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Worst Idea Ever

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Meandering through the articles in the New York Times can occasionally be instructive as opposed to the normal of being infuriating. The thing is that they are oblivious to how they have educated you. In this case, it was their article about bipartisan support for a bill to allow the Postal Service to expand to other services for the purpose of bringing in new revenues. This idea is clearly the worst idea ever.

The proposed legislation doesn’t identify what those new services would be. Apparently the postal workers union has hired a Wall Street investment firm to advise them on what might be good avenues to pursue. Talk about sheep getting fleeced – and it’s the American taxpayer who would end up footing the bill.

Let’s explore just one proposal. The article mentions that the Postal Service would like to be able to ship beer and wine. The present alcohol-related restrictions are an anachronism that has motivated UPS and FedEx to step in and handle the business, servicing (among others) many small wineries in California and other states (and also microbreweries) that now work exclusively from mailing lists. But here’s the problem: If the USPS steps in to compete with the established delivery companies, they will have to do it on price – which they might well be able to do because if they lose money, there are no consequences. They can just run to Congress and get some more. UPS and FedEx can’t do the same.

After reading about this preposterous proposal, my eyes were enticed to read an article written by my friends at the New York Times about the disastrous situation in Venezuela. The economic conditions under Hugo Chavez should make people like Sean Penn – who proudly hobnobbed with this murderous thug – want to spend the rest of his life in purgatory. And this was a report from the New York Times. Can you imagine how bad the situation really is?

People have to line up just for the possibility of purchasing a chicken or a roll of toilet paper. In what was once a prosperous country, there are virtually no basic goods on the shelves. The oil wealth is going somewhere (but obviously not to the general population); and, as usual, the people getting the short end of the stick are the ones who put this guy in office – the poor. They were told that he would deliver manna from heaven, but all he’s given them is lies and starvation. One man, when asked where to find some milk, told the reporter to go to Chavez’s mansion. Of course, Chavez was out giving a three-hour speech somewhere, haranguing the “profiteers”.

Back to the scene of our proposed crime. Here’s how this would go: The USPS would propose to get into a new line of business, supposedly leveraging the existing assets of the postal service (which by any measure, are comprised only of real estate). They would initially grab market share by using the tools of a monopoly – undercutting the price – which would only demolish competitors in the private sector, whose prices are market-driven and who aren’t protected or underwritten by Congress. Once established, it would then become a vital national service to which every American is entitled, and Congressmen and Senators would start lobbying for new distribution centers in their districts. And, of course, the inevitable conclusion: welfare pimps like Sheila Jackson Lee and Maxine Waters demanding that their constituents receive this service for free because without it, they are disenfranchised and “unequal.” Here’s a great idea – why don’t we put the USPS in charge of the Internet? They’d do a bang-up job there.

Unfortunately even some smart members of Congress have not figured out what needs to be done. I spoke to one recently and he was against the idea that we cut rural deliveries down to three days a week. He almost sounded like Lyndon Johnson in defending the right to rural Americans getting six day a week mail no matter the cost.

My friends, let’s face reality. The USPS is not now and will never be what it once was. Refusing to face these facts is no different than Kodak trying to convince us that we need another moment. We need to sell off the vast majority of the post offices, and open kiosks in Wal-Mart, Safeway, and Walgreens. The USPS needs to adjust their labor force to the fact they will never again deliver the volume necessary to sustain its current cost structure. They need to terminate Saturday delivery in those business districts with little weekend activity, or eliminate the delivery day altogether. It’s no longer a right to receive mail delivery every day, and in fact, in the Internet age, it’s no longer a vital service. And if something is so critical that it needs to be delivered immediately, the sender – not the American taxpayer – should pick up the tab.

I want to thank the New York Times for putting these two articles so close to each other. They demonstrate where we’re headed if we don’t start facing the realities of the current economic environment. They showed what life is like in a government-controlled monopoly, and what our future holds if we don’t begin to confront the waste in our own society.

USPS – no more services for you. You can’t handle the ones you have now.

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