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How Are Postmaster General Louis DeJoy's Changes Affecting Workers? (npr.org)
62 points by awnird on Aug 12, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 119 comments



I guess what confuses me is that, even assuming good intentions by the new Postmaster General, why and why now?

I believe the main stated reason has been that the USPS loses money and they want to make it break even or profitable. Assuming that's the reason (and not election interference), why should such an infrastructure be breakeven or profitable? And why now, during a pandemic?

There are plenty of government services that aren't even close to breakeven. I imagine USPS actually might be one of the most self-sustaining federal departments. Why should this particular one be profitable? Why should this one be privatized, out of all of them?

The USPS has been one of the most stable, reliable, and predictable forces in my life. Their informal creed speaks volumes to me: "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."

I'm open to hearing arguments for why the USPS should be profitable (or privatized) and why now is a good time. I'm finding a very hard time imagining why.


The theme of the last four years of Federal government has been dismantling working-but-flawed systems in favor of private enterprise. You cannot assume "good intentions" on the part of a Postmaster General who is part of this government and is personally invested in private competitors to the USPS.

The USPS also labors under the Republican-inflicted 2006 decree to prefund their pension obligations: https://www.gao.gov/assets/660/650511.pdf


The GOP is clearly intent on tearing down USPS but I've never actually understood the rationale for it - USPS has traditionally been self-funded and (without unreasonable financial burdens involving pre-paying pensions) would continue to be a revenue source rather than sink today. Mail is also a bit of an assumed service in the US so I don't know why there is a lack of understanding that privatization would lead to a lack in service quality in rural areas (where the GOP shows the strongest).

I do understand it's part of the whole "government small enough you can drown it in a bathtub" philosophy but it seems like a really silly service to go after. It provides clear societal benefits - has an insanely high quality of service (just look at CanadaPost and offerings in Europe) extremely low cost for use and is integral to a lot of social services (taxes, voting, census etc...) there are much bigger government boogie men to go after than USPS.


The existence of a well-run government agency goes against free-marketeer beliefs that the government can never do anything right. The USPS flies in the face of that.

Unionized government employees also typically lean Democratic, too.


You have to look at the breakup of the Soviet state to modern Russia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_oligarch) and see the massive, massive profit opportunities with USPS privatization. DeJoy made his fortune from selling a logistic company to XPO, where he was an executive for a while post-acquistion, in addition to his political beliefs and alliances.


That actually seems pretty credible - get rid of the big counter-example to your argument.


Not sure if this the actual rationale, but a potential explanation: https://www.cnn.com/2017/07/19/politics/osc-usps-hillary-cli...

A government investigation concluded that the United States Postal Service "improperly coordinated" with a postal workers union that supported Hillary Clinton's campaign.


The timing doesn't line up - the USPS has been under attack since well before 2017. This reason might be reinforcement, but it can't be part of the core rationale.

And, honestly, there are "politicalish" scandals like this pretty frequently - I don't know if you recall the uproar about the IRS targeting conservative groups a few years back[1].

1. Which was, for clarity, disproven after the fact https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IRS_targeting_controversy


...by giving 97 workers union time off to perform political activities. It seems like a petty reason to trash an organization that receives no taxpayer funding, and punish the millions of poor and rural Americans that depend on it.


Yeah I don't get it. They're complaining about a 2.2bn dollar loss this year, when last year the loss was even greater - and that's with the apparently reduction in mailings this quarter. At the same time the Gov will spend billions on a fighter jet that will likely never see combat, billions on other countless military waste, who knows how much in carting the president around to golf...

I don't think this is entirely about election fraud, it just happens to be an easy target for the people that have already been trying to gut the USPS.

I see it in the same vein as them trying to gut NASA. They both have such small budgets in the grand scheme that it just makes absolutely no sense.


It is never about the actual money spent . It is about how much visibility that spend is having in the public/political mind space .

This is why doesn’t make sense to compare nasa and military budgets . Decision makers do not see all money as equal.

Even if there was no hidden agenda,cutting some spends are far easier than others even if it made logical sense , the lobbying power of the military budgets has is lot more than that of say NASA or USPS.

It is not just government it is true for corporates and non profits as well , Mozilla cuts servo over say pocket for similar reasons ,


"Easier" in what sense though, it's not as though the post office is unpopular (arguably a goal of these changes is to change that to build support for privatization but anyways)


Giving the absolute benefit of doubt to the administration , the only valid reason for why now is that term of the current administration is ending, if they don’t do it now , they may never get a chance to do it at all.


Talking about the recent postal service changes while avoiding the political implications is intellectually dishonest, even if the intentions are good. Some topics simply cannot be discussed while adhering to the Hacker News guidelines.


Oh, my intent wasn't to avoid political implications (but maybe that wasn't meant for me, at some point in HN comments I get lost), but rather to try to dig deeper into them.

