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October 20, 2011 07:05 PM UTC

Ax the federal budget but be wonky when it comes to cutting my post offices

  • 12 Comments
  • by: Jason Salzman

(Okay, so don’t cut the post office “in half” then? – promoted by Colorado Pols)

The U.S. Postal Service, as you may know, is trying to save money by closing  post offices in rural areas, like the district of Rep. Scott Tipton.

This prompted Tipton and fellow Congressman Cory Gardner to deliver a letter, electionically I presume, to the Postal Regulatory Commission, protesting the closure of so many Colorado post offices.

We are aware of the grim fiscal position of the Post Office, and the need to make changes in order to survive in today’s competitive environment and adjust to the new means of communication in the 21st Century. However… we are concerned that closing certain facilities will lead to costly and time-consuming commutes… some of these post offices that seem to service a proportionately small population are essential to the existence of small isolated communities. We would prefer to see a bottom-up approach that utilizes actual cost savings rather than a top-down approach focused on an arbitrary revenue figure. [BigMedia emphasis]

So, what Tipton and Gardner are saying here is, don’t just close post offices willy nilly. Be smart about it. Think about economic costs and benefits, and use a selective approach to closing post offices.

Except…isn’t Tipton the guy who’s called for a 10 percent across-the-board cut in federal budget discrtionary spending?

He is, but you wouldn’t know it from reading press coverage of his efforts to save post offices. None of the coverage I’ve seen (e.g., Montrose Press, Pueblo Chieftain, The Craig Daily Press, The Denver Post’s Spot blog) explains how Tipton squares his chain-saw approach to cutting the federal budget (10 percent cuts for all) with his touchy-feely, wonky recommendation for post-office cuts.

But should a reporter raise this point with Tipton? Or would this be a snarky attack?

It’s clear that journalists should report a “flip-flop” by a politician. So if Tipton had said that the U.S. Postal Service should be closed, and then he said, keep it open, that would an obvious matter for a journalist to raise.

But Tipton’s inconsistency on this isn’t really an in-your-face  flip-flop. It’s more of sleight-of-hand.

So were journalists right not to question Tipton about why he thinks the post office deserves careful budget cuts while the federal budget does not?

Via email, I asked Fred Brown, a veteran Denver joiurnalist and columnist who’s nationally known for his ethics work with the Society of Professional Journalists, “Would it be unfair for a reporter to ask Tipton about this? Or would this be seen more as an attack by someone out to get Tipton?”

I think that’s a legitimate question to ask, at least in the initial report. Is it worth a follow-up story? There, I’m not so sure. It is more likely then to come across as an attempt at “gotcha” journalism. But if the question is asked, and answered, as part of the story about Tipton’s (and Gardner’s) request to keep post offices open, it’s certainly pertinent — and it shows a nice bit of research and recall on the reporter’s part. Tipton may say it’s a silly question, or that this isn’t part of the 10 percent he was talking about, or that he’d be perfectly happy if each little post office cut its budget by 10 percent. But if the question and answer are reported in full, then I’d say leave it to the reader (or viewer or listener) to decide whether it’s a fair question. I think it is.

That’s what I thought, too. I don’t think it merits a stand-alone story either, unless this turns into a trend, with Tipton asking for lengthy cost-benefit analyses of cuts proposed for stuff in his district, while throwing everyone else under the across-the-board-cut bus.

But reporters won’t have to wait for a possible stand-alone story. They will probably have a chance to query Tipton during the normal course of reporting the post-office woes.

In Silver Plume Nov. 16 and elsewhere on other dates in November and December, public meetings will be held on proposed branch closures in Colorado.

Comments

12 thoughts on “Ax the federal budget but be wonky when it comes to cutting my post offices

  1. Love the little catches you make that others miss. I’m starting to worry that some big media outlet will snap you up and stop you from blogging.

    1. None of the media outlets today are interested in the truth or the complete ignorance of Republicans, or the fact that Republicans change their minds from day-to-day and don’t remember what they said yesterday because it wasn’t meant to be a statement of position.  I think we’ll have Jason around for a long time.

  2. squares his calls for big cuts with pleas about the post office. The question is how reporters can get to him, and even if they do, getting him to talk in some other language than the standard GOP talking points.

    When politicians say one thing when they’re running for office and then say something else once they’re elected, that’s fair game in my book.

  3.  want to talk about addressing the deficit by cutting spending, just not in their districts.    They would much prefer to cut foreign aid or stop spending money on illegals. Or something.

    They wouldn’t really mind a tax increase – as long as it’s not on any current voter in their district.  

    They don’t mind two unfunded foreign wars of choice. As long as the dead are mostly not American, Christian or anywhere near their district.

    We got guys like that in Arapahoe county too.   But at least the local post offices are not major employers so no one cares if they close.  

  4.  want to talk about addressing the deficit by cutting spending, just not in their districts.    They would much prefer to cut foreign aid or stop spending money on illegals. Or something.

    They wouldn’t really mind a tax increase – as long as it’s not on any current voter in their district.  

    They don’t mind two unfunded foreign wars of choice. As long as the dead are mostly not American, Christian or anywhere near their district.

    We got guys like that in Arapahoe county too.   But at least the local post offices are not major employers so no one cares if they close.  

  5. we earn (wild applause) and then following up with an admission that we do, of course, have to have some kind of government so…?

    It’s as if they all know that if they ever got everything they demand, everything they repeat for applause, every piece of red meat they throw to the crowds, society couldn’t possibly function.

    I guess their demands aren’t meant to be… you know… factual? Oh we’d love to cut 10% across the board but the Dems won’t let us.  Bull.  I don’t think calling them on bull is gotcha. I think it’s long overdue.

  6. it seems obligitory, to me. Follow-up is not the same as gotcha. How Tipton answered would have been as revealing as his original statement.

    The trouble is, most reporters lack frame of reference, memory, curiosity and guts (failings you don’t seem to have, Jason). How unfair would it have been to simply ask, “Scott, how would you accommodate such an approach within the comprehensive across the board cuts in government you called for in your campaign?”

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