The One Problem With the United States Postal Service

The One Problem With the United States Postal Service

Donald Trump hates Jeff Bezos. He’s the founder of Amazon. I hate him too. And if you ask Trump why he hates Bezos, he will give you reasons that are similar to mine. For example, he has noted that Amazon has made a lot of money by screwing state and local governments out of sales tax revenue. He also says stupid things like that Amazon is destroying the United States Postal Service, when it is, in fact he and his fellow Republicans that are destroying it. (That’s the one problem with the post office that I mentioned in the title.) But what Trump says about Jeff Bezos is roughly correct.

If there is one bright spot in having Donald Trump as president, it is that he is completely transparent. Sure, Republicans and other Trump supporters like to pretend that he’s mysterious and he isn’t doing what any reasonably objective person would know he is doing. But that doesn’t change reality. Trump may be the king of liars, but American conservatives are masters at lying — to everyone, including themselves.

Donald Trump Does Care About the Postal Service

So the real reason that Donald Trump hates Jeff Bezos is because he owns The Washington Post, and that paper has been particularly harsh to Donald Trump. (Of course, if Trump really wanted to hurt Jeff Bezos, he would have gotten a tax increase on rich people, but Trump doesn’t hate Bezos enough to harm himself. So instead we got the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which will really only make the rich richer and will likely cause job losses.) So even though what I’m about to write might seem like I agree with Trump (which I have no problem doing when it’s true), I don’t. Donald Trump doesn’t care about the United States Postal Service. If he did, he would do something to help it.

The subject came up because I read an article in Vox (I know! I read it a lot!), Trump Thinks Amazon’s Destroying the Post Office. Here’s What’s Really Happening by Jen Kirby. It bothered me, however, because there is really only one reason that the US Postal Service is losing billions of dollars every year. And Kirby spends surprisingly little time on it.

The Evil Republicans Did in the 2006 Lame Duck

If the Republican Party had no power, it would be hilarious. When the Democrats are in control of the government, but the Republicans get it back in the election, the Republicans scream that no legislation should be passed because “the people have spoken.” We even have a conservative on the Supreme Court because the media was willing to accept this argument for a whole year before a new president took over. Yet when things are reversed, the Republicans go hog wild. I’ve been very concerned that they will manage to repeal Obamacare in the lame duck period, should the Democrats take control of Congress in November.

But in 2006, when the Republicans had been destroyed, they used the lame duck period to pass a law requiring that the US Postal Service pre-fund all their retirement benefits out to 75 years. As the Vox article notes, “A Post Office Inspector General blog entry from 2015 (which, of course, has a big stake in the debate) describes the prefund arrangement like this: it’s as if your credit card company estimated you’ll spend $1 million in your lifetime, so it asked you to send them that $1 million check up front.”

Virtually no real company pays for its retirement in this way, so why make the US Postal Service? That’s simple: Republicans hate the postal service. They would like to cut it up and give it to FedEx and UPS and other shipping companies that pay them money. This was a great way for the Postal Service to look like a drag on the economy that something really had to be done about.

The Postal Service Is in the Constitution!

I know what you are thinking: but the postal service is in the Constitution. And don’t conservatives love the Constitution? Don’t they masturbate to it? Isn’t it a divinely inspired document that could never be improved upon?!

Ah, Grasshopper, you have much to learn. Most conservatives have never read a word of the Constitution. The only thing they know about it is the preamble, and then only in song form:

Try to watch this without the subtext. As the states accumulate, millions of people who used to live there were murdered. every voter is white. I loved this cartoon when I was a kid but it gives me the willies now.

So the Republicans want to destroy the postal service because, given all of its limits, it does a great job. For 49¢, I can send a letter to Hawaii, Alaska, or New York — and to the farthest reaches of those states. Ask the CEO of FedEx if he wants that job. Oh, no! He just wants the lucrative routes. Leave the government to deliver all the money-losing routes.

