Blade Runner, Terminator, Minority Report and the deliberate sabotage of the Postal Service

Ten years from today, in 2023, a baby will be born. She will grow up, head off to school, graduate from high school in the class of 2041 and then graduate from college in the class of 2045.

She will get a job with the U.S. Post Office, starting work there in 2046 and staying on until retirement at age 65 in 2088.

Just think of that date: 2088. That’s the future. It’s decades after the future we’ve imagined.

It’s 87 years after a Space Odyssey; 69 years after Blade Runner; 61 years after Children of Men; 59 years after the robots take over in Terminator; 34 years after Minority Report; four years after Total Recall.

I’ll be long dead by then. So will every current member of Congress. 2088 is a long, long way away.

And yet, today, now, at the moment, the U.S. Postal Service is required by law to already be pre-funding employee benefits for that baby who won’t be born until 2023 and won’t start working for the USPS until 2046.

Why? Well, because Americans like the Postal Service. They may not like standing in long lines at the post office — the high cost of low taxes for everyone — but they like the idea of the Postal Service. They rely on it and rely on being able to rely on it.

And the Postal Service is run by the government, even though it funds itself without any tax dollars.

So if your whole political shtick is based on being anti-government, then the Postal Service is a threat you’ve got to get rid of. That’s why, back in 2006, Republicans in Congress passed something called the “Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act,” requiring the agency to “pre-fund its future health care benefit payments to retirees for the next 75 years in an astonishing ten-year time span.”

(The USPS is also home to lots of unionized public employees, and the GOP lately has decided that unionized public employees are Public Enemy No. 1. That’s an odd claim — villainizing police officers, firefighters, first responders, teachers and mail carriers doesn’t seem like an easy or an obvious task, but that’s the current Republican plan, and the “Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act” is a part of that strategy.)

The PAEA was designed to bankrupt the Postal Service — to turn a government service that Americans like into something that could be railed against as wasteful, inefficient and costly. That’s what the law was meant to do. That’s exactly what the law is doing, just as planned.

It was a deliberate act of sabotage. And it’s working. The whole point of requiring the agency today to fund benefits for workers it won’t hire until 2046 was to ensure that the agency wouldn’t still be around in 2046 to hire anybody.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, has introduced a bill to repeal the sabotage of the Postal Service — getting rid of the malicious and absurd requirement for pre-funding 75 years worth of benefits, and rescuing the agency from this Bush-era attempt to euthanize it.

But the Republicans who passed the sabotage bill in 2006 are still in charge of the House of Representatives today, so DeFazio’s bill faces a brick wall of opposition. The last thing that John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan want to see is a money-saving plan to improve the efficiency of a government service beloved and relied on by the American people.

  • Alix

    Republicans do not seem to be very good at long-term thinking. If their little plan succeeds in getting rid of the Postal Service, how the hell do they think they’ll be getting their mail?

  • Fusina

    I’ve been thinking, and I think that some Republicans don’t hate taxes or unions, they hate egalitarianism. And anything that makes life more equal for everyone is something to be done away with. The postal service makes it easier for everyone to get things from point A to point B–ooh, bad stuff.

    This is just my opinion, for what it is worth.

  • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

    The magical free market will provide of course!
    (Please ignore that all major non-USPS carriers use USPS to provide services to large areas of the country that just aren’t economical for a private company to do themselves).

  • Alix

    Every single self-identified Republican I know falls into one of two groups: people like my mother, who vote Republican because that’s what Good Christians do, but who, when you get them to give a breakdown of their beliefs really accord much more strongly with a liberal platform.

    And people like my father, who are extremely authoritarian, buy strongly into a notion of human society as innately hierarchical, and stop just short of actually saying they want their slaves back. The vast majority of self-described libertarians I know fall into this camp, actually, when one gets them to actually describe their visions for how society ought to work.

    (Obligatory disclaimer: yes, this is a generalization.)

