Join 3,521 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Neither snow nor rain nor heat, but...
August 8, 2012 11:06 AM   Subscribe

Be wary of talk about privatizing the post office. 'A recent default by the U.S. Postal Service has revived talk about privatizing the post office, but the U.S. mail hasn't come close to outliving its usefulness.' The Constitution, Article I, Section 8, gives the federal government responsibility for postal service. 'Yet, in some quarters, talk of privatizing the post office never seems to ebb. That talk is experiencing another surge just now, because the U.S. Postal Service is in the process of defaulting on a payment of more than $5 billion owed to the Treasury.'

'It's largely the result of a 2006 law that required the Postal Service — almost alone among public and private enterprises — to pre-fund its entire future liability for retiree healthcare expenses. The payments totaled $38 billion through 2011, with further installments of between $5.6 billion and $11.1 billion a year due through 2016.

Combined with the impact of the slowdown in mail volume, the shift toward email and online bill-paying, this put the system in big trouble. Without the unnecessary healthcare payments, however, its deficit is manageable. In 2011, the Postal Service collected $65.7 billion and ended up about $5.1 billion in the red. How big a deal is that? Last year the postal service's deficit came to just over one-tenth of 1% of the federal budget.'

Why privatize? The arguments range from functional obsolescence to greater efficiency by private business. It is an idea strongly pushed by conservatives. Politically, perhaps it has something to do with 'the characteristics of the workforce? It's heavily and effectively unionized, for one thing. For another, over a long period the post office has been a reliable steppingstone to the middle class for African American families. (Black workers make up about 11% of the USPS payroll, about twice their representation in the overall workforce.) '

But the question becomes why was it decided that postal services should be a fundamental part of government worth enshrining in the Constitution. This is at the heart of the political argument. On one side there are those who believe that Government is not a business, and citizens are not customers and not all services can be run with just monetary profit in mind. But modern conservatives strongly disagree.

Whoever wins this argument will decide the fate of the post office in the U.S.
posted by VikingSword (96 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Where are the originalists now, hmm?
posted by entropicamericana at 11:10 AM on August 8, 2012 [20 favorites]


You remember the other day how we had that thread about municipal bankruptcies and a crowd of people came into blame "starve the beast" conservatives and another bunch of us said "no that's not really the problem, the problem is x, y, and z"

Yeah. That's not the case here.
posted by JPD at 11:10 AM on August 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm torn. On one hand, they really got screwed by that requirement to fund their retirements so far in advance, but on the other hand I kinda hate the USPS for being such an unrepentant deliverer of junk mail.
posted by mullingitover at 11:12 AM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


The spoken arguments might be this or that, but I bet the unspoken argument is large buckets of $$$ being offered by private mail carriers who feel they are making less profit off customers than they could if they didn't have to work their asses off to stay competitive against the USPS.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:13 AM on August 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


I don't see any particular reason why the postal service should be privatized at any time in the near future (and agree that their pension-funding requirements are sort of absurd), but I do think it's useful to have some plan for what happens to that function when the mail slowdown peaks and computers/internet are fully ubiquitous.

Personally, I don't think privatization is a terrible idea when that occurs.
posted by downing street memo at 11:14 AM on August 8, 2012


Why on earth should the Postal Service (or Amtrak, for that matter) be required to make money? It's a god-damn governmental service!

(by that rubric, as a non-profit center, we should privatize Congress. Oh, wait, that's already happened.)
posted by notsnot at 11:14 AM on August 8, 2012 [26 favorites]


But modern conservatives strongly disagree.

And control the privatized airwaves and have got everyone brainwashed into "if it's not squeezing blood from a stone IT'S CRAP".

At least my kids got to see the awesome USPS in action.
posted by DU at 11:14 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


If the USPS was privatized, at least people would have to start paying what it really costs to mail a letter. Being hamstrung by Congress on what they can charge is a primary reason the USPS is in this situation.

Oh, and once privatized, a lot of communities can expect reduction of delivery to, maybe two days a week, if not immediate elimination of service completely.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:15 AM on August 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


Why privatize? The arguments range from functional obsolescence to greater efficiency by private business. It is an idea strongly pushed by conservatives.
This is an example of where the political word "conservative" doesn't actually match with the dictionary definition. Attempting to get rid of an institution that is enshrined in the constitution and has been operating since the founding of the US is the opposite of actual conservativism.
posted by b1tr0t at 11:16 AM on August 8, 2012 [31 favorites]


The idea that government services such as mail delivery should be cost-effective is a conservative fetish, with no grounding in the Constitution, history or practice. If every government program were held to this standard, we would have no interstate highways. No international airports. No Internet. No levees on the Mississippi and no Hoover Dam.

Yawn. Melodrama much?

Yeah, we get lots of mail. It's mostly junk mail, catalogs, and bills that could as easily be delivered online. It's close to time for the USPS to go.
posted by shivohum at 11:16 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


You can privatize the postal service if you treat it like a regulated monopoly. Otherwise you just cream off the most profitable bits for the private operator and stick the incumbent with structurally impossible to serve profitably rural and suburban clients.

Take a look at what happened to postal deregulation in the Netherlands - and that's a very dense country.
posted by JPD at 11:17 AM on August 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


People who don't have a computer and Internet access? FUCK 'EM, amirite?
posted by entropicamericana at 11:19 AM on August 8, 2012 [25 favorites]


My local school district has a GASB 45 (future retiree health care benefits) obligation of about $100 million, equal to the annual school budget. The state of New York has said that school districts are NOT allowed to reserve for or start to pre-fund this enormous future obligation. Interesting that the USPS has to. Sounds like the strong postal workers union forced them to pass this into law.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:19 AM on August 8, 2012


Otherwise you just cream off the most profitable bits for the private operator and stick the incumbent with structurally impossible to serve profitably rural and suburban clients.

Not to be completely flip, but this seems like a pretty good incentive for rural/suburban people (the ones who don't have to be there) to move somewhere more sustainable.
posted by downing street memo at 11:20 AM on August 8, 2012


If the USPS was privatized, at least people would have to start paying what it really costs to mail a letter.

Just like how each individual pays what it really costs to fight a fire, educate a child, build a road, catch a criminal and win a war.
posted by DU at 11:21 AM on August 8, 2012 [29 favorites]


rural/suburban people (the ones who don't have to be there) to move somewhere more sustainable.

