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Archive for the ‘Postal Service’ Category

It’s not often that I agree with the Washington Post, but a government-run monopoly is not the best way to get mail delivered.

Moreover, it’s not often that I agree with the timid (and sometimes reprehensible) Tory-led government in the United Kingdom, but they just put the Royal Mail into the private sector. And that’s something deserving of loud applause.

Here’s a slice of the big news from the Financial Times.

The goal of privatising Royal Mail had defeated governments for 40 years. …Even prime minister Margaret Thatcher balked at the political risk of selling off a public service that carried the Queen’s head on its stamps. This time, the legislation went through parliament.

My Cato colleague, Chris Edwards, is suitably impressed.

Here’s some of what he wrote for Cato-at-Liberty.

Britain privatized its Royal Mail in 2013, proceeding with an initial public offering of shares that raised about $2.7 billion. …privatization in Britain has been hugely successful. Prime Minister Cameron should be applauded for having the guts to build on the privatization reform legacy of Thatcher, Major, and Blair. Meanwhile on this side of the pond, Republican Darrell Issa is having trouble getting his own nominally conservative party to accept even small changes to the broken government postal system.

Not surprisingly, some folks in Washington think we should move in the wrong direction by retaining the monopoly and allowing the Postal Service to enter new lines of business.

In this interview with Neil Cavuto, I explain why the Postal Service should be unleashed – but only after getting weaned from the taxpayer teat.

You’ll notice that I took the opportunity to explain that many poor people can’t afford banking services in part because government “anti-money laundering” rules impose very high costs on banks.

And since I’ve already mentioned that I have strange bedfellows at the Washington Post and UK government on the issue of postal privatization, I may as well note that the World Bank agrees with me about the poor being disadvantaged by these ill-advised financial regulations.

Let’s close with a good cartoon by Jerry Holbert.

Postal Service Cartoon

It’s not as good as his classics about Obamacare, sequestration, big government, and Patty Murray’s budget, but obviously very appropriate for today’s topic.

P.S. In there was a contest for government stupidity, the Japanese might be front runners.

No, I’m not talking about their bizarre policy of regulating coffee enemas.

Instead, I’m baffled by the notion of government-funded dating. I’m not joking. Check out these excerpts from the British press.

The Japanese government is funding matchmaking events in a desperate attempt to boost a birth rate that has halved over the past six decades. …The support of marriage – and the active encouragement of young people to settle down – is regarded by government policy-makers as a key strategy for boosting the nation’s birth rate. …Matchmaking events organised by local authorities, where young singles are introduced to one another in romantic settings, are becoming increasingly common in areas such as rural Kochi, a prefecture around 500 miles west of Tokyo.

By the way, Japan does have a severe demographic problem.

And when you mix falling birthrates and increasing longevity with a tax-and-transfer welfare state, the results are catastrophic.

But the right way to deal with that problem is with genuine entitlement reform, not another bound-to-fail government-run version of Match.com.

P.P.S. If you like making fun of foreign governments, here are some more examples.

Taxpayer-financed friends for mass murderers in Norway.

Spending 800,000 euro to collect 25,000 euro of tax in Germany.

Giving welfare handouts to foreigners in the United Kingdom.

Remember, nothing is too stupid for government.

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What’s the difference between a real job and working for the government? I used the think the answer was that bureaucrats are overpaid, usually for being in positions that shouldn’t even exist.

Then I thought the difference was that bureaucrats got lavish benefits, about four times as much as people in the productive sector of the economy.

But now I realize that a government job means you get to dump on taxpayers, both figuratively and literally. Here are the unseemly details from KOMO News.

A mail carrier who was caught using a yard as his personal toilet will not be fired. The incident happened last month at a home in southeast Portland and a neighbor, Don Derfler, captured the man in the act with his camera. …The incident was an embarrassment to the post office and the worker was immediately placed on unpaid leave. Now, a decision has been made to keep the worker but he will be transferred to a different route. A spokesperson said the administrative action was taken based on a postal service investigation but he did not elaborate. He also did not say which route the mail carrier has been assigned to cover.