In looking at the HN guidelines, I think the closest point related to this would be:

>Please don't use Hacker News for political or ideological battle. That destroys the curiosity this site exists for.

I hope HN can be a place where we discuss political and ideological perspectives without engaging in battle, and leveraging curiosity to bring us closer together.

I think the challenge is that most of the examples of political conversation we see is more political debate and less political dialogue—competition vs cooperation.

So far, I've been learning in this comments section and am grateful for those who are contributing :-)


The problem lies here:

> "Assuming that's the reason (and not election interference),

Not being allowed to explore the possibility of bad faith omits a crucial aspect of the topic. The result is a Potemkin Village imitation of intellectual exchange.

There are important reasons to "assume good faith" per the HN Guidelines (and to forbid accusations of bad faith), but that means certain topics just cannot be reasonably examined.


Admittedly, I don't have a deep grasp of what Potemkin Villages are, so my comments below may reinforce what you said, I'm not sure.

I'm not saying that conversation about election interference shouldn't happen, I guess I'm trying to test the strength and legitimacy of one stated claim, that of privatization, before maybe moving to others.

I also think that even when discussing voter suppression, gutting the institution from the inside as that's easier than legislating it out, or even trying to capitalize on the sale of public assets, one can assume that people want those behaviors not of bad faith, but because they believe they will help the most people, or at least their people.


Let's get rid of the Potemkin village; the point is that the offered rationales are just meant to be a maze everybody wastes their time arguing in when what's going on is obvious. Kind of like a Gish gallop for the media, if you will (if you're not familiar with the term, Wikipedia explains it this way: "During a Gish gallop, a debater confronts an opponent with a rapid series of many specious arguments, half-truths, and misrepresentations in a short space of time, which makes it impossible for the opponent to refute all of them within the format of a formal debate. In practice, each point raised by the 'Gish galloper' takes considerably more time to refute or fact-check than it did to state in the first place").


Ah, I had never heard of that term Gish gallop, but I've definitely heard people using that strategy, so thanks for the highlight on that. It actually reminds me of a goal of disinformation and even differential privacy—make it more expensive (e.g., time, money, energy) to investigate the truth.

I'd like to think that this conversation on HN hasn't been that way—at times I felt lost in the weeds and yet I feel pretty confident in how I see it now.

That there are two main questions: 1) Should the USPS be significantly changed (e.g., privatized, more efficient, restructured, etc.)? 2) Should the USPS be significantly changed now?

After these comments, I'm much more concerned with the second question, because I can imagine there will be a lot of people who want it drastically changed but still can't explain why now is the time to do it, as I haven't seen many arguments here that convince me that the change is urgent and unrelated to the election.


It's like we're standing in line at a convenience store when some guy jumps the counter, bludgeons the cashier, empties the register into his backpack, and you're all, "Excuse me, do you work here?"

We cannot have a good faith debate about changing the USPS right now — the only sane response is to resist this attempt to sabotage our electoral machinery with all our strength. Engaging in farcical "debate" on the subject lends legitimacy to the sabotage and contributes to the harm.

(But you can't say stuff like that on Hacker News. The forum is fragile; it can't hold such conversations without fracturing.)


I mean, if it were as clear to all bystanders and people outside of the store and across the country that there were someone bludgeoning a cashier, unprovoked, and stealing the money, then I'd agree that with that much consensus, what's the point of talking about it.

I have many friends and family who I'm quite certain see actions by the administration as either innocuous or exciting—to privatize—or righteous and brave—to take on the "fraud that will be perpetuated through mail-in voting." The people who believe the latter won't be convinced through much debate, but the people in the former may, because they may believe strongly that it should be privatized and yet disagree that it should happen now.

I can't speak for others, but I learned a lot in this short, 1-2 day dialogue. I want to learn how to have conversations with people who disagree with me to try to bring us closer to resolution.

Oddly enough, I took a hostage negotiation training last year and want to strive to get better at resolving conflict as they do. That being said, asking a question like you posed at the beginning could confuse the guy and disarm him a bit, setting him up for further conversation and maybe resolving the conflict.

In conclusion, I deeply appreciated this thread and what you contributed to it as well, because I feel more prepared for the conversations I'll inevitably have around this.

And I think HN seems to have been handling it well, but I still kinda feel like an outsider here, so I don't know if I'm playing by the rules lol.


> I guess what confuses me is that, even assuming good intentions by the new Postmaster General, why and why now?

Because Congress hasn’t approved postage increases, so the post office doesn’t have the money it would take to provide the service Congress wants it to. At the same time, Congress hasn’t approved closing offices, so the post office can’t scale back to provide the service it can actually afford.

> I believe the main stated reason has been that the USPS loses money and they want to make it break even or profitable. Assuming that's the reason (and not election interference), why should such an infrastructure be breakeven or profitable?

It’s not the postmaster general’s decision. Congress set up the requirement that the post office be self funded when it limited how much it will subsidize the post office.