*sigh* City dwellers, we've gone over this. Food does not grow at the grocery store.
posted by DU at 11:22 AM on August 8, 2012 [24 favorites]


I dunno about people other places, but in nyc the post office is great! Knowledgeable people, can do most things by myself with the automated machine, and usually takes less than 10-15 minutes to see someone even at peak times.

However every time I'm there there's some old person behind me complaining how lazy the post office people are and how they waste his tax dollars because he can't see someone at the teller when he walks in the door.

JohnnyGunn

no the republicans in congress passed this so they can bankrupt the post office and say how they should be dismantled. Fun!
posted by slapshot57 at 11:23 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I said the ones who don't have to be there, which would presumably include farmers.
posted by downing street memo at 11:23 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


they really got screwed by that requirement to fund their retirements so far in advance

If the same requirement existed for Social Security, there would be no arguments over when Social Security will go broke.
posted by Egg Shen at 11:24 AM on August 8, 2012


> However every time I'm there there's some old person behind me complaining how lazy the post office people are and how they waste his tax dollars because he can't see someone at the teller when he walks in the door.

There's usually that guy when I got the post office as well, often an obvious Tea Partier. But hell, have you ever had to go pickup something at a FedEx or UPS office? Even worse.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:26 AM on August 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


the opposite of actual conservatism

..only if one uses conservatism in its non-specific meaning. As an ideology, getting ride of the Post Office is consistent. The ideology never said the world was perfect and nothing needs changing. Indeed they may even appear radical in their conservative agenda. Just as the left/liberals (whatever it's called) may appear "conservative" in things like conserving the environment.
posted by stbalbach at 11:27 AM on August 8, 2012


I dunno about people other places, but in nyc the post office is great! Knowledgeable people, can do most things by myself with the automated machine, and usually takes less than 10-15 minutes to see someone even at peak times.
The post offices around Seattle are great too. Now that they have the automated machines - which 90% of people seem to ignore - shipping a package is about as fast as using an ATM. And both shipping times and costs are better than UPS or FedEx. The cheapest USPS option usually delivers a package overnight from Portland, and within two days from LA. Good luck with that using FedEx or UPS ground.
posted by b1tr0t at 11:32 AM on August 8, 2012


For my part, I'd be totally okay receiving mail only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If its important, send me an email or UPS. A pile of junk mail doesn't need to get to me over the weekend.
posted by gagglezoomer at 11:36 AM on August 8, 2012


Solution: Expand the Postal Service. The Founding Fathers thought that a communications infrastructure was important enough to include it in the Constitution, and I agree with them, but technology has far outpaced the physical transportation of paper.

I propose we task the agency that is currently the USPS with providing high-speed Internet access to every household in America.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:37 AM on August 8, 2012 [36 favorites]


If the USPS was privatized, at least people would have to start paying what it really costs to mail a letter.

Don't stop there! Do you want your place of residence to keep its subscription to the national address database? (cha-ching!). Or mail to still reach you when you move? (cha-ching!). Or have national address data made available to Google maps and tom-tom for navigation (cha-ching!).

USPS runs and maintains so much of the very foundation of society that if you sold that, the owner would have the country by the balls, and could blackmail as much profit as desired :-)
Privatizing the municipal water supply is a much easier and simpler thing to do, and the places that went ahead and did that seem to bittery regret the (entirely predictable) results - fees go up, service and maintenance investment goes down, everyone screams blue murder but is impotent to do anything except keep handing over their money and getting less and less in return.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:38 AM on August 8, 2012 [15 favorites]


Well, there is one issue no one seems to want to talk about. And that is the postal employee benefit packages. When signing up for government benefits as part of my employment, I was kinda shocked to see how much better the postal employees are treated, how much less they pay for how much more coverage options than the general rank-and-file government employee.

They could save a lot of cash if they brought benefits into line with the remainder of the government. Or, preferably, brought all government employees to postal worker standards, reducing costs by increasing the group size and thus the negotiating power... but neither of those will ever happen, will they?

On the other hand, DHL used to be the German postal system, and now they are a major player in world delivery services. If USPS merged with UPS for example... it would be the same kind of deal as Germany did, having a corporation take over the formerly public system and run it for profit. Junk mail down, sure. But guaranteed daily delivery would likely also go away. M-W-F mail only could save a lot of dough though...
posted by caution live frogs at 11:39 AM on August 8, 2012


The post office does a very good job at its antiquated mission. That said, it's a stupid mission. It is mostly about delivering future garbage advertising to every american. Everything I use the post office for I would rather not use the post office for.
posted by I Foody at 11:41 AM on August 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Solution: Expand the Postal Service. The Founding Fathers thought that a communications infrastructure was important enough to include it in the Constitution, and I agree with them, but technology has far outpaced the physical transportation of paper.

I propose we task the agency that is currently the USPS with providing high-speed Internet access to every household in America.
posted by Faint of Butt


That's what I've been saying that Canada Post should do -- it would be a great revenue stream, and given our even lower population density, it's even more essential that access to the internet does not rely only on private providers. But it may be too late - I think we're already in the throws of privatization.

as for the junk mail: well, that is what pays for postal service, so I just ignore what I'm not interested in.
posted by jb at 11:42 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Faint of Butt: task the agency that is currently the USPS with providing high-speed Internet access to every household in America

Why, but that would involve spending tons of money on creating huge amounts of new jobs and force complacent media and telecom conglomerates to innovate and compete!
posted by gilrain at 11:43 AM on August 8, 2012


having a corporation take over the formerly public system and run it for profit. Junk mail down, sure.

Why would junk mail go down? That's a good source of revenue. If anything, I could see it increasing.
posted by inigo2 at 11:43 AM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


This a really nuanced and interesting topic and certainly would be better served by a thoughtful analysis of differing viewpoints rather than just a single-link newspaper opinion piece. Especially when the writer makes shallow arguments like this:

Universal mail service is one of the defining characteristics of a civilized society, and why would anyone want to throw away something so precious at any price?


That's really poor argumentation. For one: save the USPS at any price? Ok, for the record, when it comes time for me to starve to death or get "universal mail service" provided by the USPS, I vote for food. Second, "one of the defining characteristics"? Hmm... If I am making that list, I don't think I could get far enough down the list to even reach postal service before I ran out of ink. Moreover, it ignores ample evidence that the USPS could be privatized and nothing about "universal mail service" would change. If a society has a universal system in place to send a post card for 35 cents, is that society no longer civilized if it has a universal system in place to send a post card (via a private carrier) for $1.50?