    Republicans seem to really, really like the notion of feudalism, to stick with one of the politer labels one might give their ideal society. Lords on top reaping the rewards of all the labor of the peasants, who in fantasy-land all Know Their Place, of course. The problem is, they think they’ll naturally be the lords – and a lot of the appeal of Republican rhetoric is to folks like my dad, who feel cheated by life (like, omg, he had to actually get a job) and entitled to the effortless riches they imagine their ancestors had.

    Never mind that if their reality came to pass, most of them would be peasants. Modern Republicanism is an adolescent power fantasy, and like a lot of fantasies, trying to really enact it in the real world is dangerous. Especially for those of us who fall outside the fantasy ideal.

  • Alix

    I just… *throws hands up in air*

    It boggles me that anyone would seriously support this bullshit. It boggles me that enough people did that this bullshit became law.

    There is seriously no clearer indicator of how irrational the modern Republican party is than this thing with USPS, because my god. Not only are they shooting themselves in the foot, but they’re flat-out stating that they don’t want useful government agencies – ones they use – to actually work, to actually cost the taxpayers nothing, to actually be efficient. The government could meet the needs and wants of the citizenry perfectly, without costing them a dime, and the Republicans would want to rip it to shreds, because Government, idk. Like, omg, how dare society actually work.

    I seriously wonder how the hell this doesn’t count as some kind of treason. I am, honest to god, almost to the point where I consider being a Republican criminal, I am that fed up with this shit.

  • addicted4444

    ++++

    FedEx and UPS are only profitable because they can skim off the cream of the market (profitable high end services to major cities) while letting USPS handle the loss-making parts of deliveries and mail.

    Of course, the irony is that it is rural, republican voting areas which will get hurt the most. In a purely private market, liberal cities such as NYC, LA, Chicago will only get cheaper service, while rural areas will be more expensive.

  • AnonaMiss

    It boggles me that anyone would seriously support this bullshit. It boggles me that enough people did that this bullshit became law.

    It didn’t become law because enough people supported it; it became law because enough money supported it.

  • http://twitter.com/lesterhalfjr Chris Hadrick

    “Americans like the Postal Service.” You can’t just say that

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    It’s actually possible to retire at 60 with full benefits provided that half of your life, or more, has been spent working for the Post Office non-stop.

    Meaning that some of the people whose retirement is being paid for today will not be born for another 15 years.

    -

    This is one of the things where I think it should be possible to get things done if one were able to reach the Republian rank and file. (Which, unfortunately, requires money for advertising that I certainly don’t have.) Paying for the retirements of people who won’t even be born for another ten to 15 years is sort of government waste incarnate, and while those in office might not actually care about government waste a fair number of the rank and file probably do. Presented in the right way* I think the situation probably would be able to get a lot of Republicans with Republican congresscritters to call their congresscritters and tell them to do away with this absurd example of government waste.

    And while I might not have much faith in the morals of the congresscritters in question, I do have a feeling that they probably want to be reelected. Which, in part, means not pissing off their base by publicly embracing the example of government waste their base just called them up to say they should get rid of.

    (Even if they live in a district that will never elect anyone other than a Republican, they can still lose a primary.)

    -

    * There are many and different true things one can say about the situation. I would not try to motivate the Republican rank and file by saying that Republicans sabotaged the Post Office in a lame duck session, apparently as an attempt to get revenge for being electorally defeated in 2006, and undoing that is all it would take to save the Post Office. Even though that is true.

    I’d try to reach them by pointing out that this is the single worst example of government waste you’ll ever find and everyone who is opposed to government waste should be working to get rid of this. Because this is also true and is a message I think might actually resonate.

  • Vermic

    Postal delivery is such an essential government function, it’s specifically mentioned in the Constitution. Ask Republicans why they hate the Constitution and the inerrant wisdom of our Framers.

  • Nangleator

    The Post Office is a specific requirement in the Constitution. But, of course, that’s one of the parts they hate. Along with rights, democracy and the common welfare of the people. All that stuff that interferes with profits.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    He did just say that. You’re denying reality itself.

    Perhaps more importantly it’s like saying the earth is round. It doesn’t need to be backed up every time you say it because anyone who wants to check can check for themselves quite easily, in this case in a matter of seconds.