I can imagine a world where the post office is self funded, and I can imagine a world where the post office is heavily subsidized. I don’t think the world we live in — where the post office has to be self funded while literally requiring an act of Congress to raise prices or close offices — can actually work.


Fair points, I'm operating mostly blind on this so I'm grateful for you and others who are bringing more references to laws and the functions of it.

The question still gets me is "why now?" Why privatize or change the USPS now, when it could very well jeopardize, or at the minimum, give people the impression that it will jeopardize the election?

In other words, is the <$10B in annual loss more important than the integrity of the election?


> Why privatize or change the USPS now, when it could very well jeopardize, or at the minimum, give people the impression that it will jeopardize the election?

The post office turned into the USPS (and the postmaster general removed from the line of presidential succession) in 1970 ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postal_Reorganization_Act ). Ever since that time, people have been arguing whether it should be privatized or return to what it was before 1970.

The postmaster general just took office in June.

> In other words, is the <$10B in annual loss more important than the integrity of the election?

That’s a question for Congress. If the post office’s bank account is empty, I don’t believe it can get a loan, sell bonds, or borrow money in any other way. It’s not truly independent.

Right now, Congress isn’t ready to allow a postage increase, allow offices to close, or to give the $10B or so to the post office to continue operating as usual. I suspect that could change pretty quickly if voters complain loud enough.


I had no idea it had been part of the cabinet! Wow, thank you for posting that and the link.

> If the post office’s bank account is empty, I don’t believe it can get a loan, sell bonds, or borrow money in any other way.

Is it close to being empty? I guess I just assumed there was at least a few year runway, enough to get through the pandemic and election, but maybe there's not.

When so many other things are being bailed out by stimulus packages, I just find it odd that the USPS wouldn't be. Again, the urgency confuses me.


I don’t know what the post office’s account looks like. They claim they haven’t made a profit in years (e.g., “The agency has lost nearly $70 billion over the previous 11 years, including nearly $9 billion last year alone. The agency’s total debt and unfunded liabilities are now twice the size of its annual revenue” https://kuster.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/calling... ).


Ah ha. Seems it could be struggling more than I had thought. Still, doesn't seem to me like it's in such an urgent, dire state that it needs to be addressed before the election.

Thanks for the back and forth :-)


While looking for the post office’s financial information I discovered that Congress doesn’t literally have to approve rate increases. Apparently, that’s now handled by the Postal Regulatory Commission ( https://www.prc.gov/about ). So I learned something from the back and forth.


woohoo, HN mutual learning :-D


The "why" and "why now" is that the USPS's debt has been growing and isn't sustainable in the long run. Unless structural changes are made, tax payers will ultimately be left paying the bills. https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/15/postal-se...


From what I remember in this video, it's actually been a independent company spinoff since the 1970s: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLyU1WCQQ8A

And stopped using tax dollars in the mid 80s


Imagine if the military had to be profitable?


Imagine if they had to pre pay pensions and the VA - they'd be insanely underwater.


Indirectly it is.


Depending on how you measure externalities, it probably is


They're not measuring externalities with the Postal Service.


Also giving subsidy to ups and fedex for all the unprofitable rural / low density routes to keep it available in rural areas will probably end costing more


I dunno. There are some areas (speaking from experience unfortunately) where UPS and Fedex deliver but USPS doesn't.


Perhaps , I am talking about places like this

https://facts.usps.com/8-mile-mule-train-delivery/.

Or the remote islands I don’t see how Ups or Fedex will service it at the cost USPS currently does


> why and why now

Playing the devils advocate, it could be a bone to throw to the small government crowd and the "why now" is because it's the middle of an election and they want to drum up support for their campaign.

However, I typically receive five or six packages per week. Two weeks ago I suddenly started having delays and some packages are taking a week longer to show up than I am used to. It was like a switch being flipped. Nothing like this happened even at the height of the lockdown. I also sent in a ballot application which is now a week late compared to when I sent it in last year. That's really concerning with how many people will be voting by mail.

I'm really scared for what is going to happen in November. Even if he loses by huge margins, Trump has set himself up to scream "rigged election" and have at least part of his base believe him. I'm not sure I can do anything other than wait around and worry, but if he loses there really will be a chunk of Americans that have convinced themselves that the new president wasn't elected democratically. That's really messed up and I don't think we've had an administration that has so undermined trust in our democratic process like that. Even when they were on the losing side, all significant politicians in my recent memory have at least shown respect for the process.


> It was like a switch being flipped. Nothing like this happened even at the height of the lockdown. I also sent in a ballot application which is now a week late compared to when I sent it in last year.

Wow. Imagine the service not hiccuping much at all during the initial lockdown and confusion around the country at the start of the pandemic and now all of a sudden losing service.

I guess I'm trying to get at that bone and small gov't crowd and ask if this is really the fight to fight right now, if decreasing the size of the USPS is the most urgent fight that we should have as Americans. Because I do believe there are many people who want it to be private, but I want people who are supporting it to say why they believe it's urgent that this specific thing happens now, amidst all other challenges we currently face.