I’m almost at a loss for words. I knew that it was virtually impossible to fire a bureaucrat. But surely this was an example of crossing the line?!? But I was wrong.

Two final thoughts: How many of us would keep our jobs if we did something like this? And isn’t it wonderful that the Postal Service monopoly isn’t giving any warning to the potential victims on the bureaucrat’s new route.

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Here’s a great snarky comment from Jimmy Kimmel. Jokes like this are funny because we’ve all experienced he misery of waiting in a line at the Post Office or DMV while bureaucrats chat with each other and otherwise goof off.

The U.S. Postal Service announced plans to close an additional 2,000 branches after losing $8.5 billion. Maybe in retrospect, making people wait in line while you slowly finish your bag of fiery hot Cheetos isn’t such a good idea.

Of course, when taxpayers bail out the Postal Service, the joke will be on us, but let’s not think about that right now. Instead, let’s dream that the government-imposed monopoly on mail delivery will end and the private sector takes over. Heck, even the Washington Post has acknowledged this is the right direction.

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Here’s a depressing story from the Columbus Dispatch that shows the government’s ability to be incompetent and wasteful at the same time. A labor dispute that never should have existed (but did, thanks to the incestuous relationship of unions and government) eventually led to nine employees getting paid for an entire week to take naps and have a coloring contest:

A group of Postal Service employees in Columbus spent five days in late May and early June being paid to do no work. A supervisor told them to stay in an area of the processing and distribution center near Port Columbus. The nine men played cards and took naps. One of them brought in coloring books, and they had a contest to see who could make the prettiest picture. They all earned their regular wages, $20.58 to $26.34 per hour. This was the latest move in a labor tangle that began with the Postal Service trying to save money. …Months of negotiations and legal filings followed. In May, a Postal Service attorney argued to a board administrative judge that the appeals were now moot. The truck drivers had been given their driving jobs back, the attorney wrote. Except that was true only on paper, say Kidwell and the eight other drivers. They weren’t driving trucks. They were playing cards and having a coloring contest. They spent a few days training to be letter carriers, a job they wanted even less than mail handler. But they never drove trucks. Letters from the Postal Service to the drivers also make it clear that they would be “drivers” for one, two-week pay period only. Then, “you will be placed into the Letter Carrier Craft,” said the letters, signed by Marvin B. Coleman, the manager of labor relations for the Columbus Postal District.

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Do my eyes deceive me? Has you-know-what frozen over? Something strange clearly has happened in the universe, because the Washington Post’s editorial page has published a very sensible piece about the Postal Service, noting the system is fundamentally unsound and stating that privatization is the only realistic long-term option:

Approaching the limits of its federal credit line, the USPS must change drastically or go bust. …Postmaster General John E. Potter…has acknowledged the scope of that challenge, and last week he proposed new product lines, efficiency improvements and workforce attrition to generate $115 billion in revenue or savings between now and 2020. But that’s not even half the projected losses. To really transform, the Postal Service needs congressional action. Some 26,000 of the Postal Service’s 32,000 post offices lose money. …There is only so much that can be accomplished without tackling the item that accounts for 80 percent of the Postal Service’s expenses: labor costs. To be sure, 50 percent of postal workers come up for retirement in the next decade, and that will help cut costs. But attrition has its limits. Management and labor must aggressively tackle uncompetitive wages, benefits and work rules — including no-layoff clauses that cover most personnel. …Given the state of technology, privatization is probably the only long-term solution for the USPS. But it is so saddled with legacy costs that no investor would touch it. If Congress gives management the tools it needs to meet the crisis, and if management uses them effectively — two big ifs, we admit — the Postal Service will have a chance to get its house in order and one day attract private capital, as European postal services have done.

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