Yves here. One of the slow-motion looting projects underway is effort to shut down the Postal Service or shrink it into uncompetitiveness. This post gives an update on the state of play in Congress as a particularly vocal Republican opponent, Ron Johnson, is set to become head of the Congressional committee responsible for Postal Service oversight.
By Mark Jaminson, retired Postmaster. Originally published at Angry Bear
News of Ron Johnson the Tea Party favorite from Wisconsin taking over as chair of the Senate committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs has caused an overwhelming sense of panic among progressives and postal workers. Johnson will control oversight of the Postal Service in the Senate.
There may be good reason to think this has the makings of disaster. Johnson is on the record stating that it would be a good idea if the Postal Service went into bankruptcy and got privatized. His training is in accounting, but he has refused, with an aggressive ignorance, to acknowledge the basic tenets of accounting. When witnesses come before his committee, he bullies them and waves his arm abrasively. His dislike of unions is so intense he is willing to set aside his worship of the business principles of a contract to concoct a bankruptcy scheme to abrogate postal labor agreements.
Is the coming of Ron Johnson any reason to panic?
Tom Coburn, the current ranking member on the committee, has said virtually all of the same things as Johnson (in his quiet, deadly way). Several of the other Republicans on the committee — Rand Paul, Mike Enzi, and Kelly Ayotte — have also said many of the same things Johnson has. All of them have shown a disdain for the Postal Service as an institution. All of them have questioned the Postal Service role as a national infrastructure.
Never mind too that Tom Carper, the Democrat from Delaware and current chair of the committee, has endorsed virtually every cut, every closure, every act of outsourcing that PMG Donahoe has engaged in or even imagined. On postal matters, his views are not that far from Johnson’s.
It Could be the End
While Ron Johnson will probably just carry on like Carper, Coburn, and the other Republicans on the committee overseeing the Postal Service, the specter of Senator Johnson as chair is haunting progressives.
The sky is falling atThink Progress, where Kira Lerner tells us that with Johnson “it could be the end of the Postal Service as we know it.” Lerner therefore hopes that Congress passes legislation — any legislation at all, bad as it might be — before Johnson can pass something worse.
How likely is any legislation coming out of a lame duck session will be good? Anything likely to come out of the Senate would carve in stone the current agenda of cuts to the workforce, reductions in service, and secret NSA agreements. Plus, any bill passed by the Senate would have to go to conference with whatever Darrell Issa comes up with in the House. The result will be further degradation of the postal network. There is little chance it will make those who care about postal services in this country very happy.
Over at Daily Kos, Laura Clawson seems just as frightened of Johnson as is Lerner. Faced with Johnson’s statement that the Postal Service should go through a bankruptcy process, Clawson says, “Another solution is for Congress to get out of the way of the Postal Service making money providing needed services like banking for tens of millions of people who don’t have access to financial institutions.”
Postal banking might be useful for the millions of unbanked citizens, but it is worth giving this notion of “getting Congress out of the way” a bit more thought. The idea seems to be almost everyone’s answer for what ails the Postal Service. Blaming Congress is apparently something folks everywhere on the political spectrum can agree on.
That should come as no surprise, considering that Congress has become less popular than a shady used car salesman. But would all be right with the Postal Service if Congress just got out of the way?
The answer to that depends a lot on what you want the Postal Service to do with its newfound freedom.
Getting Congress Out of the Way
For many people, “getting Congress out of the way” means that the Postal Service should be free to compete. It should be allowed to deliver wine and beer, it should be allowed to get into the banking business, and it should be allowed to expand its products and services in many other ways now prevented by law. Even Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, one of the most enlightened members of Congress, likes to say that the Postal Services needs to be free to compete so that it can increase revenues and sustain itself.
That all sounds fine — unless you’re one of the companies that has to compete with the Postal Service. In fact, one of the reasons that legislation has been stalled for the past four years is there are many interests who don’t want to free the Postal Service to compete. The mailers want cheap rates, the package industry wants a cheap way to fill the last-mile, ideologues on the Right want to kill labor, legislators with rural constituencies want to protect the infrastructure and services that benefit their communities. Everybody wants something, but no one really wants competition.
