a one-size-fits-all prototype for how all children should act, is breaking children in order to fit them into this mold, and punishing them with adult-size penalties when they rebel.
Children today are suspended from school for making finger guns on the playground. In this environment, little Ralphie Parker’s boyhood fascination with the Red Ryder air rifle would not only have him expelled, but also pumped full of Adderall and enrolled in mandated counseling to work out his violent, “toxic masculinity.”
There is some small relief in seeing that some adults are raising the alarm about the extreme emotional trauma caused by this asinine behavior; questioning the long-term harm of mass shooting drills or telling kids the world is going to end if they don’t skip school to protest Republicans. But what about the rest of the rules, regulations, and processes designed to inhibit the natural behaviors of adolescence? Do these people really think there won’t be long-term consequences to this artificial, and largely politically motivated behavior manipulation? Or is that precisely their goal?
Confounding in stupidity as these examples may be, it is frightening to think they represent only those events actually making the news; meaning, they barely scratch the surface of a much broader and deeper social trend. And, while some of us may guffaw at the failures of parents, police and government officials in the anecdotal stories at hand, connecting the dots among them creates a disturbing picture of an American society losing its quintessential grit in favor of some warped utopia of adolescence in America. Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel Brave New World seems to have arrived at last, 87 years after its publication.
Is it any wonder millennial adults today are utterly incapable of surviving in a workplace that does not offer them constant validation and safe spaces? In freeing them of any supposed emotional or physical “danger” during early adulthood and adolescence, they fail to develop natural defenses to challenges and unpleasantness that life presents to all of us. They are destined to go through life like Ralphie’s little brother, Randy; bundled from head to toe, and barely able to move with the layers of protection wrapped around them.
In today’s society, snowflakes would never allow the Parkers to survive. They would rather see Ralphie dragged to Drag Queen Story Hour than allowed to spend his time playfighting Black Bart in the back yard. Ralphie’s dad – whose prized possession was a ridiculous, schlocky lamp in the shape of a stocking-covered female leg – would find himself vilified by the #metoo movement and run out of town.
If produced according to today’s insipid snowflake criteria, A Christmas Story would be a complete bore; robbed of all the magic and joy that made it a timeless holiday staple. Which, come to think of it, is exactly what snowflakes are doing with real childhood.
The Daily Caller
By Bob Barr
Monday, November 25, 2019
Now that one phase of the impeachment process is finished — sort of — the question is, where are we? Has the needle moved? Are we closer to the goal? Where do we now go?
In every sense that means anything of substance, we are right back where we started many weeks ago. We have come full circle.
The sum total of what we have learned can be summarized in one half dozen points:
• The Washington Establishment — especially that ensconced in the Department of State, and often referred to (not without good reason) as “Foggy Bottom” — dislikes President Trump with an animosity bordering on hatred.
• The president disdains the Washington Establishment, most notably those careerists at the Department of State, who regularly exhibit a predisposition in favor of the foreign countries to which they are or have been assigned rather than to the country they are sworn to serve.
• California Rep. Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, is the 21st century version of the ancient philosopher Diogenes, who was doomed to search vainly with his lantern for an “honest man,” though Schiff’s vain search for an “impeachable offense” lacks the aid even of a lantern.
• The ratio between opinions, presumptions, conclusions and inferences on the one hand, and factual evidence adduced during the two weeks of hearings and a dozen or so witnesses, is a mathematical nullity, as division by zero is not calculable. Zero being the number of actual fact-based pieces of evidence, related by witnesses purporting to establish a “quid pro quo” that Trump sought to force Ukraine’s president to investigate a “political rival” of Trump’s in return for supplying military assistance to that corruption-infested country.
• The impeachment process as played out thus far, is 100 percent partisan; with not a single witness allowed to be called by the minority party.
• Impeaching a president of the United States based on focus-grouping words and phrases designed to convey criminality is a really bad idea. It’s far more likely to sow confusion and discredit rather than confidence in its purveyors.
So where are we, now that we are back at square one; not having passed “Go” and not even been able to collect our $200? It is difficult to say with any degree of confidence.
Remember, the “Inquiry of Impeachment,” passed in October by Democrats in the House without a single Republican vote, did not establish a clear path to an end, as was the case in 1998 when the House impeachment President Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice.
Instead, Pelosi opted for a vague, multi-landed roadmap with six different avenues demarcated — the Intelligence Committee, the Financial Services Committee, the Ways and Means Committee, the Oversight and Reform Committee, the Foreign Affairs Committee, and last, but certainly not least the only House committee with actual, rule-based jurisdiction regarding impeachment, the Judiciary Committee.