Congress Hurts the Postal Service in Other Ways

But in addition to this pre-funding of the retirement program, the Congress also stops the postal service from doing a lot of other things. The biggest I see is acting as a limited bank. The US Postal Service could put all of these payday lenders out of business overnight. And at the same time, they wouldn’t be preying on the poor. But we can’t have that. We’ve got to let the free market work when it comes to screwing the poor.

The United States Postal Service is one of the great prides of this nation. It’s unfortunate that for conservatives and the business community, it is just a bunch of money that they can steal. But let’s face it: the way things are going, the postal service probably will be destroyed, existing only as much as the Constitution requires. And given the people on the Supreme Court, that doesn’t mean much: maybe ten people and ten horses. Remember how conservatives see the Constitution they’ve never read: it never changes. So why not horses? It will only take three months to send a letter from California to New York, and only cost a few thousand dollars.

Keep Up the Fight

But we can try. And let’s start with the only problem the US Postal Service really has: the pre-pay requirement. If the Democrats get control of Congress next year, they should pass a law getting rid of that. And who knows? Trump might even sign it! He only cares about “winning!” so why not win this way?

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

13 thoughts on “The One Problem With the United States Postal Service

  1. I’m glad you wrote this. I read more than one article claiming Trump’s jabberings on Amazon and the Postal Service had to do with His Excellency’s “populism” — how much he cares about Main Street. This is such rancid bullshit I find it hard to believe people typed it. (Well, no I don’t, because the typers are paid money.)

    If Trump gave a juicy fart about Main Street, he’d go after Wal-Mart, and of course he won’t. Intellectually, he’s perhaps the most foolish man in America, but he does have a sort of raw cunning; enough to realize that his act is tolerated by the Republican Party and their media just so long as he signs the bills they want. If Trump enacts any policy which harms the USPS, they’re fine with it. He could claim Amazon is run by mutant seven-foot lesbians from Alpha Centauri for all right-wing leaders care. The point isn’t ending Amazon’s monopoly (right-wingers attain orgasm worshiping monopolies); it’s using Amazon as a scapegoat in trying, once again, to kill the USPS.

    (If Amazon was broken up tomorrow — and it deserves to be — smaller companies would jump in and run the same internet-order market.)

    Yes, all the voters in that “Schoolhouse Rock” clip were white. However, the hand approving the Preamble immediately afterwards, in an Uncle Sam-style star-studded sleeve, is black. “Schoolhouse Rock” was definitely OK for its time.

    • I agree with you about Schoolhouse Rock, although I would have thought they would have been more racially sensitive.

      I’m sure that almost all the Republicans in Congress would prefer to have Pence as president. The problem is that Trump is still super popular with the Republican base. So these politicians know that if they turn on Trump, they will be primaried and almost certainly lose their jobs. And I don’t see this situation changing. Trump’s coming trade war is going to hurt his base far more than it will Democrats. But it won’t matter to them, they’ll still love Trump. It’s got to be hard to be a conservative with even the smallest amount of principle, because they have to admit that their power has nothing to do with all the high-minded BS spouted by Buckley and Milton Friedman. It’s all just racism.

      • @Frank — For pro-Trump “conservatives,” Trump’s importance is that he pisses off the other side. They hate “liberals” (the tiny minority of liberals who live in fancy places and live fancy lives) so much, they’re more than happy to shoot themselves in the foot if it means getting revenge on “liberals” for presumed cultural condescension.

        Racism is indeed the key motivator, here, but I believe it’s part of a larger tribal identification against everything “liberals” hate. For example, a “conservative” who’s watching their diet because of dire doctor’s warnings will loathe vegans. Even if the “conservative” no longer eats meat.

        Such individuals believe that our society, run by “liberals,” over-coddles the weak, as opposed to hardscrabble bootstrap people like themselves. Accordingly, whatever social attitude is cruel or deliberately discriminatory towards marginalized groups strikes them as a necessary corrective. Hence, the fouler Trump behaves, the more they worship him. (I sincerely believe he has odds-on chances of winning re-election.)