> why and why now?

If voting by mail enfranchises those who can't get to the polls easily on election day, does it not make sense (to those who are not favorable to that electorate) to break down the system that enables that?

Edit: Assuming positive intent (which should be done!) only works for so long.


I mean, that's my default assumption: that this is a strategy to suppress votes.

But I want to pull back and try not to assume ill intent, because I've seen how it just squashes conversation and dialogue. I want to learn what else is going on, if there is something else there.

edit: removed "don't"


Maybe I'm saying I try to not 100% assume ill intent, and that while I feel skeptical and suspicious of motives, I try to maintain an openness so that conversation doesn't devolve into two people thinking the other doesn't care about them. I'm tired of seeing so much of that in society.


I'm happy to continue this conversation over email, but there is no value in us having the conversation here due to how charged the subject is.


Yeah, I see a lot of comments going gray (grey?).

Sounds good to me—how shall we exchange that?


Confirmed this is the case by NPR.

> While President Trump has long railed against mail-in voting, falsely claiming it leads to rampant fraud, he appeared to confirm Thursday morning that he opposes Democrats' proposed boost in funding for the U.S. Postal Service because he wants to make it harder to expand voting by mail.

https://www.npr.org/2020/08/13/902109991/trump-admits-to-opp...


Also:

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/pkyv4k/internal-usps-docu... (Vice: Internal USPS Documents Outline Plans to Hobble Mail Sorting)

https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2020/08/post-office-vot... (Mother Jones: Michigan’s Postal Workers Say the Fix is In)


Many jurisdictions require postal ballots to be received by election day. Delaying mail delivery absolutely will disenfranchise many voters.


Primary argument is that most of the entire rest of the world has moved to profitable, privatized mail carrying.


I find it hard to believe that most of the rest of the world has, but it seems some countries have. Many countries don't really have functioning mail delivery, whether public or private.

The CATO Institute says "The U.S. ranks near the bottom of the Consumer Postal Council’s 26‐ country 'Index of Postal Freedom.'"[1], but they only looked at 26 countries, and even then, I'm not sure what that index looks at. I found a report from 2012 but it's long and I'm not gonna dig into it now.

Do you have examples of which countries have and what led to the change?

[1]: https://www.cato.org/publications/tax-budget-bulletin/privat...


The USPS would be profitable if it didn't have to pre-fund its pension obligations by an 75 years - an obligation no other government regulated entity must abide by.

https://www.nonprofitmailers.org/four-usps-myths/


The prepayment period ended in 2016. It is not to blame for current losses.


The USPS doesn't depend on any government funding. Nearly all of its revenue comes from postage. Why is it so important for it to be private if it's not costing taxpayer money?


Hmm, this may be a dumb question, but when the USPS loses money, where does that money come from? I assumed it was just topped up by the government but maybe not.


It seems like they've been getting by so far partly by skipping payments to the pension and health funds.[1] I don't know what they will do once that's not possible. Seek external funding? Sell some post office land? No idea what their options are or what they're allowed to do.

1. https://www.gao.gov/key_issues/us_postal_service_financial_v...


Wow, I guess it surprises me that it seems as if the government isn't paying anything to the USPS, even backstopping it when it has losses.

If that's true and it's not costing the federal government any money, I'm struggling more to see the reason to privatize.

PS...thank you for finding that link!


USPS actually ends up being a net-earner for the US Government. It's actually one of the few branches that has no allocated budget and has enough of an internal surplus that it's actually been able to afford to innovate. However, that shifted in 2006 when it was burdened with pre-paying for retiree health benefits. If anything - we need some deregulation around the post office to allow it to remain profitable, it's currently shackled by the government in what actions it can take and the 10billion in funding offered by the executive branch comes with some really heavy strings attached that'd actually further restrict what it can do to retain fiscal independence.

I think it's also important to take stock in just how well USPS works - if you compare it to CanadaPost the differences are astonishing, USPS has managed to keep the unions happy while also keeping costs relatively low - I'm sure a lot of passionate people poured their lives into threading the needle on how to keep everything running smoothly, it's quite the success case.


Yeah, the more I engage in this thread and topic, the more I'm learning how it seems the USPS does a pretty darn good job.


Got any sources for that claim? The transition in Israel, for example, resulted in what can only be described as a national joke.


Germany.

They’ve done so well after privatization, they now operate globally and are the world’s largest courier.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deutsche_Post


DHL operates in my home country, Norway, where they are the bottom of the barrel. If I can, I avoid shopping online at places that uses DHL; they're that bad.


The only part of the world's mail services that moved to profitable and privatized mail, is mail service for high-margin packages to cities and large towns.

The day that UPS will be obligated to deliver a first-class letter from East Bufu, Oklohoma (population 68 people, and 837 cows), to Seward, Alaska (population 2,736 people and 14 grizzly bears), for 55 cents, is the day that their privatized business model will stop being profitable.