And I think this guy misreads the Constitution. He states that it "gives the federal government responsibility for postal service". That's not correct. Article I, section 8 states that "The Congress shall have power ... to establish post office and post roads." "Shall have the power to" means it is one of the enumerated powers that the Federal congress can exercise should its members vote to do so; in other words, they have that option. That is very different than requiring Congress to establish a post office or saying it has the "responsibility" to maintain a post office. Implying that it would be contrary to the Constitution to not have a USPS is simply unfounded.

So, this topic deserves a better treatment because it is an interesting one. Certainly something must be done about the USPS because it financially is a burden and the utility of its services to the general public is quickly disappearing. So much of the mail I receive is junk mail that I dislike subsidizing companies to send me crap I don't want. I'd happily subsidize people sending personal letters, postcards, and such things. The problem is that if you don't have businesses using the postal service, it becomes even more of a financial sinkhole.

I'm not sure I know the solution. I like the idea of the USPS and am willing to pay for it while it is still useful. But as personal usage of the USPS shrinks up to become almost non-existent, what service is the USPS serving? Then it would just be a governmental competitor to FedEx/UPS for business transactions. I'm not inclined to pay for that. There's some very strong arguments for not keeping the USPS; and I struggle to make a very long list of the reasons to keep the USPS.
posted by dios at 11:44 AM on August 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


DHL used to be the German postal system, and now they are a major player in world delivery services.

You've got the story wrong - they were bought by Deutsche Post. The D is for Dalsey not Deutsche.
posted by JPD at 11:47 AM on August 8, 2012


I said the ones who don't have to be there, which would presumably include farmers.

Those farmers need health care, and roads, and grocery stores, and gas, and implement stores, and schools for their children ... my god, it's like they need whole rural towns!
posted by rewil at 11:48 AM on August 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm making a list of all the people here in favor of getting rid of the USPS. If we do, I'll have a drawing and the winner gets to either a) get my technophobic and set-in-their-ways elderly parents to use a computer to pay their bills (winner pays for computer and Internet access) or b) drive my parents to the nearest privatized post office to pick up their mail daily (winner pays for gas and must listen to my father critique their driving). ENTER NOW TO WIN!
posted by entropicamericana at 11:50 AM on August 8, 2012 [9 favorites]


Those farmers need health care, and roads, and grocery stores, and gas, and implement stores, and schools for their children ... my god, it's like they need whole rural towns!

Okay, so subsidize those, for them. That doesn't mean I should be paying money to subsidize the lifestyle of people who move to the country or suburbs because they don't like sidewalks and being around other people.
posted by downing street memo at 11:53 AM on August 8, 2012


People who don't have a computer and Internet access? FUCK 'EM, amirite?

Is there any question that in 30 years computer illiteracy will be unacceptable? Getting rid of paper mail would be a good incentive to require universal Internet access to every American, because there'd be no other way to pay your taxes. Banks, insurance companies, etc. would follow suit saving a ton of paper and effort.

If we just cut out Saturday delivery, for instance, we could buy lots of computers and Internet access with that $3 billion per year.

Paper mail is going away, it's just a matter of when and deciding the winners and losers.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:54 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


One of these days I'll write up a really long thing about how the post office is awesome and responsible for so much, but of course that is a backward-looking argument and doesn't really address why the postal service needs to be around now.

I will just say that the USPS has been able to operate EXTREMELY well based on the limitations placed on it, some limitations are rather reasonable for its charter, but most are rather unnecessary shackles based on the idea that this public service has to pay for itself but cannot increase revenues or cut costs without getting the approval of a fickle do-nothing congress.
posted by ckape at 11:56 AM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm told that the law requiring the prefunding of the USPS benefits was pushed by FedEx lobbyists.
posted by Obscure Reference at 11:58 AM on August 8, 2012


Truly, participation in the Postal Workers Union has been exceedingly good for my father -- he was able to provide much needed health insurance and a more-than-decent standard of life for our family. In addition, his union has stood up for him a number of times, most notably when he herniated a disk in his back. He was able to take several months off (he had also saved up months worth of time off in his 12+ years of service) to recover fully before returning to work and is allowed a pass on carrying heavier things due to his injury. That concession hasn't come with a fight, though, and his (non-union) supervisors harass him about it from time to time. It occurs to me that this sort of humane treatment of one's workforce is nearly unheard of these days and I wish this story didn't seem exceptional. I am so incredibly grateful that due to union organization, my father will be able to reach retirement age and receive a pension.

Given the opportunity I mail letters and have things shipped through the USPS regardless of cost. I know this sounds really hokey but if we all took the time to sit down a write four letters to people we'd lost touch with it would go a long way towards allaying this problem.

And y'all know UPS and FedEx are using the infrastructure the USPS built, right?
posted by sibboleth at 12:00 PM on August 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


People who don't have a computer and Internet access? FUCK 'EM, amirite?
posted by entropicamericana at 1:19 PM on August 8


This is crass but it raises the point that some people are not ready to move to new methods. That's true. Surely we are trending this direction though and should think about it. The affordability issue is a major one. But interestingly, what if some of the dollars that currently goes to postal services were used to provide universal free wifi? That would be interesting. I wonder what the price difference would be.

USPS runs and maintains so much of the very foundation of society

This is a little over-wrought to describe it as the very foundation of society, but I think the discussion (as I understand it) would not be to give up all the services the USPS provides. That is, the USPS might provide 50 different services, and the government could take the 20 useful ones and reallocate the responsibility to another service (i.e., databases, etc. you described) and do something else with the actual delivery. That's my point that the topic is an interesting one and we should look at all of the services it provides and determine what the government must keep doing, what could the government spend money on and accomplish some of the other benefits, and what we might be comfortable on privatizing.
posted by dios at 12:00 PM on August 8, 2012


Democracy Now just did a story on this. Apparently without the very recent requirement to prefund retirement benefits 80 years into the future, USPS would be in the black and profitable even with the declining mail volumes.

