We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Wednesday, May 21. 2014
Pic above is the NYC central PO, the James Farley US Post Office. Once a beehive, now pretty empty inside the grand building. A temple to commerce, paper communication - and Christmas mail.
They are communal spaces where everybody goes - or used to. They employ many people who might not be easily employable elsewhere. They lose money, but so do schools, libraries, parks, highways, passenger rail, and the US Navy. Everything governments do loses money. Organizations and institutions exist, in part, to do things that are difficult or unprofitable to do otherwise.
Naturally, whenever large numbers people are involved, politics enters and, at that point, money mainly is about votes.
Why is the Post Office any different?
Well, perhaps it isn't any different. What seems different today is that many government civic "amenities" and "services" have competition from private operations who carry the risk, so taxpayers are less willing to throw their money away to governments who don't really worry about the money.
Parks are operated by operations like Coyote's, libraries have to compete with Kindles, government schools have to compete with charter schools, government rail has to compete with cars and air, and even the military hires tons of private contractors. Despite the massive increase in the size of government, there are more and more people willing to provide traditionally (meaning since the Progressive Era) government services more efficiently, more cheaply, and unburdening the hapless taxpayer of the risk of money-losing services.
What's your take on it?
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I don't believe that libraries "compete" with Kindle. The library makes books and space available to people who need it. Government schools don't "compete" with anybody. Government rail doesn't "compete" with anybody. The military can lay off contractors who don't "compete" with active duty or reserves, they augment them. Red Horse and Prime Beef didn't lose out competition wise to private contractors in OIF. They simply never had the resources to begin that level of construction effort.
There is no "competitor" for the USN.
Some things are inherently governmental and thus are going to cost money. As with private life, when the people decide they aren't worth the cost, they stop spending money on them. One simply has to look at our Mohair subsidy. When it stops being worthwhile I'm sure we'll stop subsidizing it.
In the meantime, keep an eye on your local library and your local schools and even the local book store (if you can find one.)
Libraries lose money? That depends on how you define the term. Ours is break-even. It offers out books and videos via streaming, now. I'm sure libraries in poor rural districts lose money, though.
Government does things which can be done privately, but people can't conceive of being possible to be handled privately. Roads, for example. Roads were, at one time, completely private. A tax on the sale of cars funded the development of the original highway systems. When auto corporations realized they could lower the cost of their cars, and increase the amount of paved roads, by giving up the tax and management of the roads to the government, well the obvious answer was to turn it over. More sales and less hassle. Let even non-car owners pay!
There is no reason for government to be involved in anything aside from defense.
Central Park is managed by a non-governmental entity.
I don't see any reason to pay for something I'm not using. I'm taking Amtrak to DC in 3 weeks. The train is cheaper and about 10 minutes faster than a flight, but it's close.
If Amtrak wasn't subsidized it probably would require me taking a flight - and why not?
I don't care how I get there, but I don't see why anyone is subsidizing my trip.
The Post Office was, originally, perceived to be something which could only be handled by government. FedEx proved people wrong. Yet the guy who started it was told in business school that it was a stupid idea, because we naturally assume 'some things must be done by the government'.
I don't believe this at all. If it can be done, it can probably be done profitably. If it can't be done profitably, it probably doesn't need to be done.
I suppose I should clarify one point. When I say government should only be involved in defense, I also mean law enforcement and justice. It's a broad term, but defense of property and contract rights is pretty broad.
Government should not be involved in any business, transportation, or media. There is no reason for it.
I might, possibly, be open to orphan drug development. But even that is a bit of a stretch.
Wherever the "happy medium" of government intrusion into what could be private activities may be, I am convinced we have incrementally, since New Deal and Great Society – and Obama, moved to a place where there is far too much Washington DC government in the land. For the good of the Republic, we must start rolling it back. Viva the Tenth Amendment.
Since the post office owns no real estate, who owns this address, and rents it to us?
Sorry, but you are wrong on one point: federal government contractors are more expensive than regular government employees. From the watchdog group Project on Government Oversight (POGO):
"The Project On Government Oversight found that the federal government pays private contractors on average 1.83 times more than it pays its own employees for the same work, according to the group's study released yesterday. In 12 out of the 35 occupations categories POGO analyzed, the federal government paid private contractors more than double the rate of federal government employees for the same services."
In particular, IT contracts with the federal government are a never-ending source of obscene levels of overcharging and unbelievable profit margins because the federal government lacks the expertise to call BS on the charges. DoD contractors are obscenely expensive as well.
By the way, the solution is NOT to bring back all of these functions into the federal government - the solution is to eliminate about 95% of these positions and then bring the remaining truly needed functions into the federal workforce. Federal agencies don't need 'social media advisors' sending out tweets for $75,000 a year. They just don't.
JM01, you are right on the money! I was a federal civil servant for 25 years. After 22 years, my organization was contracted out -- despite the fact our organization's plan, called a "Most Efficient Organization" plan, showed we could transfer all our military personnel and still do all the work required, for much less. The successful bidder came in so low, they were only able to keep the most essential employees from our staff by reducing the pay of new hires to the level of "You must really be desperate!" Now, they charge the government almost twice what our previous organization cost, due to negotiated changes in their contract. And less work gets done.
The same happened to our base housing. It was "privatized" and two major housing areas were torn down - to be rebuilt by the contractor with more energy-efficient homes for our military people. A third of one housing area was rebuilt - and it was designated officer housing. The other two-thirds, and an equal-sized area elsewhere on the base, sit empty. The families of our people either live crammed into the third housing area or live downtown - costing the military much more money.
Whenever I see a grand, half-empty building like this Post Office, I have to ask myself, "Why doesn't the Postal Service rent out the empty portion to FedEx or UPS or DHL -- or all three?" What would be wrong with creating a "Mailing Center" for citizens?
On some of our military bases, we have or had such centers - run by a contractor - as a convenience to our troops. One is able to mail things home through four different mail-handling services, including the Post Office; make long-distance calls from private booths; fax and copy paperwork; and rent computer time to check emails and do online shopping. Then they go to the counter and check out and pay for all they've used.
What would be so heretical about doing this for the American people? Oh, yes! I forgot about the little postmaster fiefdoms the USPS has in their buildings. They wouldn't be lords of all they survey... And people could pick and choose their services -- like they already do, anyway...