There are two counter-arguments to that:

1) UPS is not allowed to deliver first class mail to a letterbox, or at the same cost as USPS.

2) Why should short-distance mail subsidize long-distance mail?


> UPS is not allowed to deliver first class mail to a letterbox,

So? They regularly leave packages on your porch, they'd do the same for letters.

> or at the same cost as USPS.

Which is insanely low and money-losing in many cases. And first-class mail is a declining business. Do they even want that?


I was responding to a comment that said: "The day that UPS will be obligated to deliver a first-class letter... for 55 cents". UPS is legally required to charge at least six times more, and cannot use letterboxes.[1] The use of letterboxes is a cost-savings; if it were not a competitive advantage, the USPS wouldn't need a law protecting it.

Whether or not UPS wants the business is beside the point, and they currently cannot have it.

[1] https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/39/601


> Whether or not UPS wants the business is beside the point, and they currently cannot have it.

It's the entire point actually.

The key part of my post is:

> The day that UPS will be obligated... to deliver a letter for 55 cents

The USPS is forced to provide this service - at a ridiculously low price. The second that UPS and Fedex have to play by the same rules (By being forced to deliver negative-margin mail), they will stop being profitable.


The letterbox might have been a competitive advantage when people weren't accustomed to having stuff delivered to their porch. Not anymore. Ditto for a first-class mail monopoly - advantageous when people actually wrote letters, practically useless today.


Letterbox delivery is a competitive advantage because it saves money on delivery; the driver can often drop letters off in a mail room at a multi-unit dwelling, or by the road in the suburbs/rural areas.

We're only talking about first-class mail here, so a 6x cost advantage in first-class mail is very important.


The reason to make changes now would be so that they're set in stone before the next administration comes into power and tries to change everything back. This logic applies to every agency, and is one of the reasons NASA's Ares system got cancelled so quickly by the Obama administration (before they had an alternative vision for space exploration).

The reason to privatize this one is because it has direct competitors, and does not accomplish anything which requires the powers of the federal government. Other departments such as the Department of Energy are not interchangeable with a private competitor, and perform functions which require direct federal involvement (guarding nuclear weapons and working with the armed services).

Some people (including myself) believe the federal government should be as small as possible, and the USPS is simply one of the easiest parts to spin-off/get rid of.


Ah, I can concede the "Oh no, we might be out of power, lock as much as we can into place." I don't agree with it, especially during a pandemic, but I can see that logic.

On the second point, doesn't almost every government service have direct competitors? Public vs private education. Public vs private security. Public vs private military. Public vs private roads.

On the third point, I'm a little confused what you mean: what are some examples of something that would require the powers of the federal government?

EDIT: the comment I was responding to got edited, so this seems a bit outdated: suggestions on what to do on HN when that happens? Delete? Update? No idea how to handle it :-)


What is the direct competitor for bulk letter delivery? Historically that's not profitable so no private company does it and instead they all focus on the profitable package business, or edge case super-fast high cost delivery.


Well, the law currently requires that any competitor charge many times (7x if I recall correctly) more than the USPS for mail, and they are not permitted to use letter-boxes, so it is rather unsurprising that UPS and FedEx charge more for first class mail.


I can find no evidence that private competitors must legally charge a higher rate than USPS. Do you have a source for that? My understanding was that USPS had to compete directly with private mail carriers.


From Wikipedia: "Regarding the monopoly on delivery of letters, the report notes that the monopoly is not complete, as there is an exception for letters where either the amount paid for private carriage of the letter equals at least six times the current rate for the first ounce of a single-piece First-Class Mail letter (also known as the "base rate" or "base tariff") or the letter weighs at least 12.5 ounces."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Postal_Service#2...

edit: Here is the law https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/39/601


Thanks for the link - the 6x in pricing is to enforce the monopoly on delivery of letters rather than all mail items. It only applies to (i) items weighing less than 12.5oz (ii) to the first 1.0oz of a single piece of mail.

Certainly an enforcement of USPS' monopoly on letter delivery, but not a blanket price fixing across all mail items and types.


This subthread is in response to a comment that said:

>" What is the direct competitor for bulk letter delivery? Historically that's not profitable so no private company does it and instead they all focus on the profitable package business, or edge case super-fast high cost delivery. "

So I responded with reasons why there was no competitor for letter delivery:

>" Well, the law currently requires that any competitor charge many times (7x if I recall correctly) more than the USPS for mail, and they are not permitted to use letter-boxes, so it is rather unsurprising that UPS and FedEx charge more for first class mail."

We were never talking about parcels.


Wouldn't a better solution then be to work through Congress to repeal that law?


I addressed that in a different subthread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24136337


How are these changes going to be set in stone? What prevents the next administration from undoing it?