Also, "junk mail" is what subsidizes the whole thing. One person's junk mail is another person's small business's way of advertising to potential customers. Here in Canada all you have to do is put "no junk mail" on your mailbox and voila - no junk mail.
posted by smartypantz at 12:05 PM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Lets see. To recieve electronic mail you need to pay an internet provider and own and maintain a computer with all the regular updates and upgrades and repairs and whatnot. To recieve paper mail, you need a box next to your front door. Hard to see why a lot of people have a hard time switching.
posted by fimbulvetr at 12:06 PM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sorry that's " fund 75 years of retiree health benefits over just a 10-year span" , not 80. But it is still a confusing requirement, especially the idea that it must be done within a 10 year span.

I would point out that the health benefits for postal workers are hard fought and necessary for careers which involve constant physical labour, especially walking 5 miles a day (here in Canada 10 km is not unusual for a route) carrying a 20lb sack in all weather. And then there's the sorting - inside workers get RSI's from sorting 8 hours a day.
posted by smartypantz at 12:15 PM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Okay, so subsidize those, for them. That doesn't mean I should be paying money to subsidize the lifestyle of people who move to the country or suburbs because they don't like sidewalks and being around other people.

I'm living in a town of 1,700 people in the northwest corner of Kansas, working at the hospital, and so I guess I'd be in line for a subsidy, then, but I don't see how that'd be cheaper and easier than just continuing with the USPS as it is. Given the feelings of the people in this region toward taxes and non-farm subsidies, I think continuing the postal service is the option with a realistic chance of success.

I do not like living out here. I would love to be able to find a job in a city -- hell, just a town large enough to have an actual bookstore would do just fine -- and I would like to be able to afford to move there. But circumstances are as they are, and so right now I rely on the Postal Service quite a lot to bring me anything I can't find in the tiny local stores or in the Wal-Mart 30 miles away.
posted by rewil at 12:16 PM on August 8, 2012


One of these days I'll write up a really long thing about how the post office is awesome and responsible for so much, but of course that is a backward-looking argument and doesn't really address why the postal service needs to be around now.

I feel the same way. I look at the USPS favorably, but almost nostalgically like it is piece of americana to be proud about for all the great things it has done and represents. I have a strong affinity for the post office for a lot of weird subjective reasons.

But looking forward is a different matter. The absolute primary current value of the USPS in my life is a concept call the "mailbox rule" which is that when I want to file something with a court, it is considered filed the moment I place it into a USPS mailbox. Placing it in the mailbox is the same as showing up at the courthouse and having it stamped received there. The same is not true for private carrier or couriers. And I cannot tell you how many times it has been critically important what particular hour or day something was placed in the mail. But while I rely on that in my job, it's not exactly a major reason to keep the service around at a national level. I wonder if that is true across the board: there's a lot of useful and interesting discrete things of value the USPS presents such that it is worth maintaining even if its central purpose is not worth keeping.
posted by dios at 12:16 PM on August 8, 2012


The people in this thread touting universal internet access as the 21st century mission of the new USPS seem to be severely overlooking the fact that internet service is already controlled by a ruthless cartel that has no intention of ever giving up its perpetual profit stream to a government agency.

You really think ATT, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner will just let the government (that they own a conservative 40%-ish share of outright through lobbiests and bought off congresscritters) provide universal access to something that they could squeeze for $40-100x300million a month? In what universe do you live?
posted by T.D. Strange at 12:17 PM on August 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Every time some obnoxious conservative relative brings up the idea that the Post Office should be privatized unless it can pay for itself (and they ALL bring this up--is it a regular talking point on Hannity or something?), I like to agree enthusiastically, and then suggest that we extend the metaphor to all governmental services, beginning with the military.

It is great fun to see the wheels spinning desperately, but then I start thinking that maybe next time, the US Army really will just seize all the natural resources in whatever oil-rich nation we next invade, and then it still won't be enough to make up for the trillion dollar shortfall because of the goddamned camouflage boondoggle or whatever and it'll STILL get handed over to Halliburton to use as a private security force.
posted by Mayor West at 12:20 PM on August 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Old-timer here, I can't believe all this anti-USPS talk. Receiving a physical letter or card from a family member instead of an e-mail can really brighten someone's day and give them real excitement. Holiday cards get sent out using USPS, an e-mail chain letter would not suffice for that. What about a hand-written letter to an old friend? Until many companies stop charging me a credit card processing fee, I continue to pay my bills by mail, because it's actually cheaper. You youngins probably aren't paying attention to that 2-3% fee you're paying for convenience of not writing a check. On a $100 bill that's $2-3, my .45 cent stamp / letter / check costs much less than that.

Don't you guys use Ebay? I send and receive tons of flat-rate Priority Mail, if it fits in the box, you can send it no matter the weight at much better rates than UPS or FedEx. I depend on the USPS mail for my business. Advertising I send out via USPS pretty much supports my business entirely. I have tried e-mail marketing, it wasn't effective in the least. People like receiving physical copies of shiny glossy advertising materials or promotional items that they can hand to their clients better than reprinting a crappy e-mail.

USPS Express Mail is a modern marvel. I can get documents or parcels over-nighted to most places in the country relatively inexpensively.

Now my post office could modernize in many ways and save a lot of money, they need the automated machines that someone mentioned were in NYC offices. I shouldn't have to wait in line like an idiot to buy a stamp, or to get a parcel weighed and postage put on it. I should be able to print out any kind of postage from a computer on the USPS web site, without having to pay a third party like Endicia or Stamps.com. Seems like we could have robots deliver the mail too, into special mailboxes. Think something like Google's automated car with a mailing attachment robotic arm.
posted by banished at 12:21 PM on August 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


A few thoughts as I await several IMPORTANT packages that are in route from the USPS at a very reasonable rate:

1. "The USPS needs to go because they deliver a ton of junk mail" is one of the stupidest fucking arguments I've ever heard. It's like saying "cars have to go because so many young people drive so fast".

2. Government is constitutionally tasked with at least providing for a postal system.

3. Does anyone seriously think that FedEx or UPS or DHL will provide service anywhere near as affordable as the USPS, absent the competition from the USPS? That's truly crazy talk.

The USPS does a pretty fantastic job, in my book. Disbanding it would be extremely penny-wise-and-pound-foolish.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:22 PM on August 8, 2012 [17 favorites]


That said, it's a stupid mission. It is mostly about delivering future garbage advertising to every american. Everything I use the post office for I would rather not use the post office for.

Can you e-mail a pressed flower? Seal a phone call with a kiss? Smell your lover's perfume on a fax? Pull that fiver from granny's SMS?

No, I love the post office.

/Sorry, Pterry.