    If you had put “USPS approval rating” into google and clicked on the very first result and left your interest at that (which would have taken less effort than posting your post) you’d have found polling numbers to back it up.

  • Alix

    So Americans don’t like receiving their mail in a timely fashion, no matter where in the country they live, delivered to their homes, with very little loss in transit? Americans don’t like being able to send mail cheaply to anyplace in the country, knowing that it will almost certainly get there?

    In all seriousness, what the hell would you replace the USPS with? Private businesses, who’d either never turn a profit or raise prices like crazy? Nothing, just abolish mail entirely? Pony express?

  • Alix

    Huh. You learn something new every day.

    That just further supports my belief that Republicans are so close to treasonous as makes no difference.

  • http://twitter.com/lesterhalfjr Chris Hadrick

    That’s not what he said. He said Americans like the US Postal service. 9/10 of it is federally subsidized junk mail. Americans don’t like that.

  • Figs

    I agree with you almost entirely, but I have a small question about the characterization of this as “government waste”. Doesn’t the Post Office fund itself? How does it handle shortfalls due to this insane law? Is any of this money actually coming out of public coffers?

  • Alix

    Dude. A carrier is not responsible for what it carries. The USPS is providing a service, not prescreening mail so the people it serves don’t get a little annoyed. And, bluntly, that’s a good thing: I don’t want someone deciding what mail I will and won’t want.

    You have an issue with junk mail. Fine. Take it up with the people who send out the junk. It is not that fucking hard to figure out.

    Question: if I ride a bus, is the driver responsible for the fact that someone I hate is also riding the bus that day?

  • Alix

    The point is to cause shortfalls and make the USPS either go bankrupt or start dipping into public funds – or raise the price of mailing things to a point that no one will stand – specifically to destroy the agency.

    So the Republicans have forced through a bill to make a solvent agency wasteful specifically so they can then use that waste against it.

    (Edited for brevity.)

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    The Post Office has also proposed using banking to increase its cash flow, offering fee free checking accounts. Congress passed a law to PREVENT it from doing that too.

  • Alix

    *sigh*

  • Figs

    Right, that I get. I’ll wait for him to clarify, but I read it as this particular expenditure being an example of government waste. If he meant the passage of the bill being an example of government waste, it’d be a curious usage if the passage of the bill hasn’t cost taxpayers money directly. But again, I await clarification.

    I think you and he are spot on that the purpose of this thing is to undermine the legitimacy of the USPS, and to make it look like an agency that is mismanaged to the point of having 10-figure deficits every year. It’s cynical, and it’s crystal clear.

  • http://twitter.com/lesterhalfjr Chris Hadrick

    Obviously I was saying I don’t want to subsidize, and thus receive in bulk, junk mail.

    ” I don’t want someone deciding what mail I will and won’t want.”

    I do. I want to decide for myself.

  • Alix

    Well, except, at least around here, there’s been plenty of fodder for government-waste, anti-USPS rhetoric. The Postal Service raised prices for mailing things – money out of your pocket! They’re ripping you off! The USPS is cutting down its delivery days – you won’t get your mail! Those lazy bastards – first they raise prices on you for no good reason, now they won’t do the work you pay them for!

    And so on. Repubs are already spinning this – and have for a while, at least ’round my neck of the woods – as USPS being mismanaged and awful, with of course nary a word as to how they made it that way.

  • Figs

    So you want to have veto power over anybody who would want to send you mail? How in the world would this possibly be workable? Would everybody have to send you a preliminary note for your approval to send their full message?

  • Alix

    I don’t want to subsidize, and thus receive in bulk, junk mail.

    You’re not. What part of this is so hard to understand? The USPS doesn’t make the junk mail. They just deliver what businesses pay them to deliver, same as they do with any other stuff sent out via them.

    You are not subsidizing the creation of junk mail. You are not subsidizing the mailing of it.

    And guess what? You aren’t subsidizing a damn thing the USPS does, because the United States Postal Service is self-funding. It does not get paid for via taxes.

