By Holly Wilson
On Tuesday, February 7th, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has scheduled a hearing on H.R. 756 – the Postal Reform Act of 2017. Unfortunately, while well intentioned – this bill will not be enough to fix some of the most significant problems of mismanagement and corruption evidenced at the US Postal Service.
First, the bill allows USPS to raise postal rates without going through the Postal Regulatory rate review process, despite the fact that the USPS actually generates significant profits in this core area of service already. Essentially allowing a rate hike similar to a tax on consumers without proper authority. For the past 50 years the postal service has abided by their postal rate review process. This should not change now.
Second, as we’ve written before, USPS has attempted ventures into new areas of service such as food and parcel delivery that have proven to be costly and ineffective. The postal service simply does not have the necessary resources to efficiently provide these services and, as a result, they spend more than they take in to do jobs that the private sector already does.
Now, the House wants to encourage the USPS to continue and expand their pursuit of new ventures by creating a new position in the agency - Chief Innovation Officer. Rather than expanding these failing programs and further subsidizing them to compete with the private sector we should require that the USPS stay true to their constitutionally chartered mission of mail delivery.
Furthermore, H.R. 756 does not establish mail performance mandates for core services. Such standards are desperately needed. As USPS has lost its focus and expanded services outside of their core mission to deliver the mail, delivery standards have increasingly worsened. There must be accountability here.
Finally, the bill provides for the establishment of five Postal Service Governors – all presidentially appointed with the advice and consent of the Senate. While certainly an attempt to provide oversight, the bill does not sufficiently make clear the Board’s authority to prevent agency leaders from making irresponsible decisions, potentially making this Board completely ineffective.
While H.R. 756 is an attempt to require accountability and efficiency from the USPS it, unfortunately, misses the mark in a few areas. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee should revisit these problem areas before moving the legislation forward for a vote. To be effective, any postal reform bill should require the postal service to stay true to their constitutionally chartered mission, abide by their own postal rate review process, and demonstrate fiscally responsible decision-making with appropriate authority delegated to those in a position to take action when poor choices are made.
January 26, 2017
The Honorable Paul Ryan
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Washington, DC 20510
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi Democratic Leader
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
The Honorable Chuck Schumer Democratic Leader
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Speaker Ryan, Majority Leader McConnell, Leader Pelosi and Leader Schumer:
We urge you to use the authority provided in the Congressional Review Act to rescind the Federal Communications Commission’s Broadband Privacy Order.
Congress is fully justified in rescinding these rules both because the Order lacks proper legal grounding and because of the need to ensure real consumer privacy across contexts of user experience.
The FCC’s approach is inconsistent with that of the Federal Trade Commission for nearly two decades, and will likely render harm unto consumers.
The FTC focuses on what data are held, the level of data sensitivity, and how consumers are affected if the data are misused. This outcomes-based approach takes consumers’ preferences into account while preventing actions that harm consumers.
The FTC’s approach rests on well-established standards of Unfairness (preventing substantial consumer injury) and Deception (enforcing material promises). Consumers generally agree on what constitutes financial and physical injury. Consumers deem data that could lead to these types of injuries more sensitive, and expect higher security for these data.
The sensitivity of other “private” information is, as the FTC rightly recognizes, often subjective, depending on its use. Some people might choose to post everything about themselves online — details that others might find invasive or embarrassing if made public — while others chose not to join social networks. Some might find value in an application using data about their geolocation in a particular way, while others decline participation because they consider the benefit of the service outweighed by its privacy cost. None of these approaches to privacy is incorrect. Each is a personal decision about tradeoffs. Taking varying consumer preferences into account, the FTC’s standards functioned reasonably well, requiring opt-out in most instances and opt-in only for particularly sensitive kinds of data.
The FCC approach focuses on who holds the data, rather than what — and how sensitive — the data are. This hinders services that consumers want while failing to protect sensitive data across contexts.
The FCC's questionable ability to regulate privacy standards, and its narrow view on what constitutes privacy protection, make its rules counterproductive to actual consumer privacy protections. In contrast, the FTC's approach to privacy does a better job of balancing protection of consumers’ privacy online with economic incentives to innovate in consumer products and services.
There are many reasons for Congress to negate these rules: The legality of the Open Internet Order, which these rules are based on, is questionable; the FCC's expanded interpretation of customer proprietary network information from section 222 is incorrect, as it applies specifically to voice services; and sections 201, 202, 303(b), 316 and 705 of the Communications Act also do not give the FCC
By Heather R. Higgins and Phil Kerpen
From the Wall Street Journal:
Just hours after taking office, President Trump signed an executive order directing federal agencies to “waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay” any provision in ObamaCare that burdens individuals, families, insurers—and nearly anyone else who could be affected. This order takes full advantage of the vast discretion built into the law that President Obama used to virtually write ObamaCare on the fly. Mr. Trump’s move is much more than a symbolic gesture, and it is the first step toward repealing ObamaCare.
While the details will likely wait until after Dr. Tom Price is confirmed as Health and Human Services secretary, the Trump administration has already moved toward making it easier for Americans to buy health insurance plans prohibited by ObamaCare.
The executive order’s language—stopping anything in the law that creates “a fiscal burden on any State or a cost, fee, tax, penalty, or regulatory burden”—should be music to the ears of congressional Republicans. They have been struggling with Senate procedural rules regarding reconciliation, which likely precludes repealing ObamaCare’s cost-increasing insurance regulations while still allowing the repeal of the law’s mandates and subsidies.
Why does this matter? Insurance companies cannot presently afford to sell the policies people actually want. The law imposes a $100 a day penalty on insurers for every person to whom they sell a noncompliant policy. This effectively limits the individual market to nothing but ObamaCare-compliant plans, with premiums and deductibles driven sky-high by the law’s regulatory burdens. Yet ObamaCare subsidies can’t keep up with these increasing costs.
Enacting a partial repeal—that is, ending features like the individual mandate and the subsidies to insurance companies—risks accelerating the collapse of ObamaCare before an alternative is available. It also does nothing to provide those currently hurting under the law from any near-term relief.
Mr. Trump’s executive order allows Congress to move confidently forward with repeal, knowing that the prohibitive $100 penalty will be waived, and therefore vestigial regulations will not be an impediment to the immediate buying and selling of ObamaCare-exempt plans. The Trump administration effectively has signaled that it will use the Obama administration’s precedent of allowing noncompliant plans—remember “keep your plan” transition relief?—to create a parallel market where consumers can finally find plans they want and can afford.
Congress would be wise to add two components to the baseline repeal bill. First, the bill should include a statutory change codifying this suspension of penalties for selling ObamaCare-exempt plans. Minimizing the statutory penalties will calm the compliance departments at insurance companies. Otherwise, some insurers might be hesitant to enter a line of business on the basis of executive nonenforcement alone.
Congress should also fund state health-innovation block grants. This would give the Trump administration a powerful carrot in encouraging states to create more responsive insurance markets, including authorizing Obamacare-exempt plans under state law. The funds would also address the need to spread the burden of high-cost individual pre-existing condition coverage among all taxpayers, rather than forcing...