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Privatize the USPS?

Races for the Senate, U.S. House, etc. and other issues of national importance.

Re: Privatize the USPS?

Postby Mean Scenester » Thu Jan 10, 2013 1:21 pm

Looks like I owe Wags a Coke.
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Re: Privatize the USPS?

Postby ArturoBandini » Thu Jan 10, 2013 1:24 pm

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:The only serious threat to the ability of USPS to continue to function is the underhanded attempt by Congressional Republicans to force privatization via the unfair burden of The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act which requires $5.5 billion/year be paid into an account to pre-fund retiree health-care 75 years into the future. No other agency has such a ludicrous mandate and that, and only that, is what is currently crippling USPS financially.
Yes, that mandate should be removed. It doesn't change the amount of liability, though, it just shifts the payments in time.
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Re: Privatize the USPS?

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Thu Jan 10, 2013 1:29 pm

Mean Scenester wrote:Looks like I owe Wags a Coke.
I'll settle for you paying for your own Tall Boys.
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Re: Privatize the USPS?

Postby ArturoBandini » Thu Jan 10, 2013 1:32 pm

Mean Scenester wrote:So your "solution" will work one of two dichotomous ways, you're not sure which. Either it will save the post office or kill it off more expeditiously.
I can't predict the future. I don't know whether the universal letter service model will be sustainable deep into the future or not, but I think there is good reason to believe that its economic sustainability will continue to be challenged by digitization and demographic shifts. If the model is sustainable, a private service will survive just as well as the USPS would without public subsidy. If the model is sclerotic and doomed to failure, a private corporation will liquidate any assets more expediently and the transition to the communications model of the future will begin immediately. A nationalized system is hindered by bureaucratic and political constraints and could not adapt as fast as a private company. There are winners and losers in both scenarios, but I prefer the scenario where the winners are everyone (broad economic efficiency) and the losers are those people intimately involved with the dying model (postal workers, pack-and-shippers, rural customers).
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Re: Privatize the USPS?

Postby Bland » Thu Jan 10, 2013 1:33 pm

ArturoBandini wrote:There have been books written on this subject.
Well, if BOOKS have been written about something, it MUST be so.
That's how I know Bigfoot is real, the Bible is 100% accurate, and the Holocaust never happened.
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Re: Privatize the USPS?

Postby ArturoBandini » Thu Jan 10, 2013 1:37 pm

Bland wrote:Well, if BOOKS have been written about something, it MUST be so.
That's how I know Bigfoot is real, the Bible is 100% accurate, and the Holocaust never happened.
My link was not to demonstrate that the concept is infallible, but to show that Henry's suggestion is well within the bounds of existing economic thought. His tone (my perception of it, at least) was that privatization of roadways was a self-evidently ludicrous concept, which is not the case.
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Re: Privatize the USPS?

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Thu Jan 10, 2013 1:38 pm

ArturoBandini wrote:There are winners and losers in both scenarios, but I prefer the scenario where the winners are everyone (broad economic efficiency) and the losers are those people intimately involved with the dying model (postal workers, pack-and-shippers, rural customers).

See, it's that last highlighted part that grates me.
Why should someone living in a rural area have to pay more to mail their taxes in then someone living in a city?
Why should a Puerto Rican have to pay more than someone in Milwaukee to mail in their passport application?
Why should it cost more for a Hawaiian to respond to the census than someone in New York city?

If you want to abolish across-the-board First Class rates, are you at least willing to grant some exceptions for official business such as these examples? Would you force private companies to adopt such policies or are you really just completely unconcerned about a huge chunk of the population which doesn't live in areas likely to actually receive decent mail services under your (vague and undefined) models?
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Re: Privatize the USPS?

Postby Stebben84 » Thu Jan 10, 2013 1:43 pm

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:are you really just completely unconcerned about a huge chunk of the population which doesn't live in areas likely to actually receive decent mail services under your (vague and undefined) models?


Hey, tough luck for them. They can move. Plus, if the rates are too high, they can go with another carrier whose rates are cheaper thus creating competition, thus creating lower prices and BLAM, in walks the magic free market fairy. Everything is better now.
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Re: Privatize the USPS?

Postby ArturoBandini » Thu Jan 10, 2013 1:50 pm

Mean Scenester wrote:You might want to read this:

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/need-to-know/fi ... ice/11433/
That's a nice, concise article. It links to this better, more detailed one. There is too much to quote here, but the details about the innovations in Europe associated with semi-privatization are interesting, as well as the projections for future USPS revenues, with or without the pension pre-funding law. One concise quote:
"I really believe that the USPS is going to get to a point where, regardless of what it does with the prefunding [of retiree health care], it is going to implode," says R. Richard Geddes, an associate professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell University. "It is either going to default on those obligations to its retirees or we are going to have to give it a direct bailout from the United States taxpayers."
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Re: Privatize the USPS?