Personally I tend to lean towards privatizing or eliminating the USPS, but the timing for this isn't good if you care about people being able to vote in the upcoming election. There are going to be hiccups when we really need the USPS to be working at top efficiency. Imagine if hundreds of thousands or millions of ballots are tossed because they didn't arrive in time due to delivery delays.


> Personally I tend to lean towards privatizing or eliminating the USPS,

The USPS is funded nearly entirely by postage revenue.[1] Why do you support privatizing it when it doesn't cost any taxpayer money?

1. https://facts.usps.com/top-facts/


There is no way to prevent future administrations from rolling back changes, but the further along those changes are, the more difficult the roll-back is.

The counter-argument to your second point is that no matter when you do this, it will be painful, so you might as well rip the bandage off as quickly as possible. You may find it unconvincing, but there it is.


But even if we should privatize, shouldn't it be done by Congress? Shouldn't the executive branch by responsible for enforcing the law that the legislative branch writes?


I would agree that Congress should be the group doing this, but executive powers have grown to the point that this type of action seems possible. I think Obama's quote aptly captured the reality of the situation:

>"I've got a pen and I've got a phone - and I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions that move the ball forward."

I am staunchly opposed to the continuous growth of these powers, but each party seems to support them when their guy is president, and Congress seems unwilling to take action.


I hear ya and appreciate you bringing that quote. Sometimes we get so attached to party (people) that we forget about the laws.

I guess I keep getting hit by the "why now" part: is it worth privatizing the USPS now, which seems to save < $10B per year, to jeopardize the legitimacy of the election in a time of such deep uncertainty?


Well, if I were in the executive branch and saw it as my priority, prerogative, and last chance to privatize the post office, I would probably do the same.

In some ways, this is comparable to the situation with DACA, in that it was important to the party in control of the executive branch, they didn't have the ability to pass legislation, and they thought it had to get done urgently.[1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deferred_Action_for_Childhood_...


But out of all things you could do before leaving office, in the middle of a pandemic, why would privatizing the post office be in the top 5? A small and maybe easy win amongst your crowd?

Maybe this is so hard for me to see because I have very very fond memories of the post office. I had the same mail carrier deliver mail for almost all of my childhood. He became a pseudo-uncle to me. He was always there.

And it's hard for me to imagine that people have anything but love and tenderness for the USPS.


Sounds like you had a great person as your point of contact with the USPS, and that it favorably shaped your view of the service at large.

I have had mixed experiences with many different carriers, and have no particular fondness for any of the organizations, though some of the people (at each) have been very good, kind, and helpful.

I don't know why this was a priority for people in the current administration, though I view privatization of the USPS as a generally laudable goal.


Funny how sometimes I can be so embedded in my emotional experience of something that I can forget that others may have very different emotional experiences on the same thing.

After all these comments, I'm probably still leaning towards wanting it to stay public, but more open to privatization, and still quite vehemently unconvinced that now is the time to make that change. Again, thank you for all the conversation.


Yes, I do find that counter-argument unconvincing. Do you? It will always be painful, but right now it is especially painful because of a contentious election in three months that is going to rely on mail-in ballots more than ever before. And given Trump's history, it's very reasonable to be suspicious of his motives for doing this now.


Even DOE is partly privatized both Sandia National Laboratories and Savannah River National Laboratory are run by private defense contractors for the government.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandia_National_Laboratories [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savannah_River_National_Labora...


I don't know how much we should count defense contractors as "privatized" there's bidding[1] and the contractors are financially independent[2] but, due to the nepotism of the system defense contracts are quite flush with money and it seems like most contracts end up benefiting semi-retired military folks by giving them a cushy landing (though this is anecdotal).

I think power utilities might be a better place to look at privatization - but most of those (like PG&E) end up frequently running afoul of a lack of oversight while also not really out-performing public power utilities[3].

1. Often times with insanely high barriers to entry sometimes including being "non-public"

2. To my knowledge the only defense-ish contractor folks that have gotten bailed out are the more public facing ones like Boeing which do mixed public/private work.

3. Though this industry has a terrible track record across the board for being accountable, profitable and responsible. I might point at VT Yankee https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vermont_Yankee_Nuclear_Power_P... as an example where the company just tried to dissolve itself before paying for cleanup out of its contingency fee.


My spouse’s small business is seeing delays in deliveries the last few weeks it didn’t even see at the height of the pandemic.

And she had something get lost a week ago, something that hadn’t happened in over a year (small sample size though).

We do know that the local USPS has cut back on the hours their employees are working, which is strange considering USPS is busier than ever.


In the last two weeks, key financial docs got sent back as wrong address. Charles Schwab and our bank - we only know because they called to ask us about it. We’ve been at the same address for over 10 years. Never had this issue before. Anecdotal, perhaps, but odd timing nonetheless.


According to their last quarterly only parcel volume is up, the rest is down - so it kinda evens out. There was a few weeks at the start when everyone was panic buying every puzzle they could on ebay that the post office felt like the week before Christmas though.

https://about.usps.com/newsroom/national-releases/2020/0807-...