    But it will, if Republicans have their way.

    I do. I want to decide for myself.

    That was my point.

  • Figs

    Sure, I get that. But I think it’d be a hard sell to bill it as “government waste” per se, as it’s not money coming out of the general fund. The usual suspects are going to crow that it’s your choice to use the Post Office, so more money coming out of your pocket is your choice (of course, they’re going to say this while out the other side of the mouth they’re decrying rate increases or curtailed delivery schedules as the worst thing ever).

    It may be that the way the USPS is set up is essentially an accounting fiction. I was just curious for some clarification on what Chris meant re: government waste, at least in a way that will make sense to people who are inclined to vote for Republicans.

  • Narcissus

    Less mentioned are the original bills (HR 6407) two Democrat co-sponsors, Waxman (CA) and Davis (IL) and its rather mysterious passage through Congress.

    The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act was passed in less than 48 hours. There were no recorded votes. Republican Congressman Pence asked for the yeas and nays but was denied. Appears Democrats had no objections. The Congressional Record seems to indicate that Minority Leader Reid was on the floor when the Senate passed the bill by unanimous consent.

    If you still think reforms can work to change this mess, well than, you will be elated to hear that there is also a pension waiting for you in the Post Office.

  • Alix

    I think it’d be a hard sell to bill it as “government waste”

    Well, seeing as how some people evidently believe that they are already funding USPS’ nefarious spamming of our mailboxes with junk mail…

  • JustoneK

    He wouldn’t be bored anymore, I suppose.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Does Fred need to consult you personally before he dares making any statement? I mean, apparently it’s a crime to say anything you personally disagree with.

  • Carstonio

    The anti-government attitude is rooted mostly in selfishness. Government’s roles include increasing equality of opportunity, and reducing the ability of individuals and organizations to exploit power inequalities at the expense of others. These meet with natural opposition from many corporations and wealthy individuals who want the market and the system to work to their advantage only.

    The rhetoric against government became more prominent when this faction won the allegiance of whites resentful over civil rights. For the latter, government was a big bully making their kids go to desegregated schools even if they lived in all-white neighborhoods. Or making them share job opportunities with women and non-whites and making them report to female or non-white bosses.

  • Figs

    I think he’s probably using the word “subsidizing” in a misleading way. In some sense, because junk mailers get discount bulk rates, those who pay full price for one-off first class delivery are in some sense “subsidizing” that discount. But he wants it to be read as some illicit transfer of wads of cash directly to the junk mail industry out of our pockets.

  • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

    I want to decide for myself
    A service not offered by any private carrier either. BECAUSE IT IS IMPOSSIBLE.

  • Alix

    And, well, he’s eliding junk mailers and the USPS.

  • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

    You want to try that post again, but with some coherence in the last paragraph?
    Are you suggesting that because Democrats didn’t oppose the law, that means that the facts of its financial situation are different to how they appear? Because that is not how facts work.

  • Figs

    The USPS is the cabal of shadowy stooges that paves the way for junk mailers to put their hands DIRECTLY IN OUR POCKETS.

  • Alix

    Yeah, like, how dare non-white, non-straight, non-male, non-wealthy folk try to assert their basic humanity. It’s so hard to keep the serfs in their place when they start thinking that they’re people.

  • Fusina

    I was discussing this with a friend, and she thinks that the republicans do seem to want to return to feudalism. This also explains why they are so invested in preventing gun control. Because who controls the weapons, in their world, controls the world.

    It is as if in their thought process, it isn’t just earning, but keeping that counts, and not just what they earn, but whatever they can skim off the serf’s earnings, and the way to keep that is to keep the serfs working in the fields and ignorant. So now we have added teachers to their hit list.

    Oooh, a Unified Field Theory of Republicanism!

  • Alix

    I’d write a silly conspiracy-theory story about this, but I’m too afraid someone would take it seriously…

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    The Post Office does fund itself, but it’s still a part of the government. Anything wasteful it does is therefore government waste. The fact that it only does this particular wasteful thing because doing so is required by law just sort of reinforces the fact that it’s government waste.