You really think ATT, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner will just let the government (that they own a conservative 40%-ish share of outright through lobbiests and bought off congresscritters) provide universal access to something that they could squeeze for $40-100x300million a month?

Just looks what happens when municipalities that are under-served by broadband access try to make a public utility of it.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:27 PM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fact number one that a lot of people are ignoring (or ignorant of) is that DHL, UPS, and FedEx actually use the USPS for a lot of their "last-mile" deliveries; without the USPS, a lot of people simply will not have the option of having things sent to their homes.

Fact number two is that the USPS pays for itself and always has; they've always been very proud of the fact that they're not paid for out of the budget.

Fact number three is that the entire "privatise the USPS" push is a combination of useless fuckstains who find the concept of non-private entities abhorrent and intense, multimillion dollar lobbying by UPS, DHL, and FedEx to legislate their biggest competitor out of business, which any non-evil person should find abhorrent.

"Privatize/eliminate the USPS" is an argument made from evil or from ignorance; it's a shit position either way.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:33 PM on August 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


Most other countries pay way, way, way more for their mail. As in, easily double. They also pay duties on everything, to the point where you pretty much can't afford to do things like print band t-shirts in the US and then mail them to Germany to be sold on tour. This is exactly what you can look forward to if the USPS goes private -- shipping costs and taxes which often amount to as much or more than the goods you bought.

Ebay, Amazon, and other online stores which ship domestically are viable almost solely because of the USPS. I always get a good laugh at the "piracy is killing physical media!" thing... because what's really starting to kill it is the shipping cost involved in getting LPs and even CDs from overseas. If US shipping costs start to come in line with Europe -- which they will the moment they're not subsidized -- you can kiss online shopping goodbye.
posted by vorfeed at 12:34 PM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Make a US Post Bank with the mission to put "pay day" loan operations out of business forever.
posted by ennui.bz at 12:44 PM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


2. Government is constitutionally tasked with at least providing for a postal system.

I addressed this earlier. I've now seen in this article and again here a very assertive claim in this regard. Can you elaborate on why you are so adamant about this? Because I do not think the constitution says anything about the postal service other than to indicate that Congress has the power, should they choose to use it, to designate post routes and boxes and build stations. Inherent in that is the power to not do any of them.
posted by dios at 12:50 PM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


You really think ATT, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner will just let the government provide universal access to something that they could squeeze for $40-100x300million a month?

If you have a telephone, chances are you already pay for a telephone service subsidy for low-income families. It's not a stretch to imagine something like this for internet service (in fact, this is in the works).
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:53 PM on August 8, 2012


Ebay, Amazon, and other online stores which ship domestically are viable almost solely because of the USPS.

You forgot Netflix. At my house, we abuse the postal service at the rate my family goes through Netflix discs, although that has slowed with the roll-out of the streaming service. I imagine the mailed discs will eventually go away as Netflix will be pure streaming, though. It will be lesser for that because there was a teeny bit of joy in finding out which disc would be in the wrapper when it arrived from the USPS.
posted by dios at 12:54 PM on August 8, 2012


I'm torn. On one hand, they really got screwed by that requirement to fund their retirements so far in advance, but on the other hand I kinda hate the USPS for being such an unrepentant deliverer of junk mail.

Yo, you don't really think that will be better with privatisation, do you?

Here in the Netherlands we now have several postal "services" and hence the pleasure of getting aat least twice as much junk mail as when it was just the PTT, all delivered at the most awkward times too.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:58 PM on August 8, 2012


Hey, all you morons who don't want junk mail. You know you can get them to stop sending it to you, right?
FTC site about opting out.

So, really, you are just saying that you are ignorant and lazy, and can't be bothered to do one simple thing to stop receiving junk mail. Thanks, please allow my disdain to make you feel indignant as well.

My grandmother worked for the USPS from WWII until she retired. Fuck you if you can't work collectively to get better compensation for your labor. That's your own damn fault. Complaining about the compensation of people who you think are just "lowly postal workers" is idiotic. They certainly were smarter than you, who seems to think playing the losers game of wage slave to a private company is the path to security and sustainable livelyhood. Enjoy your 401K when it gets gutted again by the morons gambling in the stock market.

I'm going to stop now before I really let lose with a terribly thought out polemic about macro-economics and Marxist theory versus the Anarcho-Capitolist Conservative destroyers of civilization. Also, fuck.
posted by daq at 1:00 PM on August 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


Because I do not think the constitution says anything about the postal service other than to indicate that Congress has the power, should they choose to use it, to designate post routes and boxes and build stations. Inherent in that is the power to not do any of them.

There are different ways to interpret the clause - basically whether or not the government would be directly involved in delivering mail or physically building the roads. Kinda moot now though; we chose to have the USPS. And, why would the Founding Fathers bother to include it at all if there intention was that the government would do nothing? It may be that doing nothing is inherent in their power - I don't think that was the framers' intention. YMMV, of course.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 1:00 PM on August 8, 2012


if there their intention...
posted by Benny Andajetz at 1:02 PM on August 8, 2012


When the state summons me for jury duty, I want to state to provide me with the notification, NOT a private intermediary.

I don't want my summons coming by FedEx. Or through my wireless provider. Or through my landline internet service.
posted by ocschwar at 1:02 PM on August 8, 2012


Also, now that I remember, doing this would screw Oregon voting laws. Oregon doesn't have voting stations, it's all vote by mail. Allowing this to pass into the hands of a private entity without government mandate or oversight would be asking for some really unscrupulous things to happen with vote rigging and "lost ballots". I think there are a few other states that have this, too, but I just moved to Oregon and learned about it here.
posted by daq at 1:07 PM on August 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


daq: So, really, you are just saying that you are ignorant and lazy, and can't be bothered to do one simple thing to stop receiving junk mail.

Your link is for opting out of pre-approved credit offers. That's a vast minority of the junk mail I receive every day.
posted by gilrain at 1:12 PM on August 8, 2012


What I find interesting is that, when Thomas Pynchon wrote the Crying of Lot 49, he created the Peter Pinguid Society, a society that referred to the John Birch Society as left-wingers. Guess what their primary political cause was? Privatizing the postal service.

