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19 August 2009 @ 12:00 am
What's so wrong about the post office?!?! (a late-night rant)  
In this health-care "debate", one of the "talking points" that anti-health insurance reform folks use goes something like: I don't want the government getting their hands on health care!! (again, it's actually health insurance reform, but I tangent). It'll turn out to be like the post office!!

And I ask: What's so wrong about the post office? I can take a physical object (several pieces of paper), put them in another physical object (an envelope), slap an address and 46 cents on it, put it in a box At My House (!) or at a nearby convenient box, and 3-4 days later it can be clear across the country. For Forty-Six Cents!!! I consider that pretty freaking amazing.

They also bring me physical items and put them in a box At My House! Sure, I haven't always requested some of those physical items but that's not the Post Office's fault.

What are people's complaints about the Post Office?
- They're slow. See above item about putting a physical object across the country in three days, for Forty-Six Cents! Doesn't sound slow to me.
- You have to wait in line. Sure you have to wait in line at the Post Office. It's a service that a bunch of people want to use. I also wait in line at the grocery store, the lunch counter, and Starbucks. At Starbucks, I can even pay ten times 46 cents for someone to put some ice, flavored sugar water, and coffee into a blender and pour it into a cup.
- They lose things. It happens, but not very often. I can count the times the post office has lost something of mine on one hand. Also, UPS and FedEx lose things too.

Do people really think that a for-profit capitalistic corporate-run postal system, one that has to continually increase the amount of profit that is delivered to the shareholders (because that's what defines a successful company and keeps the stock price rising) will do a significantly better job than the Post Office? And do you think a for-profit corporation is going to pick up stuff at my house, every day, without an extra fee? No way, man.

So lay off the Post Office, folks. And give your mail carrier a cookie once in a while.
prusik on August 19th, 2009 10:47 am (UTC)
It's odd. At some point, we as a country apparently decided that the profit motive is The Only Correct Motive for doing anything. i.e., if you can't make a profit doing it, it must not be worth doing. (Let us not forget that Nixon, that uber-radical liberal, had proposed national health insurance during his presidency. Let us also not forget that unfettered, unregulated capitalism is what led us to the Great Depression. Oh wait...)

Along the same lines, Republicans are extremely fond of the "government is fundamentally incompetent" meme. They may be using the post office as an (inappropriate) example, but what they're actually pushing is the idea one can't trust the government because the government will eventually screw it up. Hence, their refusal to admit that Medicare and the VA system are government programs.

Sometimes, I think they screwed up the past 8 years deliberately to prove their point. It doesn't actually prove the point if you do it deliberately though. In any case, all they really proved was "those Republicans were fundamentally incompetent."

I'm going to blame it on Reagan. These are the sorts of things he nattered on about.

I have to admit that if you remove the hate and the venom, it's kind of an appealing message at the core. The Republicans are basically saying that you can trust everyone to manage and regulate themselves. If we leave everybody to their own devices, we will all simply do the Right Thing. As appealing as that is, I have a two word rebuttal: Bernie Madoff.

(Also, it strikes me now that putting it that way, the Republican position sounds extremely communist. i.e., people will inherently work for the benefit of the collective. There's nothing about communism that intrinsically demands a totalitarian, highly centralized government. It tends to work out that way though for the same reason why we need regulation.)

mojave_wolfmojave_wolf on August 19th, 2009 04:52 pm (UTC)
it strikes me now that putting it that way, the Republican position sounds extremely communist. i.e., people will inherently work for the benefit of the collective. There's nothing about communism that intrinsically demands a totalitarian, highly centralized government. It tends to work out that way though for the same reason why we need regulation.

LOL! You should say this to a couple of libertarian Republicans just to watch and see if their heads explode. =)

Seriously though, the official Republican position on this stuff isn't so much that anyone even gives a shit about the common good, but that everyone being selfish will work to advance the overall common good, because everyone is a rational economic actor who has better knowledge of what's best for them than anyone else and who will, left to their own devices, make all their decisions based on self-interest. And further, because everyone is doing what is best for them individually, that this adds up to what is best for the collective, since government regulations from on high can't possibly see the interests of the individual little guy or gal as well as said guy or gal.