I spent ~$50k/year on USPS deliveries and also have had almost zero problems prior to the past 4 weeks. Now, we've got almost a dozen lost and delayed packages


Funny little tidbit: my 1940s townhouse neighborhood has no universal front desk and hands out building keys to USPS for each townhouse. The mailbox is inside, and USPS is legally obligated to access it, so I know if USPS ships a package for me it's next to my apartment door.

UPS and FedEx do not have access. You have to be there when they drop off the package, or they're tossed into this hole (like a literal hole) next to the door, or they do the "we missed you" thing and sticky a note to the outer door and you pick it up in person.

I live a ten-minute drive away from the Pentagon. It's not just remote villages in Alaska that'd be inconvenienced by USPS going away.


I live in Oregon, where vote by mail is the standard. While I can drop off my ballot at a drop box (convenient for folks in town, like me) it’s delivered by USPS. This feels like a not-very-subtle attack on my voting franchise.

I’m a strong advocate for vote by mail, and it never occurred to me that the USPS would not be there to handle ballot delivery and pickup.

I wonder if there are constitutional issues with this kind of change?


IIRC, Oregon requires postal ballots to be received by election day.

Also IIRC, Washington's (State) rule is received by certification, which is 21 (?) days after election day.

Changing to the Oregon rule is floated most every legislative session. We've successfully beaten it back. But one thing I learned as an election integrity activist is the Powers That Be will keep trying until they succeed.

FURTHER:

Back in the day, the Undeliverable As Addressed (UAA) rate was %1 for First Class mail. Meaning %1 of postal ballots were not received by voters. And %1 of cast postal ballots never got back to central count. In my county, that's over 10,000 ballots lost in a general election.

Anybody worried about USPS's performance should probably be doing their own measuring of UAA and other metrics.

Any way. I'm VERY CONCERNED about the USPS monkeying with stuff that ain't broke. Ensuring postal balloting works as expected takes A LOT of effort.


I don't know why anybody has to keep entertaining the absurd notion that slowing delivery and making the service "not work" is not precisely the purpose of the changes.


Spare me the puerile libertarian arguments for a privatized postal service. There is no good reason for it to be privatized and many Americans lives will be negatively affected by such a change.

1) There are already private mail carriers (FedEx, UPS, et al.). They do not have an obligation to deliver mail in a timely manner anywhere in the continental US and overseas territories. This is fine if you are a city dweller, but private mail carriers notoriously do not guarantee "last mile" delivery. This will cut off many isolated rural communities for whom the USPS is a lifeline to the outside world.

2) USPS receives no tax dollars for their services. They are completely self-sustaining. A Republican congress forced an insane burden for the USPS to pre-fund 75 years worth of pension obligations: there are future postal workers who have not been born yet that the post office must plan pensions for. No other government entity has such an obligation - this is the only reason the USPS is in a financial problem and it is a manufactured crisis. There is no "small government" argument here since your tax dollars don't fund them.

3) The USO pledge states that the USPS must offer affordable rates to customers. Privatized companies have a market incentive to keep prices low, yes, but in practice there is no way that there won't be price collusion/fixing if a handful of private carriers become market dominant. Antitrust is laughably weak in the US right now.

4) DeJoy is using the manufactured crisis from pension obligations as a canard for slashing worker benefits and overpay to the bone. He is intentionally gutting the USPS so the Republicans can point at it and whine about how socialized enterprises don't work as well as private ones. This is why all mail is so delayed right now: postal workers rely on overtime to ensure that all mail is delivered in a timely manner.


> A Republican congress forced an insane burden for the USPS to pre-fund 75 years worth of pension obligations: there are future postal workers who have not been born yet that the post office must plan pensions for. No other government entity has such an obligation - this is the only reason the USPS is in a financial problem and it is a manufactured crisis.

This is the same obligation that private company pensions need to adhere to, because that is the responsible thing to do, with the difference being that the post office has to also fund retirement medical plans since, unlike a private company, those are mandated by congress and can only be changed with congressional approval.

I don't understand why this keeping getting called out, like it is an unusual burden to be responsible. In my humble opinion I think that all government pensions should be funded, because it is not fair for us to artificially lower costs now and expect everyone's children and grandchildren in the future to somehow pay for this generation's unfunded promises.


> I don't understand why this keeping getting called out, like it is an unusual burden to be responsible.

They are being forced to plan for the next 75 years now. in 2006 They were given 10 years to have the money needed for all pensions up to 75 years in the future. That is an unreasonable burden because no company does that. No company is planning 75 years from now on anything.

> In my humble opinion I think that all government pensions should be funded

No one is saying Pensions should stop being funded or paid out.

> because it is not fair for us to artificially lower costs now and expect everyone's children and grandchildren in the future to somehow pay for this generation's unfunded promises.

