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

Blade Runner, Terminator, Minority Report and the deliberate sabotage of the Postal Service May 7, 2013

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.

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  • Alix

    The idea, as related to me in a very circumspect fashion by many people here in Virginia, is that Virginia was once Great. It was a time when men (read: white men) were “gentleman farmers,” by which they mean other people did all the work and they simply sat back, enjoyed leisurely pursuits like dabbling in government or business or just staying home, and grew wealthy on their slaves’ labor.

    These are the same people who will flat-out say they wish the Confederacy had won the Civil War, or that the abolitionists were morally wrong and just trying to bankrupt the South.

    Today, if they got their way, they might bend a bit to newfangled morals and hire servants instead, but those servants would … not really be much different from slaves. Not in any real meaningful way. They want a permanent underclass of exploitable labor, so they don’t have to work unless they want to.

  • Republicans don’t want to return to feudalism-where’s the nationalism and easy mass warmongering in that? Some libertarians have been a bit too admiring of feudalism.

  • rm

    But when mail service fails in rural areas, people will blame the government. It’s a win-win for Republicans.

  • Carstonio

    It comes down to the same thing. Selfishness is really fear. They’re terrified that if they don’t accumulate more power or wealth or privilege, they’ll be powerless and destitute and at the mercy of others. The more astute ones may recognize that a grossly hierarchical or unequal society can only be perpetuated by force. The folks you know who want a return to slavery may subconsciously fear that the only alternative is being forced into slavery themselves.

  • Alix

    Well, you can read the relevant part of the Constitution itself. For a group of people who claim to be in favor of a strict interpretation of the Constitution, the Republicans sure are happy to undermine that bit.

    As for the rest… Republicans are very explicit about how I am not a real human being. I’m genderqueer, you see, and not straight. I shouldn’t be allowed to marry, adopt, be acknowledged as the gender I am, or go through life unmolested. I also have a uterus, which I apparently do not actually own; according to Republicans, it owns me, and I not only have no right to evict someone who takes up residence there against my will, I have no right to even try to prevent someone from doing so, except by crossing my legs and praying no man takes it in his head to rape me.

    I have no right to go into a school, church, bar, or national park without worrying about being shot by a macho lunatic. I likewise have no right to breathe clean air or drink clean water. I have no right to basic healthcare. I have no right to an education. I have no right to food or shelter. I have no right to freely practice my religion, because paganism is icky and heretics are evil. I have no right to keep my money in my pocket, or to keep my home, if a bank wants it and decides to take it.

    I am not a person created equal to them, with a right to life, liberty, and my own happiness. Those are rights that are reserved only for the people who agree with Republicans.

  • Ah. The main “argument” for restoring slavery is slaveholder-wannabes’ senses of entitlement. I was expecting more of an actual argument.

  • Alix

    I like my government-subsidized roads, thanks.

  • Alix

    Er. The feudal system is beautifully designed to incite national fervor and raise an army. See: the Middle Ages. Hint: it was not exactly a peaceful time in Europe.

  • Nationalism existed before the rise of the nation-state? Citation, please?

  • Alix

    Yeah, no. They don’t have one, other than greed and, as you note, entitlement.

    And they know they’re on the wrong side morally – that’s why they a) avoid using the word “slavery” itself and b) try so goddamn hard to argue that their precious Civil War had nothing to do with slavery, nope, that’s just a sick Northern lie, dontcha know.

  • Alix

    Erm, are the ratings really that big a deal? I’ve gotta admit, your zeal on the issue kinda confuses me. :/

  • Carstonio

    Wait – is Chris arguing that first-class mail is partially subsidizing junk mail? I’ve long wondered if the presorted standard rate is lower than the actual per-piece cost, and if the USPS covers the difference by charging ordinary schmoes higher rates for first-class mail.

  • Narcissus

    Not really and No. I’m suggesting that both parties are the problem. The picking of sides is such a manufactured ruse.

  • Alix

    I was being imprecise. For “national” substitute “patriotic,” and the point still stands – what we call nationalism is patriotic fervor tied to a nation-state, but the basic ideology goes back to the first organized civilizations, and has roots much further back. It’s not the nation part that’s important, it’s the state part.

    For a beautiful illustration of this, look at the Peloponnesian War. Or the really crazy endless rounds of wars between city-states in Bronze Age Mesopotamia.

  • Alix

    So we should sit around twiddling our thumbs and do nothing?

  • “If only we got rid of those damned taxes, everything would be so much WORSE!”
    That’s… an original argument, I’ll grant you.

  • Alix

    Possibly. But if junk mail is so evil, why aren’t consumers refusing to patronize businesses who send it out, thus forcing them to change their ways and eliminating junk mail entirely? Isn’t that how the market’s supposed to work?

    I find the whole junk mail thing weirdly hilarious. Like, half my mom’s friends piss and moan about their junk mail, while flipping through it for “the good coupons,” which are somehow mysteriously Not Junk. Everybody acts like “junk mail” is some weird thing that just popped up out of nowhere and does nothing but piss people off, but that’s evidently not true.

  • whengreg

    Presorted junk mail is cheaper for the sender, but costs much less for USPS to process because:
    1) It’s all computer readable, and presorted by zipcode, requiring much less processing.

    2) If a couple pieces get lost, no big deal.

  • What is this “basic humanity” you speak of?
    Hark: the most libertarian sentence ever written.

  • Narcissus

    No, by all means ridicule republicans as if the democrats were not involved. That ought to get things done.

  • Carstonio

    No question about the lower costs for processing junk mail. This hypothetical example with made-up costs and rates may illustrate my question…Let’s suppose it costs USPS 5 cents to process presorted standard and 10 cents to process first class. But instead of charging both sets of users the actual costs, the presorted users pay only 3.5 cents and the first-class users pay 12 cents, so effectively the second group helps subsidize the first. My suspicion is that the USPS does something like that now.

  • Alix

    Ah. So the proper way to handle a problem is not to address the problem, but first make sure we’ve sufficiently spread the blame around. Did you miss the part where it’s a Democrat who’s actually trying to fix things?

  • rizzo

    It’s already tanking and has been for years. I haven’t been to a Postal conference since 2007 and even then they were running at a deficit of almost $4billion/year. OLD Americans like the postal service, most of us under 40 pay everything we can online and could care less about the USPS as long as UPS or FEDEX can deliver our Amazon packages…DHL could take over the whole operation for all we care.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Half the shit I order, UPS gives it to USPS for delivery the final leg.

  • JustoneK

    First question: do you think you have basic humanity as a trait?
    Second question: what does rating down all the comments in a thread gain you?

  • Carstonio

    I wouldn’t call junk mail evil. My objection would be if the postal service is cutting the businesses a break on the processing costs and passing these along to other customers.

  • Maniraptor

    He wants to make sure we never forget how childish he is. It’s a public service, really.

  • Alix


    FWIW, I vastly prefer the Postal Service, and I try my damndest to ship through them when I have the option. They don’t consistently deliver my packages to the neighbors.

    And of course none of this changes the Constitutional mandate, or the fact that as much as some of us hate snail mail, some things do need to be sent that way, and that the Postal Service is a vital lifeline. I really honestly don’t think UPS/FEDEX/DHL would be a viable substitute.

  • Hey, Chris, for the low-low price of $9.99 a month, I will act as a replacement mail service for you. I will prescreen your mail, throwing out any junk mail, pocketing the money I am paid by mailers to deliver it.

  • Narcissus

    Determining why it passed in the first place might go a long way to addressing the problem. The systemic problem. Picking a team in a manufactured game may feel warm and fuzzy but it doesn’t address the problem. I doubt having a republican sign on to actually repelling HR 6407 would then exonerate republicans. But nor should it.

  • P J Evans

    They also can’t license their logo for clothing or do anything else that would make money.

  • P J Evans

    Junk mail – bulk rate – *is* paying less than first class. It’s also probably the largest part – by volume – of what the USPS carries. (I think it could pay a bit more, and first/second class could pay a bit less.)
    Incidentally, one reason for magazines to go online is that second-class penalizes small -circulation publications.

  • P J Evans

    Ben Franklin was the first Postmaster General, IIRC.

  • Mark Z.

    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”.

    Wrong. The roads are equally open to anyone–UPS and FedEx and bicycle messengers use them just like the postal service does.

  • P J Evans

    If you want to ship a book – it’s cheaper via USPS; they have ‘media mail’ aka ‘library rate’, which the private delivery companies *don’t* have. And since I’m usually sending books *to* a library, it’s great.

  • P J Evans

    ever checked the shipping rates?

  • FedEx and UPS use the same government-subsidized roads. Yet, somehow, it’s still more cost-effective for you to send a non-urgent envelope domestically for around 50 cents.

    Via USPS.

  • Alix

    Sure. Except, y’know, there’s already an effort underway to repeal the problematic bill. So the whole “but they do it too!” thing is … a bit late.

    I have a lot of reasons to loathe Republicans, beyond just this. And if you look through my comments, I have never once said the Democrats were saints, or that I am myself a Democrat. Why?

    Because I’m a registered independent, precisely because the Democrats are too far right for me. Too willing to compromise with the far-right extremists. All too willing to sacrifice me for political expediency. Do you think I don’t know this?

    Pointing out all the many ways the Republicans are shits doesn’t mean I’m automatically siding with the Democrats, or that I’m “picking a team.” There may only be, for now, two viable national parties, but that doesn’t mean that every single comment I make must automatically be for either one of them.


    Oh look that was so fucking hard to do

  • Carstonio

    I might be having trouble making my question clear. I’m suggesting that the USPS is deliberately charging its presorted standard customers less than the actual cost of processing this class of mail. If so, the motive might be a tactic to placate businesses with political connections. Under my scenario, the USPS would be similarly charging first-class and second-class customers more than what it costs to mail these items, to make up for the presorted standard discount. Note that I’m not referring to greater volume leading to lower per-piece costs, but a possible business decision to take a loss on one rate class and make this up by overcharging other rate classes.

  • Geoffrey Kransdorf

    “(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.)”

    Do you know WHY Republicans take this attitude? Because “Public Unions” subvert the very notion of union negotiation. In a regular Union situation you have the Union on one side, who wants more money and benefits. And Management on the other side, who needs to save money and maximize profits. That’s a conflict, and they need to negotiate in good faith. But in a “Public Union”, Democrat politicians are under no real pressure to cut spending, and desperately want Union support and votes. So it is in both parties interest to readily agree to higher and higher wages and benefits. The only losers are taxpayers, who foot the bill, and Republican politicians, who refuse to play ball.

    This cozy relationship is why Government employee benefits are killing the budgets of most of the blue states, California especially. And Democrats are in no position to do anything about it.

  • EllieMurasaki

    California’s in deep shit because they can’t raise taxes without a supermajority and they’ll never have a supermajority, not because they’re spending too much money. And teachers get paid absolute shit no matter where they are.

  • Hexep

    To be fair, the China Post does offer checking-account services, so I can see how someone might think that postal banking leads to tyranny. If they’re a turd.

  • Geoffrey Kransdorf

    You know, just because I would rather decide how to spend the money I earn, rather than turn 50% of it over to the Government to decide for me, doesn’t mean that I’m selfish. And just because I think I can decide for myself how large a soda i should be able to buy doesn’t mean I want a return to slavery.

    MOST Americans today think that the Federal government is already too big and invasive and is already trying to do things that it isn’t well-suited to do. When Obamacare really kicks in next year, I expect that attitude to become even more pronounced and widespread.

    The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. And liberals in Government are the country’s biggest paving company.

  • There is no way you’re forking over 50% unless you’re making $48756347675238 a year.

    I just closed out on TURBO TAX on the computer. At the end comes up all sorts of IRS facts. The average federal tax rate for a family of four in the $60k range is 9.7% (for the average $35k income its much lower). Add 8% for social security, 3% for property taxes (though only 60% are home owners who pay that), another 4% for state taxes (though 13 states have no state taxes), add 3% for sales taxes (adjusted for what products are taxed), exaggerate and add another 4% for gas taxes, licenses, tolls, and permits and it’s about a 30% overall tax rate no matter how you look at

    The relevant section is blockquoted, but the whole site is a rather effective, if colloquial and even coarse at times, rejoinder to your comments.

  • EllieMurasaki

    If you’re paying fifty percent of your income in taxes, you must be filthy rich, not in the US, and enjoying a whole bunch of government services that the US government does not tax anybody enough to provide.

  • Hell, in Europe I believe this is, or was, a common practice as well.

  • JustoneK

    Pull the other one, it’s got bells on it.

  • Ditto FedEx. Even the supposedly superior free market alternatives are contracting their work out to those heinously inefficient, oppressive, evil government thugs.