        The Post Office? Coddled. (It’s not.) Public employees? Coddled. (Not.) Extend this logic to minorities of every sort, to women, children, the planet. Only they understand the truth of how Toughness Is What We Need, only they see through softhearted “liberal” self-delusion. Accordingly, why wouldn’t they love a Trump, or any other kind of ripoff artist? Like them, such thugs don’t bother with fake niceties.

        Is there such a thing as an principled conservative in America anymore? I believe I saw the last one fleeing for Switzerland in 1994. The Bill Kristols and George Wills can dream all they like about Sensible Conservatism making a comeback after this bizarre interlude. It won’t happen.

  2. The Republicans HAVE to destroy (or at least cripple) the Post Office. Otherwise how can they claim that private industry can do everything better than government agencies?

    • And since when did Republicans let facts get in the way of their anti-government narratives? And there are lots of other examples too. Yes, the Republicans are trying to kill them, but other than the imperial war machine, what parts of government do Republicans not want to kill? Don’t answer: I know there are other things: in fact, anything that takes money from the poor and gives it to the rich.

  3. I was in the post office recently and there were two people complaining about the price of stamps. Generally, I’m not very confrontational; I hate arguing, so I often just let people have their bullshit. But the USPS is something I will always defend and an issue that will get me steamed really quickly. I interrupted the couple and asked if they’d deliver a letter to Nome, Alaska for me within three days for 49 cents. They looked at me with a kind of surprised expression without saying anything. I replied by saying “No? Then stop bitching about stamps and taking this institution for granted.” It made the rest of the queue awkward and quiet (mostly for them), but it was worth it. While I was putting in my debit card information, the clerk thanked me for what I said. That made my day.

    I’ll echo what James said: I’m glad you wrote this.

      • @ Steve — definitely. My Christmas card to a relative in the next town: 49 cents. If my relative lives in Guam: 49 cents. Imagine what UPS would charge!

    • Good for you! That was great! And I’m really pleased that at least one USPS employee heard. I’ll bet that story was retold many times to other employees.

  4. This information about the postal service is so simple and so true.

    Much to the chagrin of people who care about the postal service, when the Democrats were in control from 2009-2011, the problem wasn’t corrected.

    • They didn’t really have that much time. Franken wasn’t seated until 7 July 2009. And Ted Kennedy died 25 August 2009. And then Scott Brown was seated 4 February 2010. I’m not sure how all that works in terms of a filibuster-proof Senate, but the Democrats had anywhere from a month and a half to just under 7 months. Now, I’ve been saying for years that we should just get rid of the filibuster. But I have to admit to being wrong, because the Republicans have not gotten rid of it as I expected. (I think this is because it gives them cover against their base to not do anything too stupid. If the Republicans really wanted to get rid of Obamacare, they would have, by getting rid of the filibuster.)

      There is only so much that can get done in a period of time in Congress. I certainly think that Obamacare (Especially given that we all thought we were going to get the public option, thank you very much Joe Lieberman and Jim Webb !) was more important than this. But there are other things that the Democrats didn’t get around to that are very important to the country like card check.

      I think the Obama administration could have done a better job in its priorities, but it could have done a lot worse. And it certainly couldn’t have predicted that Kennedy would die or that Martha Coakley would turn out to be the worst politician in American history.

      • Now now Frank, I have been repeatedly told on Twitter that the…

        Said like that too.

        • It’s ALWAYS Millard Fillmore. My man Millard wins “worst politician ever” by a mile until the Sun eats the Earth.

          1) Signed the Fugitive Slave Act.
          2) Was never elected, the sitting President died. Millard is the only President not renominated by his own party. (Had to run on the “Know-Nothing” ticket. Their platform was pretty much like the party name sounds.)
          3) A “conservative” comic strip, “Mallard Fillmore,” was in newspapers nationwide in the 1990s. It featured a duck who was against “political correctness.”
          4) I always assumed (hoped) that I was not related to him, but recently found out he’s from the same rural area of New York as my dad’s family, so we’re probably ninth cousins or something.
          5) Fillmore is only a good name for a bartender.

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