The End of the Phony Express, or: The USPS Goes Postal On Our Economy
by Bill Walker: The
Wealthy Live Without Government
The USPS employs
a larger horde than Genghis Khan: 656,000
union members driving 260,000 vehicles. It is the second-largest
employer in the United States after Wal-Mart. It has a government-granted
monopoly on first class mail. In 2007 an FTC report noted that the
service does not pay taxes, including property tax on its 38,000
facilities; does not pay vehicle registration fees, and can borrow
at subsidized interest rates from the U.S. Treasury.
And they do
borrow… which is how they get away with claiming that they are "not
subsidized". They don’t get subsidies (except in some years,
when they do), they just get loans… and more loans… and more loans.
Maybe they should join up with Bank of America or Goldman Sachs
and add subprime mortgages to their services at the stamp window.
In 2010 the
USPS lost $8.5 billion dollars by its own accounting. These enormous
losses were covered by these taxpayer-financed "loans",
which it has no intention of repaying. It also has failed to fund
its pension account, which is billions in arrears. Now it wants
services, increase prices for magazine delivery, and would also
like some more direct subsidies. And no doubt, some more loans.
to Martha White of msnbc.com, the USPS horde carries… 15%
of all parcels. (The vast majority of packages are delivered
by two private companies. UPS has about 400,000
employees, FedEx about 140,000,
and of course the companies pay taxes). So the vast USPS army isn’t
actually vital to the day-to-day operations of US business at all.
If the USPS disappeared tomorrow, UPS and FedEx would simply take
up the slack without blinking. The USPS could sink beneath the waves
of bankruptcy without a ripple.
The only argument
the USPS makes in favor of its permanent drain on the US economy
is that it provides "universal service". What that means
in practice is that the millionaires living off the road around
Lake Coeur d’ Alene get a cute little boat to deliver junk mail
to their boat docks. Less important people in NH rural areas get
"delivery" to the end of their road (under the %$#! snowdrift),
if we’re lucky. Why it is vital for working people living in cities
to subsidize millionaire boating enthusiasts or eccentric New Hampshire
woodsmen such as myself is not clear. Nor is it clear that private
companies wouldn’t leap at the chance to deliver first class mail
very cheaply if it meant they could also deliver advertising… in
a free market I might have to modify my woodstove to run on junk
The more sinister
side to "universal service" is that the Postal Service
was historically a vehicle for implementing censorship. Anti-slavery
literature, birth control information, and antiwar publications
have all been subject to postal censorship. Monopoly meant that
you couldn’t just choose another carrier; your ideas were blocked.
So if the USPS
isn’t necessary for package delivery, and the only reason that UPS
and FedEx aren’t delivering our mail is that they aren’t allowed
to… why not just let the Phony Express out of the corral? Make it
a private corporation, give the employees the stock, and let it
be "fair"? No, of course not. The union employees don’t
deserve ownership of the postal infrastructure; it was all paid
for by the taxpayers. However, just because the USPS is overstaffed
and overpaid, it controls a lot of votes. This political strength
is the only reason the USPS still exists. If we could eliminate
the albatross by giving away the USPS infrastructure, it would be
a great deal for the taxpayer… after all, right now it’s costing
us nearly ten billion a year to subsidize it.
Once the USPS
is privatized, it will have to pay taxes, and then those 656,000
employees will suddenly have a whole different viewpoint on how
high taxes should be. The toxic political effects of having a privileged
state monopoly in the middle of US society will be gone.
This is the
perfect time to privatize all the sacred monopoly cows. Our country
is bankrupt, and even most politicians want to have a functioning
economy from which to steal. Look at Jimmy Carter; after his overspending
and inflation drove the economy into a recession, he deregulated
airlines and trucking, eliminating price controls and route allocations
in both industries. There is no reason our current politicians couldn’t
emulate his example (although it might be easier for this to happen
if Americans remembered that it was a depressed and humbled Carter
that freed those industries, not the deficit-boosting Saint Reagan).
The USPS isn’t
the only bovine monopoly grazing on our economy; there are also
power companies, cable companies (oddly enough, cities and states
with competing cable companies have lower
cable prices), local phone companies, water utilities, and other
Soviet-style organizations. And what is the common factor shared
by all these monopolies? They’re all implemented by governments,
without whose help these inefficient dinosaurs would be quickly
eaten by customer-service-driven competitors.
The only monopolies
we have in this country are those created by government. Telephone,
electric power, cable TV, first class mail, and other monopolies
weaken our economy and make us more vulnerable to loss of service
in disasters. (How is it good that everyone in an area loses power
or phone service at the same time? How many lives have been lost
because of lack of ‘redundancy’ and backups, i.e., competition?)
End all government
monopolies, and let everyone compete on their own merits.
Walker [send him mail]
is the co-chair of the Ron Paul campaign in Sullivan County NH.
He is active in the NH Liberty Alliance.
© 2011 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
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