Tis basically the conservative economic position that was accepted by the majority of Anglo/American economists, at least, as more or less Received Wisdom From On High prior to the last few years (and may still be; I dunno; a friend of mine who got a full ride to law school for academics was more or less forced to write a conservative thesis for her econ Ph.D; she was told that her that her initial idea, which would show that a particular type of seemingly bad-for-profits government interventionwould actually work to overall economic benefit of the surrounding area, would not be approved and if she wanted her credentials do something else pronto! and this was at an elite university, fwiw)

*Most* economists will acknowledge *some* of the flaws in this reasoning in *some* areas (i.e. the free rider problem when appliedto environmental situations), but very few will acknowledge that mass selfishness is not a good thing, or the problems with information, or just how bad the problem is when certain groups get power and use that to exploit other groups (rather, they will cheer it, as one of law school professors w/an econ degree told me very sincerely, "Thank God for Sweatshops!", cause, you know, w/out sweatshops, no jobs and less money for the poor; as opposed to, say, the counter dumbass liberal idea of better paying jobs leading to more disposable income among more people leading to at least an equal # and possibly more jobs all round and vcertainly more money and overall purchasing power w/more leisure time for the lower economic classes. And the idea that no everyone is thinkig all this stuff through with their every purchase or that they would need to be to really be the sort of people who could make the selfish system work--and the exploiter types would have to actually care about people around them, too--is just sort of heresy in some circles)

Umm, I got sidetracked and forgot where I was going. There's a blog called Naked Capitalism that is a good liberal econ blog I highly recommend, tho.
prusik on August 19th, 2009 05:29 pm (UTC)
I'll have to try out Naked Capitalism. It sounds interesting. Thanks.
jeffsoesbe: bald man thinkingjeffsoesbe on August 19th, 2009 11:37 pm (UTC)
Naked Capitalism, which I found at http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/, does sound like an excellent blog to follow. I also like to read the blogs of Paul Krugman and Robert Reich.

I will say that capitalism has been very, very good to me as someone who has worked in the high-tech sector for the last 20 years. But the drive for continual, increasing profit in order to benefit shareholders and executives, and such benefit is always short-term, is something that I've seen batter the rank-and-file employees of companies even in high tech.

I referenced the Bill Maher article about "Not Everything Has To Make A Profit" a while back (at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-maher/new-rule-not-everything-i_b_244050.html). It's a philosophy with which I greatly agree.

I think that certain things are morally and/or financially difficult to justify as profit-making enterprises, such as military, infrastructure, education, health care. This puts them in the realm of being run or organized, at one level or another, by a non-profit government.

Which, of course, puts that concept at odds with elected representatives who take money from for-profit companies as a means of getting elected. And I'm talking about Republicans *and* Democrats here, though many Republicans seem to be more willing to think about primarily the interests of the corporations even if they clothe it in the wool of looking out for average Americans.

There's some great political science fiction that I think could be written taking many of these concepts and taking them to an extreme, as long as one could keep it away from polemic.

Writers, to your keyboards!

- yeff
Terri-Lynne DeFinobogwitch64 on August 19th, 2009 01:29 pm (UTC)
Nicely put, Jeff. Very nicely put. Good show.
jeffsoesbe: bald guy screamingjeffsoesbe on August 19th, 2009 11:39 pm (UTC)
Everyone needs a good late-night rant once in a while, and this was mine. Saved up after days of reading health insurance reform "debate" and slams against every government entity imaginable...

Sometimes, it seems like some people just want chaos as their society.
mojave_wolfmojave_wolf on August 19th, 2009 02:39 pm (UTC)
(1) Bravo! They do a damn good job, all things considered (at least if you don't live in LA in the early part of this decade; there were an abnormal amount of screw-ups when we lived in Woodland Hills, not just to us but w/letters we sent out, too) and the country would be. screwed if they disappeared.