At this point, all we know for certain is that the Intelligence Committee has held hearings designed to elicit evidence of an impeachable offense. We do not know if this committee is finished, or intends to hold additional — and equally unrevealing — hearings. We have not been informed if this committee is ready to turn over its “findings” — whatever they might be — to the Judiciary Committee. And we have no knowledge of what any of the other five committees with a “piece of the action” have done in similar regard, or what they might do moving forward, if anything.
For a House majority which two months ago declared itself fully ready to launch the most solemn and serious action capable of being undertaken pursuant to our Constitution — removing an elected president — this is a sorry, and embarrassing position in which Speaker Pelosi finds herself. And it promises not get any better if and when the venue shifts to the Senate, where the GOP holds the reins of power.
Despite recent indications by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that the upper chamber would hold a trial on whatever the House might send over if labeled “Article(s) of Impeachment,” South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham has advanced a proposal that a House resolution lacking any substantive, precedential or procedural characteristics of a legitimate impeachment process, is not worthy of a Senate impeachment trial, and should be dismissed summarily by simple majority vote.
Any way one looks at where we are “at this point in time,” the fate of the exercise so piously undertaken by House Democrats, is uncertain even if they complete their desired task of impeaching President Trump on something; on anything.
The famous bard, William Shakespeare, wrote four centuries ago in the tragedy King Lear, that “the wheel is come full circle.” So has now the impeachment wheel come “full circle.” and the results are just as theatrical.
So-Called ‘Swatting’ Is On The Rise; That’s A Bad Omen When It Comes To Red Flag Laws
FORMER REP. BOB BARR
The 15-year history of “swatting” should be borne in mind as several states and the federal government accelerate the push for “red flag laws,” also known as “emergency risk protection orders.”
It was in 2004 that a new and potentially deadly phenomenon appeared on the American legal landscape. That was the year a 14-year old boy, upset over being spurned in his sexual advances toward a girl, called in a false crime report designed to dispatch a SWAT team to the girl’s family’s home. Since then, there has been a surge in the number of cases in which calls or internet communications to law enforcement units claim that serious — but false — circumstances are about to unfold or have just taken place, which therefore requires immediate and serious law enforcement response against the “swatter’s” targeted victim.
The majority of swatting incidents thankfully have not resulted in serious injury or death, but there have been tragic exceptions. In one extreme swatting case in 2017 in Wichita, Kansas, for example, an innocent man was shot dead by a SWAT team responding to a false call from an irate “Call of Duty” player. The case spawned criminal charges against the alleged swatter that have yet to be resolved, but not charges against the police. Other cases have resulted in civilians and police officers being shot as a result of such surprise raids on the homes of unsuspecting victims.
Accurate figures on the number of swatting cases occurring each year are difficult to come by, especially since many jurisdictions, including the federal government, do not have explicit “anti-swatting” laws (such measures have been introduced in the Congress, but none has thus far made it to a president’s desk for signature). However, the number of such cases is estimated to be at least in the many hundreds each year.
The number of these cases is not likely to decrease anytime soon. This is because of the availability of increasingly sophisticated apps with which pranksters and evildoers can scour databases to obtain identifying information on victims to target. Moreover, improved and sophisticated technology allowing swatters to disguise the locations from which they make their calls and to hide other potentially identifying evidence from the authorities, continues to be available on the open as well as the dark web.
Even as police departments grapple with the already serious problem of swatting, another and similar potential problem looms. There is the distinct possibility that red flag gun confiscation orders that have been adopted in a number of states since the February 2018 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, will be abused by disgruntled family members, paramours, or others by making false or exaggerated allegations against a firearms owner who then becomes the target of a surprise police raid to seize his firearms.
While red flag laws incorporate measures intended to guard against the type of malicious pranksters that have caused the surge in swatting incidents, the laws allow for gun confiscation orders to be issued without notice to the intended targets, leading to surprise raids; also, the evidence required for the orders to be granted is troublingly vague in virtually every instance, and can be as easily abused as lawfully employed.
When swatters call in false information to police, they allege imminent and serious incidents, such as bomb threats, murder or armed hostage-taking, clearly designed to result not in routine dispatch of blue-uniformed officers, but rather heavily armed SWAT squads of the type today maintained by virtually every police department in the country. This same scenario will likely occur also when executing many red flag orders, which by their express terms apply to circumstances involving firearms and persons alleged to pose a serious risk to themselves or others.
For legislators thinking about enacting red flag laws, the swatting phenomenon should serve as more of a “red flag” than it has thus far.
Bob Barr (@BobBarr) represented Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He currently serves as president and CEO of the Law Enforcement Education Foundation.