Gadzooks! What was once a signifier of far-right political batshittery in a major American novel is now evidently a mainstream belief in the Congressional Republican caucus. The only upside to current events is that they're crazy enough to keep Thomas Pynchon with more than enough material to write another great American novel.
posted by jonp72 at 1:17 PM on August 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


I ship things every day by USPS and UPS. UPS is, in fact, faster. They have a tendency to destroy slightly fewer packages. But the cost of shipping library books through normal UPS without a group rate is at least 2-3 times more expensive than Library Rate materials. The USPS gets our books to Canada, to Guam, to Alaska, and to a variety of other exciting places for which UPS is not an option. We have lost books in the mail, though sometimes they come back neatly wrapped in new packaging. (I pity the fool who thinks "library rate" means some sort of fancy gift and steals it...) While there are problems, I can say I have never loved the USPS more than when they safely get a three-volume set of archaeological site plans to Vermont and back. Or New Zealand! I mean, Fed-Ex delivered a package of boots worth over three hundred dollars to a house three door down from mine, left them outside in the rain, and didn't even apologize. DHL used to leave Dell boxes in the middle of the front steps of my urban townhouse. I'll forgive the occasional lost book in exchange for what they do give, which is the ability to lend and receive books from all over the world. UPS also doesn't handle letters all that well, unless you enjoy paying $17 an envelope for overnight delivery.
posted by jetlagaddict at 1:21 PM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


gilrain, if you had read the whole page, you would have seen this section:
Mail

The Direct Marketing Association's (DMA) Mail Preference Service (MPS) lets you opt out of receiving unsolicited commercial mail from many national companies for five years. When you register with this service, your name will be put on a "delete" file and made available to direct-mail marketers and organizations. This will reduce most of your unsolicited mail. However, your registration will not stop mailings from organizations that do not use the DMA's Mail Preference Service. To register with DMA's Mail Preference Service, go to www.dmachoice.org, or mail your request with a $1 processing fee to:

DMAchoice
Direct Marketing Association
P.O. Box 643
Carmel, NY 10512
posted by daq at 1:23 PM on August 8, 2012


I ship things every day by USPS and UPS. UPS is, in fact, faster.

This is not true for letters and small items that fit in envelopes. Not by a country mile.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:24 PM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


UPS is currently scheduled to take 8 days to ship me a letter-sized parcel from LA to San Francisco - which is a seven hour drive. USPS would take 2 days, if not overnight, and cost less. I am not impressed. (You did address that UPS sucks for the physically small stuff, but I'd just like to underline that in red marker :-)

I suspect UPS doesn't focus on doing small things very well, because USPS is just so efficient in that space that a profit-taking company could not match that efficiency.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:28 PM on August 8, 2012


This is not true for letters and small items that fit in envelopes. Not by a country mile.

Sorry, should have specified from the start-- these are all library books. Library rate is substantially slower. Most of our UPS books are for a consortium; these are sometimes delivered the same day or next day. Our first class mail and library rate mail is mediated through our campus post office, so it is always slower. Library rate is awesome but molasses-like...
posted by jetlagaddict at 1:31 PM on August 8, 2012


The grant of authority is in the constitution because there was an immediate need to establish a postal service in order for the government of that time to carry out its basic functions. This shouldn't be difficult to understand.

It's still the case that the USPS is part of how the government performs its basic functions in ways that would be difficult to eliminate at this point -- or any time soon, really -- and that would require numerous legal changes before it could be handed over to private operators.
posted by hoople at 1:31 PM on August 8, 2012


Odd, I haven't heard any talk about privatizing the USPS. I have heard talk about just letting it die the same way the pony express died, and for the same reason, namely that messaging technology marches on. Maybe when nobody buys physical books any more and physical things like that lovely crocheted ashtray you just bought on etsy come as STL files for your 3D printer.
posted by jfuller at 1:32 PM on August 8, 2012


Library rate is substantially slower. Most of our UPS books are for a consortium; these are sometimes delivered the same day or next day.

So USPS library rate is slower, but 2-3x cheaper than UPS. I'm not sure why that wouldn't be the case?
posted by inigo2 at 1:35 PM on August 8, 2012


Library rate is substantially slower. Most of our UPS books are for a consortium; these are sometimes delivered the same day or next day.

So USPS library rate is slower, but 2-3x cheaper than UPS. I'm not sure why that wouldn't be the case?


...because it makes sense? I don't begrudge their profits on the books we do need to ship UPS. My point was that privatizing USPS would be a problem for a number of customers who would be forced to deal with extreme rises in costs in cases other than the obvious rural examples already mentioned. I had no idea how much libraries uses the post office before this job.
posted by jetlagaddict at 1:40 PM on August 8, 2012


As a long-distance hiker, I really hope that nothing bad (like privatization, or mass-shutdowns of post offices) happens to the USPS. Long-distance trails (the Appalachian Trail being the most famous) generally go near towns every few days. However, some of these towns are so small that they don't have even a convenience store with suitable food. In these situations, mailing food and supplies to yourself general delivery is really the only option. Unfortunately, the post offices in these towns are the first on the chopping block.

Also, spending time in small-town post offices is a really interesting thing to do. (Though that might just be because anything is really interesting when it's a change from walking for 12 hours a day.)
posted by frogmanjack at 1:56 PM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


What effect would privatizing the USPS have on laws regarding mail fraud, official postmark dates, mail tampering, etc? Would those still be enforceable if your mail wasn't being handled by a government organization?
posted by ceribus peribus at 2:00 PM on August 8, 2012


I'm a rural dork who loves the post office unabashedly. I get and send a lot of mail. I think folks who use the internet a lot lose track of just how many people don't really use it at all and how much even the people who do use it don't trust it and in many cases don't trust it for entirely good reasons. So I'm all in favor of a cultural shift that has more people who want to being able to use electronic means to do the stuff that they formerly HAD to do via the post office, but the post office is an important part of the current US culture, even if it isn't a current part of your US culture.

Fun fact: Amtrak (you know, that other semi-privatized institution) just started delivering e-tickets this month. Prior to this people living in rural America in a town without a staffed train station either had to pay Amtrak to deliver your paper ticket [via Fedex, oh the irony!] or you had to go to a place with a staffed ticketing station which means about an 80+ mile drive and leaving the state, if you're me.

Bernie Sanders has been a grouchy sonofabitch trying to keep many of Vermont's rural post offices open so that rural people can have the same access to the mail in a timely fashion as people in other more popular parts of the US. It's a struggle.