Other advocates of “getting Congress out of the way” have something else in mind. They’re thinking about how Congress had made it difficult to close post offices, interfered with ending Saturday delivery, and tried to stop the closure of most mail processing plants and ending overnight delivery.
For these folks — like the large mailers who think downsizing will keep their rates down — getting Congress out of the way means giving the leaders of the Postal Service more freedom to do exactly what they have been doing for the past several years — closing plants, reducing service, and all the dismantling we’ve witnessed.
Still another view of “getting Congress out of the way” involves ending the prefunding mandate, i.e., the law passed by Congress in 2006 (the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act) that unnecessarily requires the Postal Service to prefund its retiree health benefit fund (RHBF) to the tune of $5.5 billion a year. According to this view, the main problem facing the Postal Service is that it is running so deep in the red — a problem caused almost entirely by the RHBF payments.
But prefunding is not really the problem. It is just an excuse. The Board of Governors and the senior leadership in L’Enfant Plaza have been using the crisis created by the RHBF payments — along with the drop in volume associated with the Great Recession — as an excuse to advance an agenda they have long held dear. It is an agenda that goes back way, long before prefunding became an issue.
Transforming the Postal Service
The corporate elite has sought a more corporatized Postal Service, free of regulation and oversight, at least since the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970, if not before. Postal management has consistently helped achieve that goal. Since 2003 when former PMG Jack Potter offered his Transformation Plan, the goal of the Postal Service has been to do exactly what Mr. Donahoe has done over the last five years.
The management of the Postal Service does not want the agency under its stewardship to function as an institution that serves the needs of millions of average Americans. It wants to be a corporate player. So when the leaders of the Postal Service talk about getting Congress out of the way, they’re saying they don’t want government oversight and regulation to interfere with allowing them to turn the Postal Service into a corporation — more specifically, a delivery company.
To that end, then, postal leadership has been very clear about wanting to jettison the retail network, especially thousands of small post offices that do not make significant profits but that have been essential to rural communities across this country. Donahoe, his predecessors, his enablers on the BOG, and politicians of both parties have sought to reduce employment, undermine labor agreements, degrade the mail-processing network, as part of this move toward a corporate model. They continue to sign secret agreements with companies like Amazon, Staples, UPS, and FedEx while reducing service standards for the American public. They have abandoned any pretense of “binding the nation together.”
Yes, the 2006 PAEA put what seemed to be a big impediment in the way of postal progress in the form of the RHBF prefunding payments. But a closer look at the law reveals all sorts of ways in which Congress “got out of the way” — with some very problematic results.
PAEA divided products into two categories, which has led to the Postal Service’s practice of moving products from the more regulated market-dominant category into the competitive category, which is less regulated and often shrouded in secrecy. PAEA has fostered more Negotiated Service Agreements, which has resulted in the likelihood of more, not less, monopoly in the package delivery market. The rate cap regime set up by PAEA may have looked like a grand advance supposedly creating a predictable rate system; but, it further endorsed the idea the Postal Service exists for the benefit of stakeholders, primarily a narrow sector of the mailing industry, and not as an infrastructure designed to benefit the American economy and the American people as a whole.
The Public Good
The problem is that government — and the Postal Service is a legitimate function of government — does not exist to compete. Government exists to facilitate commerce, communication, transportation, and all the rest. One of its main functions is to build infrastructures that promote the general well being of both the economy and the civic space. The postal network is one of the government’s great infrastructures. It is not supposed to be a competitive player in the marketplace.
We do not expect highway systems to compete. We do not expect water and sewer systems to compete. We expect these infrastructures to function well and to extend access and service broadly.
The postal network, even as technologies change, serves as a fundamental infrastructure for both information and goods. The Founding Fathers saw the value in that sort of infrastructure, and that view is no less valid today. The network that we have created can and should adapt, but it remains essential.
We have lost our appreciation for public goods and the public square. All around us we see the basic fundamental structures of our society being captured by private, rent-seeking interests. We are told that our schools and universities would be better if they competed — in other words, if we introduced the profit motive. The same thing goes for our prisons and law enforcement. Everything will supposedly work better if private enterprise takes over.
This kind of thinking reduces everything in life to a single paradigm of profit and loss. It co-opts and perverts words like “effective” and “efficient,” reducing their meanings to a very narrow slice of human experience.