    Paying for the retirements of people who don’t exist, and who may never exist, is a waste of money. It’s a waste of government money.

    It’s not tax money, that’s true, but it’s still government money being wasted and thus government waste.

    As for how the public coffers are involved, that gets confusing and difficult well before we even get to the question of how the inevitable shortfalls are handled.

    Short version of confusing and difficult: the Post Office can’t take a tardis 75 years into the future to pay for these retirements. The money has to be kept somewhere for the gap. When money is kept somewhere other than a pile of cash it takes the form of a loan and loans accrue interest. Who is the loan to, and who does the interest therefore need to be paid by? The public coffers.

    The Post Office has to spend the principle. The tax money has to spend 75 years worth of interest.

    While that might seem like money just shifting around between different parts of the government, remember that none of the money is going to be paid out to any part of the government. The Post Office’s money is going away, the tax money is going away, and –while it might take a circuitous route to get there– none of it is coming back. At least, that’s the case for as long as the law is in effect.

  • Figs

    Thanks for the answer, this is exactly the kind of thing I was looking for. The point about interest accruing on what will in all likelihood be a 75-year pension fund full of treasury bonds is a good one, and one that ties directly to the tax question.

    It seems that there’s a secondary backup aim here. If this bill doesn’t succeed in killing the USPS, at least it will create an enormous pile of money whose management the Republicans can then push to privatize.

  • Alix

    Feudalism, the era of the robber barons, and/or the antebellum South. Usually combined with fond reminisces about Empire. They all amount to the same thing, really.

    You’re absolutely right with the Unified Theory of Republicanism.

  • Carstonio

    While that’s technically accurate, it doesn’t capture the spirit of the ideology. The real goal is preserving wealth or power or privilege for those who have it. Jim Crow segregation suggests a society-wide effort at making sure white people feel good about themselves. Better public accommodations were a lower-level version of the luxuries and pampering that aristocrats enjoy.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    You are aware how money works, right?

    If I pay you money I’m subsidizing you. Not the other way around.

    The Post Office isn’t subsidizing junk mail. The junk mailers are subsidizing the Post Office.

    Unless you’re proposing that businesses (the ones sending the junk mail) should need to seek government approval before they say anything there’s nothing anyone can do to stop that kind of subsidizing. If a private carrier were delivering mail there are only two possibilities:
    1 Someone other than you would decide what mail you are allowed to receive and do so based upon the content of that mail.
    2 The private carrier would be similarly subsidized by the junk mailers.

    -

    Or, for the short version, junk mail isn’t federally subsidized, it’s federally subsidizing. The opposite of what you claim.

  • Alix

    The real goal is preserving wealth or power or privilege for those who have it.

    I’d argue that doesn’t quite go far enough. It’s a part of it – a huge part, since Republicans see their privileges being eroded at every turn – but an awful lot of Republicans don’t just want their privileges preserved but expanded.

    I know quite a few who don’t want a return to segregation. They want a return to slavery.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dpolicar David Policar

    > How in the world would this possibly be workable?

    It actually would not be that difficult to make the receiving of bulk commercial mail an opt-out service. I go to some official location (perhaps my local post office), fill out a “Do Not Send Me Bulk Commercial Mail” form, and I get put on a “Do Not Mail” list that gets distributed to all commercial bulk mailers, who are obligated by law to filter names and addresses on that list out of their bulk-mail packages, on penalty of fines or losing their mailing privileges. It’s similar in principle to the “Do Not Call” list that telemarketers are supposed to respect.

    For that matter, we could make it an opt-in service.

    Of course, this would make mail more expensive for the consumer.
    Admittedly, I can’t think of any way of doing the same thing for first-class/personal mail.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    What is this “basic humanity” you speak of?

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Why would anyone want slavery to return?

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    1. That’s a hasty generalization.

    2. [citation needed].

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    No one has ever imagined the market to be magical, and, with a government-subsidized road system, the market in mail transport cannot be considered “free”. The market can provide mail to all areas of the country, but the costs would surely be much higher than those of today.


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