Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Good Example Mr. President

I listened to the President’s “Town Hall” yesterday with great interest. He isn’t much for the rough and tumble of political discourse is he? I bet he wouldn’t have melted those folks in Pennsylvania with a wink of his eye like that lady who was handpicked to attend his “Town Hall.” However Obama did slip up and let us see a bit of the truth yesterday. He pointed out that both Fedex and UPS were operating just fine though in competition with the Post Office. It would be interesting to know exactly what he meant. You see in a head-to-head fair fight, if the US Postal Service wasn’t subsidized by taxpayers, protected from competition, and given financial breaks –there wouldn’t be a United State Postal Service. After all – the USPS has been dying for my entire lifetime – the government keeps propping it up.
Politicians get stipends (aka our tax dollars) to mail the crap that they send out all year. Political campaigns are given breaks on postal rates to send us all the crap that they send out. I don’t even know how many ways there are that we are encouraged to push things through the USPS. I have to mail documents to the Internal Revenue Service (the Great Satan) for example. The Post Office is the arm of the government we most interface with – where do you go for a passport application? Tax forms? Change of address cards? If all that went away – would the USPS go away? It might.
The Internet is killing the Post Office as well. I pay nearly all of my bills online. I was driven to explore that option principally by the alarming rate at which the USPS kept ramping up the cost of postage. When I was born, you could mail your Sears bill back with a 3 cent stamp, now it costs 44 cents to mail that same envelope – and I ain’t that old. Businesses of every stripe are moving away from mailing bills, statements, and the like to avoid postage. While some of that is for convenience, expensive postage is the mother of invention.
The government has mandated the use of the USPS for the American people. Think about it. I don’t get a choice as to where I receive mail or whether I receive mail at all. The mail guy is coming to my house whether I like it or not. Think about that little loss of freedom. I can add all the locations I want by purchasing a post office box at a wide variety of locations – but I can’t permanently stop the mailman from delivering to my house. While most days I like the convenience of home delivery, it becomes a burden if I want to go away for a few days. There is a UPS store half a mile from my house – I would rather have all my mail delivered there. But would the government give me a tax break if the mail guy didn’t have to come to my house? No they wouldn’t – you are forced to pay for government services whether you use them or not.
What would happen if the government sold some zip codes? Could you imagine what it would be like to have someone compete to deliver your mail? Look what competition did to the telecommunications industry. If MaBell had kept the monopoly on telephone service, we would all still have one phone in the house and you could have any color you wanted as long as it was black. The Fedex guy, the UPS guy, AND the postal carrier are in my neighborhood every day anyway – sometimes several times in a single day – I could see all kinds of benefits to having two outfits service our neighborhood rather than three. Maybe we can get the Green enviro-Nazis to look at that?
When was the last time you came out of a Post Office and remarked at how great the service was? The guy at the UPS Store remembers my name. Why do I still get mail for the lady that owned my home fourteen years ago? The Ford dealer I bought a Ford F150 from in 1995 has kept track of me and I get birthday card every year from the salesman.
The President made exactly the point that needs to be made about Health Care by alluding to the Post Office. While I use the Post Office and I am frequently amazed at how accurately and quickly the work of delivering mail is done – the USPS is a bloated (unions are partly to blame) and expensive luxury. This is particularly true for a government that is going deeper and deeper into debt – another nearly $200 Billion in July alone.
All-in-all I think that the United States Postal Service is pretty much a template for what the United States Health Services would look like in fairly short order. The USPS is about to close 700 offices and they asked for another $7 Billion to make it through this year.
Conservative resistance – Day 282

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