Postby ArturoBandini » Thu Jan 10, 2013 1:53 pm

Stebben84 wrote:Hey, tough luck for them. They can move. Plus, if the rates are too high, they can go with another carrier whose rates are cheaper thus creating competition, thus creating lower prices and BLAM, in walks the magic free market fairy. Everything is better now.
Please make an attempt to argue in good faith.
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Re: Privatize the USPS?

Postby Stebben84 » Thu Jan 10, 2013 2:06 pm

But being snarky is so much fun.

Anyhow, don't we already have privatized competition with Fed Ex and UPS? There are drop boxes all over the place that you can bring your letter to. You can buy and print shipping labels online and now use any one of three services. DHL tried but they failed.

People have a choice and they still choose to use the USPS.
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Re: Privatize the USPS?

Postby ArturoBandini » Thu Jan 10, 2013 2:12 pm

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:Why should someone living in a rural area have to pay more to mail their taxes in then someone living in a city?Why should a Puerto Rican have to pay more than someone in Milwaukee to mail in their passport application?
Why should it cost more for a Hawaiian to respond to the census than someone in New York city?

If you want to abolish across-the-board First Class rates, are you at least willing to grant some exceptions for official business such as these examples? Would you force private companies to adopt such policies or are you really just completely unconcerned about a huge chunk of the population which doesn't live in areas likely to actually receive decent mail services under your (vague and undefined) models?
Now we are getting somewhere. I like the fact that you are at least willing to conditionally drop the universal service, uniform-price model. I might be willing to accept some sort of universal service mandate for communications mandated by government (e.g. tax payments and other official documents). However, I would probably put a sunset provision into such an exception as technology moves forward. It won't be long until practically everyone has the technology needed to do most or all official business using digital means. For the examples you've given (taxes, passports, census), there is no barrier other than cultural stubbornness that would prevent full digitization of these communications. I would argue that digitization would have an even higher level of accessibility than even local post office locations and daily delivery. For example, seriously disabled persons in a rural area might not be able to drive or walk to a nearby post office, or even to the end of the driveway to reach the mailbox, but many of them would likely be able to operate an iPhone.

In principle, though, I don't have any problem with people paying different mail rates based on the actual costs of the service even for official communications. For things like pack-and-ship consumer business operations, there is no reasonable objection to paying actual costs - people who choose to do shipping-intensive business in remote locations should pay a price for shipping services that accurately reflects the costs of their services.
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Re: Privatize the USPS?

Postby ArturoBandini » Thu Jan 10, 2013 2:14 pm

Stebben84 wrote:People have a choice and they still choose to use the USPS.
Well, except for the billions of times each year when people chose to ship with those other services.
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Re: Privatize the USPS?

Postby Stebben84 » Thu Jan 10, 2013 2:35 pm

ArturoBandini wrote:
Stebben84 wrote:People have a choice and they still choose to use the USPS.
Well, except for the billions of times each year when people chose to ship with those other services.


Well then we have no problem. Why privatize the USPS if these other private services seem to be doing just fine.
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Re: Privatize the USPS?

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Thu Jan 10, 2013 2:38 pm

Stebben84 wrote:Anyhow, don't we already have privatized competition with Fed Ex and UPS?
Not to mention that USPS is already semi-privatized.

ArturoBandini wrote: I like the fact that you are at least willing to conditionally drop the universal service, uniform-price model.
I am? Where did I say that? I think there's a lot of good stuff to chew on in the European models, but I am adamantly opposed to removing the mandate to serve all U.S. citizens equally.

ArturoBandini wrote:It won't be long until practically everyone has the technology needed to do most or all official business using digital means... I would argue that digitization would have an even higher level of accessibility than even local post office locations and daily delivery.
I think you're right, which is why I also support governmental efforts to ensure that everyone, everywhere has access to the internet. But that's another thing you would rather leave to the capricious whims of the free market and fuck anyone who lives someplace where it's not (as) profitable to serve them.

ArturoBandini wrote:In principle, though, I don't have any problem with people paying different mail rates based on the actual costs of the service...

I don't either. And that's how the system currently works.
There are, to the best of my knowledge, only two flat-rates that USPS provides. One is for a first-class stamp, which will deliver any letter up to a certain weight to any U.S. territory for the same low, low price of 44 cents American. If I want to mail a first-class package (a CD, for example, or even a very thick and heavy letter) the rates vary depending on how far it's going to travel.
The other is their Flat-Rate Priority Mail shipping boxes, which are (I believe) more to streamline the process than to provide everyone with an equal rate. It's essentially just a marketing strategy -- "If it fits in this box, it ships for a flat rate." But if you use a non-Flat-Rate box or a non-USPS box altogether, Priority Mail rates fluctuate widely from one region to the next. Yes, it should cost more for someone in Alaska to ship a large box of widgets to Madison than it costs for someone in Milwaukee to mail the same box to here. And it does.

So there's already a lot of flexibility built into the system you insist -- without providing a single example of how -- is somehow broken. Tell me again what needs to be fixed, exactly?
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