(2) See here for another excellent post w/great comments: http://www.correntewire.com/obama_inadvertently_explains_why_any_public_option_health_insurance_doomed

Even the jerk who keeps complaining that the post office lost 7 billion last year inadvertantly makes a point about how effective it is, since as some others point out that adds up to a very small amount per person, and I'll go further and say that's a comparable *per year* amount to the cost of one FedX overnight letter, with most of the cost being born by those best able to pay, so what wtf is the problem? (and prior to the Bush years fucking w/everything, it was doing quite a bit better, money wise)

(3) I am a little more hopeful of getting decent reform passed than I was a few days ago, when i I was full of despair. While the dems are complete idiots in their efforts to compromise and what they are willing to compromise (the talk kept drifting rightwards and what they have been talking about is much worse than no reform for poor people, say I as a somewhat poor person who has never had worthwhile. health insurance since had cancer *right* before I became an adult and got out of college, w/sick family members who has been paying very close attention), the last couple of days indicates they have finally realized that even if they put forth a Republican bill designed by Republicans that will help no one other than insurance companies, the Republicans will still do their damndest to block it just on general, "we hate democrats and anything they do" principles. So, finally, maybe, they are shifting ground and will move back to the left and do something closer to single payer, or at least a genuinely *good* and *accessible* public option that doesn't involve forcing people who can't afford it to buy insurance premiums with deductibles and restrictions that make it essentially useless to said people being forced to buy something they can't afford, which where the whole thing had been headed.

Still not confident of anything worthwhile, and would much rather see reform delayed than screwed up so as to discredit the whole concept and kill all hope of worthwhile reform for decades, but at least there's a tiny glimmer of hope again. Which is purely thanks to the republicans being morons and still throwing ever greater and more stupid fits even when the dems were getting ready to send them an ever bigger, better and more nicely wrapped package. I guess conservative stupidity can serve a useful function, after all.
jeffsoesbe: bald man thinkingjeffsoesbe on August 19th, 2009 11:51 pm (UTC)
Interesting article. It was actually that comment by Obama that was the final "get me going" spur for the rant. I like Obama a lot, but I was also thinking "dude, slamming the USPS, really?!?!"

The Corrente writer makes a great point about how the USPS has, in some way, been set up for failure because the for-profit corporations are able to get government concessions because they donate to the elected officials. Darned right! Welcome to American democracy! It's all about "getting and holding power" for a lot of the political parties.

I sure hope we get some sort of insurance reform because basic health care should be a fundamental American right, and something which should be seen as crucial to the American good. I'd be fine with decoupling it from businesses, because then it becomes more fundamental and the burden is removed from businesses, except that businesses do have the power of negotiating with health insurance/care providers while holding a large patient base (versus me or you having to purchase health insurance completely on our own).

Big complex problem, hopefully we can get something going on it. Because we *know* nothing's going to happen if the current batch of fringe Republicans ever get into power again...

- yeff
Greg van Eekhoutgregvaneekhout on August 19th, 2009 02:50 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this. My parents grew up in a country where they'd mail your letter, maybe, if you woke the postal worker up from his nap long enough to bribe him. And if someone handed me a piece of paper and asked me to deliver it for 46 cents, they'd be lucky if I agreed to walk it halfway across the street.

I like the postal service.
jeffsoesbe: yulbrynner tuxjeffsoesbe on August 19th, 2009 11:53 pm (UTC)
Oh, Culver City wasn't *that* bad, was it? :-)

I bet you could get a eight-year-old to deliver a letter for 50 cents. Like the errand boys of 19th century Britain. Bring back the orphan messenger boys - that's the answer!

- yeff
(Deleted comment)
jeffsoesbe: yeff southparkjeffsoesbe on August 19th, 2009 11:55 pm (UTC)
But they're the government, so we all know they're very bad at it! :-)

Sometimes people forget just how much government does, and that it's better at a lot of things than people think....
Deborah Laynedeborahlive on August 19th, 2009 05:42 pm (UTC)
Part of running a small press is becoming intimately familiar with all the ways of shipping and mailing things hither and yon.

I love the Postal Service. I especially love Click-n-Ship (the online shipping label/postage/no more lines option). I love the FREE Priority Mail shipping boxes that go at a flat rate no matter how much you cram inside them. Some days, the guys/gals at the post office are the only adults outside my family that I talk to. I love those guys/gals!

You're absolutely right: Nobody should be hatin' on the post office.

Edited at 2009-08-19 05:43 pm (UTC)
jeffsoesbe: yeff southparkjeffsoesbe on August 20th, 2009 12:00 am (UTC)
Remember the cookies for the post office! Or nice gloves or a coffee-shop coupon for your carrier.

I haven't done any click-n-ship, but it sounds like it would be awesome for a publisher such as yourself! Like, you know, when Polyphony 8 comes out and everyone can order it and read its awesome goodness (koff, koff, nudge, nudge) :-)