They are not artificially lowering costs, they were making a decent profit without this burden at the current price point. They were more then capable of meeting their obligations including pensions due now, and still making a decent profit. Nothing was being pushed off to future generations.


>They are being forced to plan for the next 75 years now.

I'm reading that ALL pensions offered by private companies in the U.S. must be funded out for 75 years. I presume this is for good reason. Why should this not apply to the USPS or other local/state/federal/church employees?

I might not follow your reply, but you seem to be under the impression that the USPS is having to do something different than every private company, but that does not appear to be the case. https://www.forbes.com/sites/ebauer/2020/04/14/post-office-p...

EDIT: with the exception of medical coverage, which is handled differently than private companies as per congress.

>in 2006 They were given 10 years to have the money needed for all pensions up to 75 years in the future.

That would seem to have been a heavy burden. I don't know all the particulars, but they seem to be past that now, right? Is this ten year catchup period still relevant to the conversation?

>Nothing was being pushed off to future generations.

Then why does the government mandate this same pension funding for all private company pensions? I assume it is because there were problems with bankrupt pensions in the past.


The USPS isn't given the "private company" treatment in other matters though. They can't set their own rates, or appoint their own chief executive or sell stock. It's hard to believe the intention behind the pre-funding requirement was anything so benign as "fiscal responsibility".


I'd file that under "two wrongs don't make a right".

I think all government pensions should be responsibly funded. To do otherwise is basically tell our kids and unborn future generations that they can pay for our our lack of ability to make hard decisions. I just can't see where that's right.

I wonder why is it that only government workers have pension plans that everyone else knows are unaffordable?


I imagine Trump's installed someone in charge of the USPS to destabilize it in a hurry in order to erode confidence in the USPS to be able to handle mail-in voting.

Perhaps he'll get the public behind him enough to somehow stop mail-in voting if the next few months the mail system falls apart. Or if not and he loses the election, he'll blame it on the incompetent mail service and demand an election redo or whatever Trumpy things he normally does when he loses.

It seems to me that it's everything to do with the election, nothing to do with improving the USPS.


Just like you'd think a Trump sycophant would implement. Reducing services, removing equipment and cutting back on employee hours.

Mail is piling up in Iowa (where the person being interviewed is located) and from other reports all over the country.

Well maybe not in Texas or Florida where Trump depends on vote by mail.

Of course it all started as revenge against Amazon but it's nicely transitioned to manipulating the USPS for political benefits. In other words, business as usual.


Any proof that these changes wouldn't affect Texas and Florida USPS services, or that any of these changes are for political benefit?


He tweeted. He tweeted that mail-in voting is GOOD in Florida, and somehow totally different from mail-in voting in other states. He encouraged people to do vote by mail in Florida.


Considering the postal union is one of the strongest democrat supporting unions, can you point to any whistleblowers or leaked documents, or any proof that this is politically motivated?


why would the workers union know anything about management changes?


Why wouldn’t they? That’s kind of their thing...


The USPS loses a lot of money. Even ignoring the pension pre-funding issue, it's still cashflow negative. For a supposedly 'private' company that constantly requires bailing out by the US government. The USPS is just another industry that the internet has decimated and mostly replaced. First class mail has fallen so much that only package delivery and junk mail is keeping the USPS (kinda) alive.

One of the Postal Services problems is that senior management comes from USPS career employees whose loyalty is to the postal service employees - not the business itself or even its customers. The USPS needs new blood at the top and it needs to start acting like a for-profit business and less like a business that has been captured by its union.


> The USPS loses a lot of money. Even ignoring the pension pre-funding issue, it's still cashflow negative.

This is untrue - without its pension pre-funding requirement it turns a modest profit each year[1].

[1] https://www.nonprofitmailers.org/four-usps-myths/


Even if this were not true, it seems to me that a mail system is a societal good that is significant enough that I would be happy to see it funded from taxes.


Practically a paid advertisement by the Postal Employees Union. Okay, not practically, completely.

Having had two relatives both be Post Masters you can damn well bet the slow down of mail is totally because they are purposefully doing it and not for hours cut. You underestimate the levels they go to. Both relatives recounted days where you would have bickering constantly and having to call in RCAs because two or more permanent employees were bitching over a truck or additions to a route and no mail would go out.

This same union had incredible influence over the poor working conditions RCA drivers suffer; these are all those personal vehicles marked up with PO logos and such. All with their guaranteed day but hoping for enough days to pay their bills. All having to suffer the whims of a regular PO employees who treat most of them like dirt. All this just so they can get their permanent position. Which should be done by the RCA with most seniority but this can be sabotaged quite easily by the regulars.

Sorry, this piece is election year drivel and you can expect story after story on every subject sure to come up in ads


> Both relatives recounted days...

The plural of anecdote is not data. Do you have anything solid to back up your claim that it is the postal union slowing down the mail service as a political move?

That's a bold statement and requires some strong evidence for me to believe it.


They are working fewer hours because the administration has forbidden overtime.




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