It also seems like some of the issues with the post office according to this article are actually other problems that aren't USPS related. Health care costs skyrocketing is also a thing that public libraries claim is a huge problem, in fact all public institutions are facing that. Maybe this is a health care crisis masquerading as a postal crisis. If you're going to get rid of the USPS, you have to have a plan for offering the same services somehow and my back of the envelope calculations say that getting everyone wired with broadband and digitally literate and working with institutions that were also wired and digitally literate would be even more expensive.

Plus: evalentines suck, everyone knows that.
posted by jessamyn at 2:22 PM on August 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


I really don't get the USPS hate, or how anyone can not be outraged at the turd the outgoing Republicans dropped on them. I get all kinds of things that I actually like in the mail. Sometimes the are shipped FedEx or UPS to my city and delivered by the USPS, sometimes they go the whole way in mail bags. (which may or may not be transported by USPS workers)

My SO works for a very large company, so I can use their account (and pay in cash so it's not actually charged to them) and ship things UPS for less than the cost of priority mail. That's what we'll be looking at if the post office is privatized. Some of us lucky duckies will be able to mail stuff for nearly free, while everyone else gets to pay $10 to send a letter across the country and then sent back because the UPS/FedEx doesn't deliver there.

If you had talked about replacing the USPS with DHL, I would have been more interested in that. My experiences with DHL when they still were a full service operation here were never anything short of stellar, although the pricing was high. I learned after the first couple of times to make sure that the box was sealed and ready to go before calling or clicking the button on the website. The first time I requested a pickup, they got to my house, not even an office in less time than it took to find the box, put a hard drive in the box and tape it shut.
posted by wierdo at 2:31 PM on August 8, 2012


Having pointed out above that internet shopping depends on the USPS, I will now point out that it is unreasonable to require every American to use the internet. Many poor people struggle to maintain a running car or working plumbing and heat, especially in rural areas; for them, having to pay for a computer and internet access (or the gas it takes to get somewhere with the same) would just introduce another potential point of failure.

There are many, many people in this country who cannot get or maintain a bank account -- they're supposed to pay their bills on the computer how?
posted by vorfeed at 2:40 PM on August 8, 2012


There are many, many people in this country who cannot get or maintain a bank account -- they're supposed to pay their bills on the computer how?

They won't be able to get photo ID for the polling booths... AND they won't be able to vote by mail. It's win-win for conservatives!
posted by -harlequin- at 3:05 PM on August 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Maybe when nobody buys physical books any more and physical things like that lovely crocheted ashtray you just bought on etsy come as STL files for your 3D printer.

So are we all going to be eating plastic food in your future or do we no longer get to order gourmet and hard-to-find groceries on-line?

Really we should have Bingo Cards for this topic: Oooo Junk Mail! Make everyone pay on-line. I haven't sent a private letter in X years. The people at my local P.O. are horrible. My packages are always broken. etc. etc.

What happened when the Netherlands went private? Well for one thing their postal workers went part time without benefits at a fraction of their former pay checks. But hey, fuck the 500,000 PO workers, why should they have it so good when the rest of the middle class is disappearing.

Fun fact: The P.O. only requires a H.S. diploma but full time employees can make around $50,000 with good benefits (Federal Health Insurance coverage) and even more with overtime. Plus Military vets have priority in hiring!
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:30 PM on August 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Anyone who thinks privatising the post is a good idea should try going to the service counter of a Hoogvliet or Albert Heijn supermarket and watch the clerk at the desk screw up their face trying to figure out how to send a small package out of the country.

Of course, a big reason the post is still so necessary in the USA is because we still use paper checks for some things. In the Netherlands paper checks haven't existed for years. If you get one from somewhere you even have to pay a surcharge to deposit it, since the bank has to mail it to a processor outside of the country (presumably this processor is in the past).
posted by 1adam12 at 3:52 PM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pardon me if someone has already mentioned this, but I thought that law was passed to break the postal union.
posted by annsunny at 4:40 PM on August 8, 2012


Harlequin said: Privatizing the municipal water supply... everyone screams blue murder but is impotent to do anything except keep handing over their money and getting less and less in return

What I don't understand (and it happens as much in the UK as it apparently does in the US) is how often local and national governmental bodies seem to sign contracts that lock them into paying more and more for less and less. I mean, don't these guys have lawyers to read this stuff and tell them that This May Not Be A Good Idea?
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 5:35 PM on August 8, 2012


But hell, have you ever had to go pickup something at a FedEx or UPS office? Even worse.

And doesn't both UPS and FedEx have a deal where their last mile delivery was to be done by the USPS?
posted by rough ashlar at 7:36 PM on August 8, 2012


And doesn't both UPS and FedEx have a deal where their last mile delivery was to be done by the USPS?

If you're not right near one of their offices, stuff shipped to you by UPS or FedEx will usually come via USPS to your door.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:50 PM on August 8, 2012


Pope Guilty: "If you're not right near one of their offices, stuff shipped to you by UPS or FedEx will usually come via USPS to your door."

I believe that is a special service they offer to certain large shippers to keep their pricing down. I very occasionally receive packages that way, but it's pretty rare. Usually UPS or FedEx comes to my door, and that was the case even when I lived outside of town. Well, the FedEx guy didn't come to my door, he called me to meet him at a gas station about a mile from my house because he could never find the place. UPS had no trouble driving down my two-track "road", though.

It's different if you're waaay out in the sticks. They just won't deliver to you at all in that case. It's USPS or nothing.

I know a guy who has a farm in the Ozarks miles and miles from anything resembling civilization and the only way to get a package out there for most people is the post office unless they prearrange to have the package held at the UPS or FedEx office in town, about an hour and a half away, which they then have to go pick up. You have to drive about 10 miles on dirt from the nearest paved highway, and that's new. It used to be 20 before you found pavement.

However, he also runs a woodworking shop out there and they ship enough volume that they can get UPS to make a special pickup and they'll drop packages if it happens to be pickup day. Basically, if you give them enough volume, they'll deal with you wherever you may be, if not, they will leave you hanging. That's one of the reasons why the USPS is so important.

Shockingly, before they sold the landline business, Alltel managed to get DSL going in the CO that serves that area, so they have fancy 384k/128k DSL even out there. I don't know how they do it, though. It's definitely more than 3.5 miles by road to get out there. Perhaps the phone lines run up and over one of the mountains or something, but it's a damn miracle.
posted by wierdo at 8:12 PM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


the trouble with costs going up because people essentially live further apart (which could be covered by raising postage rates) aside, i'm not overly alarmed by news that the post office is loosing money, because as i understand it, the problem is essentially the arbitrary, and probably unnecessary, pension requirements placed on it by the federal government. i suspect the whole thing is a plot by grover norquist or people like him, but i have no proof. i say not overly alarmed because i am a bit alarmed that people see this as a really problem rather than an artificial one.
posted by cupcake1337 at 9:04 PM on August 8, 2012


But as personal usage of the USPS shrinks up to become almost non-existent, what service is the USPS serving?