But different elements of society have different goals, different ways of measuring success, efficiency, and effectiveness. Trying to stuff everything into a model of competition simply doesn’t work. Businesses should pursue profits, schools should educate, infrastructures should facilitate.
The postal network has been built over generations to serve the American people. It has done that job well by connecting every corner of America, by maintaining the most affordable rates in the world, and by adapting to changing technologies. It has done this while providing a sense of identity to thousands of communities and meaningful employment to hundreds of thousands workers.
Yet in spite of all the Postal Service has accomplished, its leaders remain committed to turning the Postal Service from useful infrastructure into nothing more than a delivery company.
Doing the Work of the People
The Postal Service does not need to be set loose, and it does not need to be freed from Congressional control. Giving the leaders of the Postal Service a free hand is not going to help matters. They will continue doing exactly what they have been doing.
Instead, the Postal Service needs to be properly managed, properly maintained, and properly directed towards fulfilling its role as a basic national infrastructure, owned by all Americans.
The problem is not that Congress needs to get out of the way but that Congress needs to do its job.
Congress needs to ensure that the Postal Service operates under a robust universal service mandate that is clearly defined. It needs to ensure that the management structure of the Postal Service works for the American people, not its own agenda. It needs to find appropriate means to maintain our existing postal infrastructure while adapting it to 21st century needs and technologies. Congress needs to do its job and properly tend to and care for public goods and national assets.
The new Congress probably isn’t going to do any of those things, but passing bad legislation in a lame-duck session or giving the management of the Postal Service more freedom to degrade the institution is not going to solve anything.
Let’s not forget that Diane Feinstein’s husband’s company CBRE (really it is one of his many since he is in PE) an exclusive no-bid contract to sell or other wise monetize the choicest post office locations which are being closed like the Santa Monica 4th street location.
Of course at some of the locations there they have some of the nastiest people I have ever had to deal with. Of course I know little about the internal workings of the PO nor the finances. All the PO in LA are under staffed compared to some smaller cities I have ever been to.
Also, it is rare that you see a non-minority working in the LA locations and trust me it is not because of low pay. Talk to our postman some times and here some real horror stories.
No kidding. ‘Mr. Feinstein’ made a fortune from that prime real estate, when the propertiies could have been awarded to every architectural school in the country after the 2008 crash to redesign the civic buildings for repositioned public use.
But who was around to complain? With 45 million on food stamps or getting booted from their houses and cable service, how many Americans knew, or know, this kind of heist of the public domain was/is happening.
As incomes sink in this country, how many will have the coin in future to pay the paywall fees to find out what’s going on?
Feinstein attempts to come across as a fairly god mother when she is really a Sith Lord. Her husband, besides making a bundle on the Post Offices, also has several companies which makes a fortune in the military industrial complex. She even attempted to take control of some land in W Los Angeles granted to Veterans for perpetuity and have it developed by real estate developers. Guess who would probably get the contract.
I guess this is some of the better ideas someone was bemoaning about the Democrat losses a few days ago.
Perini no bid contracts at the start of the Iraq War while the wifey was on the Senate intelligence committee. Just saying…
Yes, shutting down post offices to enrich private individuals and delivery companies fits the description of corruption.
“During the founding era, they talked about corruption all the time and their understanding of corruption was broad. It encompassed all those situations in which public officials use their public power for selfish ends, private ends — whether it’s their own or maybe their sponsors’ or maybe their donors’ or maybe the king’s.
“Broadly speaking then, I understand corruption in America to be when those with public power use it for private ends.
“Or highly self-interested private parties using our public powers for their own selfish ends. And that’s the deepest corruption that I see right now.”
FWIW Amazon.com will not permit the Postal Service to shut down, or to reduce delivery frequency, or to reduce the number of addresses it delivers to. Amazon is powerful enough that it can stop those things. Amazon has already signalled its position on this several times.
That Amazon treats the USPS as a wholly-owned subsidiary (albeit completely subsidized) somehow does not reassure me.
Since it is cheaper to ship a package from Hong Kong to Dallas than it is to ship from LA to Dallas via USPS, any retailer that ships from China/Hong Kong will never ever want the USPS to move to a more corporate price structure.
Complete and utter bullshit. Show me the tariff schedules which support you assertion.
Then the solution is obvious! Sell the USPS to Amazon!
Why would Amazon pay for the USPS when the postal service already does whatever Amazon wants without its having to pay? Don’t think small, man. Why buy the post office when Congress comes so cheap?
“The problem is that government — and the Postal Service is a legitimate function of government — does not exist to compete. Government exists to facilitate commerce, communication, transportation, and all the rest.”
What the heck?! Did Diogenes find his honest man? Who is this guy to speak the truth so clearly, so plainly?
‘The postal network is one of the government’s great infrastructures. It is not supposed to be a competitive player in the marketplace.’
One of the rationales for postal delivery as infrastructure was a worry — perhaps valid at the time — that commercial services would cherry-pick the most profitable areas, while failing to provide universal service. If it was true in the late 18th century, it isn’t any more. FedEx and UPS actually provide more universal to-the-front-door delivery than USPS, whose current standard in new neighborhoods is cluster mailboxes which in rural areas can be a mile or more from one’s home.
Want the inside skinny on the post office, read ol’ Chas. Bukowski’s classic exposé:
Why does delivering letters all day cause an unslakable thirst for alcohol?
FedEx and UPS actually provide more universal to-the-front-door delivery than USPS
FedEx and UPS add a charge for home delivery as well as a hefty “rural delivery charge” for any place that is a bit out of the way. The PO charges the same whether it goes to New York city or a rural address in upstate New York, or to a residence or business.
The postal network is one of the government’s great infrastructures.
bridges, financial stability, postal services. public monopolies serving the public good. the danger with public monopolies is less inefficiency and more organized labor exploiting their positions. a solution has been civil servitude by which long-term security is traded for strike rights. this has substantial flaws, and the repair has been the introduction of a degree of competition, a border collie for the flock of sheep. i think the jury is still out on this. complete privatization is disasterous – see mercenaries in iraq, british rail, american public health and wall st / the city. and i was reminded yesterday of what happened when the cali energy markets were de-regulated in 2000. the balance seemed right when ups was just a niche operator: lots of esprit de corps among the well-paid drivers teasing their post office buddies in the vfw. no real threat to the infrastructure.
Your argument has a fundamental mistake. The basic idea is that services provided by the government, any government, at the heart of this provision, is NOT competition, but setting a level of standards. The purpose and function of government is never to be “like a business”. That idea, government = business, is wrong. Business provides a good or service for a profit, government provides the lowest standards to be followed by businesses.
I’d say “baseline standard,” not “lowest.” Good argument.
i am sympathetic to your point but how do you manage labor relations in non-competitive organizations that employ vast numbers of workers to set a baseline for arguably essential social services? european telecoms until 2000 are the counterexample that i can’t ignore.
Not germane in the case of USPS. Via e-mail:
I worked for 2 of the “big 4” consulting firms in business process analysis, risk management, and economic analysis and have had additional positions in large telecom, financial services, and software companies. And while my specific institutional knowledge is out of date, generally organizations don’t change (the old “leopard don’t change their spots” is true of organizations).
So first and foremost – USPS employees – in the mail processing and delivery functions or in staff/management functions – were as good as (and in some cases better) anyone I worked with in consulting or in private industry. Most were dedicated CAREER employees whose fortunes were tied to the success of the USPS. Very little of the “IBG:YBG – FUIGM” attitudes seen in private industry. The “union sloth” kool-aid is simply a myth. USPS people work hard for a fair wage. And don’t forget – the USPS is bound by open and transparent selection procedures AND has veterans preference requirements – so employee selection is somewhat constrained. Further, there are additional complications due to union rules on “bidding” for jobs (but hey, the sanctity of contracts, eh?) so employment “flexibility” is constrained to a degree.
Labor relations are handled in a similar manner to what Public Unions in Wisconsin are handled, it is illegal for them to strike.
And that’s why both FedEx and UPS have Negotiated Service Agreements with the Postal Service to provide the bulk of their last-mile delivery. Those agreements are done secretly so we don’t know the terms of the deals. It’s a rather odd and incestuous relationship since both FedEx and UPS are also two of the largest vendors of the Postal Service, being paid billions to fly and truck mail.
The PRC has very little authority to regulate beyond basic rates and they have no authority to regulate the private oligarchies like UPS and FedEx. Privatize the Postal Service and turn its last-mile infrastructure over to UPS and FedEx or worse Amazon and what you will have is unregulated monopolies with even more power than the cable and broadband monopolies.
Not a pretty picture.
I question some of the scare talk reported above. One reason congress keeps resisting no Saturday delivery and other service cuts is that the USPS is extremely popular and not just in rural areas. It seems dubious that a committee chair could engineer a “bankruptcy” that would cause widespread outrage not to mention considerable economic disruption.
And while current USPS management may be somewhat anti worker, the service has become more efficient in recent years. As with other organizations this could well be because of improved technology.
There would simply need to be a huge crisis created (maybe ISIS will start shipping propaganda materials via the USPS to children??) that will require the USPS to be restructed.
You need to get out and read the conservative media more. There is plenty of talk of USPS as a black hole, thank to the bogus accounting forced on it. And lots of rural post offices HAVE been shuttered and more are scheduled for closure (I can name ones in Maine).
An interesting defense of the PO. This from a postmaster who understands what the PO does.
So a few dumb questions for the postmaster:
1) How many pieces of junk mail does the PO deliver in a year?
2) How much does all that crap weigh?
3) What % of PO workers are committed to sorting/delivery junk?
4) Does the PO pricing encourage junk?
5) Does the PO make money delivering this junk?
I get 30-40 pieces of junk a week. It all goes into the garbage/landfills. I get much more junk than 1st class mail. I hate it. If the postmaster wants my support in his effort, then he has to stop delivering junk to my front door.
You can opt out here:
How about exercising some personal responsibility for a change. See Carla’s note and quit bitching.
I completely agree with you about the junk mail being ridiculous. But I dont blame the PO, I blame the sickness that is the Govt budget as a household budget analogy which is directly responsible for the excessive junk mail. Because people are so concerned with Govt deficits, they think the PO must pay for itself, which forces the PO to take part in nonsense like the junk mail. The PO needs the money.
Instead of the obvious corollary, that the concept of “paying for itself” is completely meaningless to the FEderal Govt. There is no reason whatsoever to force the PO to maximize its revenue. The entire conception of Govt and public purposes gets turned on its head once money is no longer THE object. Then we can focus on THE service, and let the budget fall where it may. It people think that a couple billion in additional deficit spending is going to make any difference whatsoever in a $17T economy, well they’re idiots then.
Junk mail is a government subsidy for corporate advertising. It’s not the fault of the U.S. Postal Service. Junk mail is a lot like bank bailouts.
And junk mail rates are determined and somewhat constrained by…Congress. Here’s a good example of why junk mail rates are too low: I’ve worked in industries that do lots of direct mail both for corporate and non-profits. Do you know how non-profits decide which people to mail? It’s easy…every single person on their “list” gets mailed, no exceptions. Basically, when you do the math on non-profit mail, it always pays to mail everyone. It’s not that different for junk mail like credit card offers (but since it’s credit, not donations, the card companies will exclude people). Basically, a simple test of when rates are too low is when you can mail everyone.
I think the author’s downplaying of the pre-funded healthcare benefits is worrisome. It’s the big black eye of USPS and is used as argument (of course, not true) that only “private corporations” can be run “well”. Until those multi-billion losses stop popping up every year, the USPS has a big PR issue that neo-liberals will claim to have a solution for. Unfortunately for the neo-libs, their neo-liberal buds at UPS, FedEx, and Amazon absolutely depend on USPS, so USPS will serve publicly as a “government failure” while continuing to exist since its “competitors” absolutely need it around.
I hate Junk Mail, too, but here’s a clue: it’s like Ads on tv. It helps to pay for the PO. It always amazes me how people vetch about stuff like this, but in the same breath demand and insist that the PO be “run like a business.” Well hey howdy: Ads are one of the Big business models of our stupid country, so seems to me that PO is doing as directed.
Don’t like Junk Mail? Take responsibility to write to the companies to opt out, and then also look at how the PO is run. If you don’t want Ads (which help pay for the PO), then you cannot demand that the PO be “run like a business.”
All good questions and one’s that I’ve discussed in posts at http://www.savethepostoffice.com, e.g. http://www.savethepostoffice.com/giving-away-store-postal-service-discounts-mail and http://www.savethepostoffice.com/path-postal-nirvana-entitlement-program-mail-industry
The current regulatory structure places the direct mail industry, the direct marketing industry, and mail aggregators like Pitney Bowes in a place of preference. There’s no question that these rates are artificially low. Worse, the rules have been set up to transfer about $15 billion in postal revenue to aggregators like Pitney Bowes and Quad Graphics who get discounts far beyond any savings they offer.
That’s sort of the point of the article – the structure of the Postal Service is designed to foster special treatment for limited sectors of the economy. The solution isn’t to kill postal infrastructure but recapture the original purpose of the infrastructure and make it work as originally intended.
And yes, it’s rather easy to opt out of junk mail. The marketers would be more than happy not to send stuff to people who throw it in the garbage can.
Every third visit I make to a Post Office (I probably go there maybe only that much in a complete year) I bump into a rude ass*ole behind the counter. These people are oblivious about gaining the public’s goodwill. Most of them in fact behave like they are some kind of officious postal school Marm waiting to check if your finger nails are clean and your stamp is affixed symmetrically on the envelope a la Mrs.Bucket in ‘Keeping up Appearences’. In every sphere of state backed business I see a similar kind of hubris at work. The problem is, the people they recruit are not very educated, enlightened or smart to understand that their work with the public has the greater dimension of lending credibility to government institutions. I could also refute my own logic I just used by pointing at the PhDs with tenure at my own University who never answer email, who are arrogant and treat students like prison convicts. One of the greatest problems we are unable to solve is, how do we get human beings to behave in a decent and responsible manner without holding the threat of ‘the sack’ over their head? Pretty tough if you ask me. Give a man job security and the next thing he does is turn around and kick you in the teeth. Watch the older episodes of ‘Are you Being Served’ and look closely at the way the Packing and Maintenance staff have their dialogues written. It is a fantastic social commentary. I guess it all comes down to having a conscience but in today’s times how many have a conscience and do the right thing by their fellow man? It is ridiculous to even talk about such things in America of all places.
By the way, does anyone know where ‘From Mexico’ went? I really do miss his trenchant analysis, his deep insights and razor sharp repartees. I hope I will be forgiven for saying this but these days the comments section is just not as sparkling as it used to be. There was a time when I would merely read the first paragraph of an article and just skip down to the comments because there used to be so much to learn from there.
You make some good points about rude, arrogant, condescending govt workers. I’ve encountered them, too, but most of my experiences at the USPO branches has been more positive than negative. I agree that workers should be trained in customer service skills. Such things are taught in some govt institutions (like where I work), but not always.
These days, though, there’s so much rudeness exhibited by our elected representatives and on the media that it’s no wonder that many display crummy attitudes. I don’t know what the answer is.
The US Government, as a monetary sovereign, has an implicit obligation to provide a risk-free storage and transaction service for its fiat for ALL citizens and not just for banks and that service should make no loans and pay no interest. The US Postal Service is ideal for that service which is possibly why banks wish to preempt that role by destroying Post offices.
I fully expect the PO to be closed down during my life time, more’s the pity. The PTB have duly distributed the Hate On the PO Kool Aid to a dumbed down, sheep-like populace who no longer have the ability to think critically. The PO actually runs fairly well, although, like any large organization, whether public or private there are issues. Does seem to me that some PO branches are understaffed for the work involved, but after all, isn’t that what’s being demanded of the PO? Run it lean and mean? Well then you don’t get quite as good customer service if you’re waiting in line, but you still get a CHEAP product that is RELIABLE.
Big deal that you may have to wait in line for, like, 10 WHOLE minutes. Seriously? Get a clue.
The PO actually runs really well for the most part and serves the whole populace, not just the privileged few in bigger cities. Yes the private companies will deliver mail everywhere, but at what cost? And no, not everyone is on the Internet. Not by a long shot. There’s a huge digital divide in this nation, but who cares about poor people, who clearly deserve their miserable fates.
Yes the parasites in the District of Criminals, including Granny Big Time Parasite Feinstein (a real wolf in ever shredding sheep’s clothing), all want it privatized MAINLY to break the backs of yet another Union, but also to scoop up the real estate and make buckaroo$$ for their own selves.
Shame on them and shame on dumb citizens who drink the Kool Aid of corrupted, debased bs artists and then thinking that somehow they will benefit from this. Benefit how??? By paying hugely more for basic PO services? Great.
If you’ve ever waited in line at a post office in a European country (or several) and then paid the freight to ship a postcard back home, you will realize that the USPS is quite efficient and cost-effective indeed.
amen. i didn’t appreciate the usps until i moved to europe and encountered postal banks, which wouldn’t be all that bad but that they require a queuing culture.
Try the postal service in India sometime… chaos, albeit functions better than you think it will & not terribly expensive. But hugely chaotic just to purchase a stamp.
Fed Ex charges $5 to deliver a letter. The Post Office charges 50 cents. All privatization will do is screw the public and line the pockets of the rich and of their political lackeys. No wonder the Republicans love it.
If you are LUCKY, FedEx will deliver a letter for $5. It’s not unknown for it to cost more, and that’s for the slowest delivery method.
People who complain about Junk Mail & surly post office workers better be careful what they wish for.
Anecdotally, most of the people that I encounter face to face who vetch the loudest & longest about the USPO tend to be retired. They’re no longer working, so typically they have NO idea how much it will cost them to mail stuff via FedEx. Sure the delivery guy may be less rude, but good luck figuring out WHERE to go to mail your letter, and then get ready for a giant bill to mail it.
The stupidity & vapidity I see about the USPO is one continual annoyance. Per usual, US citizens will learn the hard way the folly of being influenced by the propaganda shilled out by the rich, who stand to benefit handsomely if the USPO goes under.
Naomi Klein says it well. From ‘This Changes Everything’ which is looking as important as ‘Shock Doctrine’
“Contemporary humans are too self-centered, too addicted to gratification to live without the full freedom to satisfy our every whim – or so our culture tells us every day. And yet the truth is that we continue to make collective sacrifices in the name of an abstract greater good all the time. We sacrifice our pensions, our hard-won labor rights, our arts and after-school programs. We send our kids to learn in ever more crowded classrooms, led by ever more harried teachers. We accept that we have to pay dramatically more for the destructive energy sources that power our transportation and our lives. We accept that bus and subway fares go up and up while service fails to improve or degenerates. We accept that a public university education should result in a debt that will take half a lifetime to pay off when such a thing was unheard of a generation ago. In Canada, where I live, we are in the midst of accepting that our mail can no longer be delivered to our homes.”
Since the Post Office is listed in the Constitution, I find it hard to believe that these sharpsters can do any of the things they want to do. The Post Office must exist, and fulfill its constitutional mandate. What we need is another Daniel Webster, to cut through all this crap, and get the control back in the hands of the People.
To “get the control back in the hands of the People” consider joining this grassroots movement: http://www.movetomamend.org.
No leader, charismatic or otherwise, is going to save us. We’re going to have to do it ourselves, Demeter.
The LRB had an article on how privatization of post in Europe has worked out – it’s been done in some of the Netherlands and I think is being floated in the UK and in Germany:
Here’s a sample of how that’s worked out, from the article:
“She works, she reckons, about 30 hours a week for the two companies, earning about five euros an hour, although the legal minimum wage in the Netherlands is between eight and nine euros an hour. She has no contract. She gets no sick pay, no pension and no health insurance. One of the companies gives her a dribble of holiday pay. Selekt gave her a jacket and a sweatshirt but she gets no other clothing or footwear and has to pay to maintain her own bike. The company is able to offer such miserable conditions because of loopholes in Dutch employment law. The postwoman is paid a few cents for each item of mail she delivers. The private mail firms control their delivery people’s daily postbag to make sure they never earn more than €580 a month, the level at which the firms would be obliged to give them a fixed contract.”
You can just imagine how great it would be here in the US with our “right to work” laws and corporate power.
Imagine Uber in charge of delivering mail. In the “sharing economy.”
Hhhmmm….would I rather trust Uber with a letter — or my life?
Answer: with neither!
I shared this article widely. It resonates quite viscerally as a sign of the times–a broader trend toward the privatization (and “crapification”) of institutions that should serve the public good. We’re losing our ethos as a society of guarding important public programs and institutions, and it is indeed concerning for our collective future.