This idea that the USPS is shrinking to non-existence is strange considering that the USPS is the 120th largest company in the world by revenue. It is bigger than Boeing, bigger than Coca Cola, bigger than Pepsi, bigger than Dow Chemical, bigger than Dell, bigger than Nokia, bigger than Mitusbishi. Incidentally, it is also bigger than UPS and nearly twice as big as FedEx. If not for the ridiculous restraints put on it by Congress, including prohibitions against direct competition with UPS and FedEx, it would be profitable for the foreseeable future, even though profitability should not be requirement. All evidence indicates that privatization would result in higher costs and lower service.
posted by JackFlash at 9:27 PM on August 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


The Post Office Is Still Ours. The Post Office Is Dying.
posted by homunculus at 11:41 PM on August 8, 2012


Post Office Privatization Is Probably a Huge Real Estate Deal
posted by homunculus at 12:11 AM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Despite all the anecdotes, I'm still not hearing many really good arguments in favor of the USPS. I think there are a few points to be made:

Whatever the motivations requiring the USPS to pre fund their commitments, I'm not so sure it's a bad idea, and can have the long term effect of greatly entrenching its place as a deliverer of mail.

Privatizing the post office is but one proposal regarding postal reform. The slaying of that argument sounds like the slaying of a whole lot of straw men and nut picking. A more realistic reform would be to let private carriers truly compete, as the USPS still seems to have an official monopoly on delivering mail.

The idea given in favor of subsidizing rural mail seems inherently weak to me. Rural vs urban living have a variety of tradeoffs, one of them being financial. The idea that mail must be subsidized to tip the scale in favor of rural residents is arbitrary.

The assertion that civilization is lost without the USPS, well, I'm thinking that's a bit over wrought.

It's hard to argue that the USPS current mission/business model will be expanding. Mail itself is dying, though I doubt will ever really go extinct, and parcel delivery is a competitive field. If the model of mail delivery exclusively by the USPS is so desirable, customers must be expected to pay whatever it takes, or be subsidized by means such as junk mail. Kind of the way it has been doing for a long time. It isn't a radical notion.

The more radical notion is that the USPS should be allowed to die if if finds itself no longer viable. Radical, and not unreasonable. Though I think unlikely.

That the USPS provides such nice jobs is cool, but beside the point. Its mission isn't to provide nice jobs. Should its mission somehow disappear, I can see no valid reason to step up to the plate to save those jobs.

That private carriers sometimes utilize USPS for delivery is interesting, but more evidence that private carriers are taking advantage of subsidies/infrastructure like everyone else. I'm not so sure it proves the USPS is somehow uniquely capable of doing such jobs, as seems to have been suggested by several folks on this thread, but rather, they're the path of least resistance.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:44 AM on August 9, 2012


Whatever the motivations requiring the USPS to pre fund their commitments, I'm not so sure it's a bad idea, and can have the long term effect of greatly entrenching its place as a deliverer of mail.

The entire reason for it is to fuck over the USPS and the people who work for it so that UPS and FedEx can take over. It is literally an effort by two private companies to legislate their biggest competitor out of business. If you can comprehend that and your response isn't "goddamn, that's crooked and evil", I don't know what to tell you.

And furthermore, the USPS is being forced to prefund its pension fund for employees who haven't even been born yet. That's insane. Nobody does that.

Privatizing the post office is but one proposal regarding postal reform. The slaying of that argument sounds like the slaying of a whole lot of straw men and nut picking. A more realistic reform would be to let private carriers truly compete, as the USPS still seems to have an official monopoly on delivering mail.

Privatizing the post office is the proposal, because this entire mess is a crisis created specifically to create favorable terms for privatizing the post office. The USPS crisis is not a natural condition that has arisen; it was engineered by people who hate the USPS as a means of killing it. "Postal reform" is a nonsense, needless thing only "necessitated" by the hostile legal undermining of the USPS by its competitors and by people who hate the public sector.

The idea given in favor of subsidizing rural mail seems inherently weak to me. Rural vs urban living have a variety of tradeoffs, one of them being financial. The idea that mail must be subsidized to tip the scale in favor of rural residents is arbitrary.

What kind of strawman is this? When we talk about subsidizing rural mail delivery, we're not talking about making rural living more appealing- that's just inane and nobody's saying that. The talk of subsidization is due to the fact that rural mail delivery cannot be done at a profit because the population isn't dense enough, and so the rural Post Offices must be subsidized by the rest of the USPS- something that wasn't a problem until Congress decided to squeeze the USPS. There's no social engineering going on here, and I don't know where you got the idea. There's no UPS when you're a hundred miles from the nearest population center, no FedEx office in Dogpatch.

Without the USPS, a lot of people simply aren't going to have any way to get things sent to them. I have no problem calling anybody who's okay with that a short-sighted idiot.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:26 AM on August 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


UPS is currently scheduled to take 8 days to ship me a letter-sized parcel from LA to San Francisco

I withdraw this grumble - the schedule was wrong, it arrived on time (yesterday).
posted by -harlequin- at 10:14 AM on August 9, 2012


You can bet serious money that FedEx and UPS are lobbing like crazy to have USPS shut down. Follow the money. Even though USPS delivers "last mile" packages from FedEx and UPS to rural recipients, imagine how much MORE FEdEX and UPS would make if THEY did it, not to mention the uptake in normal business, at astoundingly higher rates than USPS.

The whole "lets privatize USPS" is about following a money trail. Our Congress is a disgraceful institution at the moment, owned lock, stock and barrel by the haves.
posted by Vibrissae at 2:47 PM on August 9, 2012


Post Office Should Consider Postal Banking
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:23 AM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


David Morris: For Good Customer Service Go to Government, Not Corporations

'Received wisdom aside, good customer service is easier to come by at government agencies than many private businesses.'
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:39 AM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


« Older Barbie and Ken's Traditional Nigerian Wedding...  |  Sam Harris- 'Wrestling The Tro... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments