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The More Things Change….

October 16, 2012 6 comments

Having recently had a few dollars of expendable cash for the first time in quite a while, I indulged in my favorite habit – going to the bookstore and buying books which I could check out for free from the public library, were I responsible enough to return them on time or organized enough to get myself to said library during operating hours.  The library is only a mile away…but the bookstore is a mere five blocks from home, so it inevitably wins out every time, thanks not only to proximity but to the quirky way in which I choose my reading material, which is by browsing.  In the bookstore, things are arranged by what’s new, then by categories such as fiction, non-fiction, history, biography, natural sciences, etc.  Much easier to browse than stacks organized according to the Dewey decimal system.

Anyway, one of my selections this time was Passionate Minds by David Bodanis, about Voltaire and his long-time aristocratic mistress Emilie du Chatelet – a love affair animated by shared intellectual passions.  du Chatelet was an anomaly for the time – a woman motivated more by intellectual pursuits than fashion or court gossip, in an era where most women of the French aristocracy were uneducated, sometimes to the point of not even being able to write their own names.

Much of du Chatelet’s energy went into finding an appropriate male promoter or sponsor for her intellectual pursuits, which she finally found in Voltaire.  He was not her husband, of course, but adultery was the norm for the French aristocracy of the time and du Chatelet’s husband, having his own dalliances on the side, raised no objections. 

Her confidence boosted by her association with a man who truly respected her intellect, du Chatelet delved into explorations of Sir Issac Newton’s theory of gravity.  du Chatelet translated Newton’s calculations from the geometry he used as mathematical proofs for his theory into the new calculus, both verifying Newton and making his work more accessible to future generations of scientists.  She was also the first to theorize, correctly, that different colors of light in the spectrum had different temperatures, and among the first to recognize that light, as a substance, was composed of something other than mass.

What I found most interesting about the account, however, was not du Chatelet’s story, nor Voltaire’s, but the mise en scene in which their relationship played itself out.  This was the France of the last Louis’ – XIV, the Sun King; XV, who came to the throne at 5 years of age; and XVI, who left the throne a good foot shorter than when he assumed it.

I learned a few things I never knew, such as how different the aristocratic system was in France than it was in England.  This should have been long evident to me, since looking back on it now I was aware that France never had a Magna Carta.  As a result, the French aristocracy had both less power and more privilege in some ways than their English counterparts.  The king alone had the power to raise someone to the nobility.  Working was one of the quickest ways to lose a title; aristocrats were expected to do little or nothing.  Dabbling was acceptable, as was high military command, but working for a living was not.  Members of the aristocracy were not taxed – at all.  Taxes were quite literally, as Leona Helmsley once put it, “for the little people.”  Considering that France was during the period almost perpetually at war with other European powers, one can only imagine the tax burden that must have devolved upon those who actually did the work of the nation, and wonder that it took them so long to revolt.  Justice was similarly two-tiered; an aristocrat could – and often did – inflict violence upon a commoner without fear of reprisal.  The system was set up to make sure the privileged remained so, and the rest kept to their proper place.  Fairness entered into the scenario not at all.

If any of that sounds familiar, it’s probably because it’s more or less the platform for one of our two major political parties.  We already know they’re down with the idea that the privileged shouldn’t be burdened with taxation, that those who actually do the work that produces wealth should also shoulder the burdens of funding government, including the cost of the world’s largest military, and that we have a similar two-tiered system of justice, in which the man who steals billions or sickens thousands escapes punishment, while the man who steals the contents of a cash register serves decades behind bars.

The great irony here is that the party that proposes to restore this old order is the same one that makes a big deal out of disdain for France.  Remember “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” and “freedom fries”?  It turns out that, contrary to Donald Rumsfeld’s dissing of “old Europe,” that’s the version they preferred.  It’s not “old Europe” or old France they have a problem with – it’s the new version, the post-revolutionary one, in which ordinary people no longer know and keep to their place as drudges whose only value is generating wealth for a bunch of layabouts.

In an interesting parallel, time-share billionaire David Siegal, who is building a replica of Versailles as his personal residence, just last week sent out a letter to his employees warning of the dire consequences to their future employment prospects should Barack Obama be re-elected.  This week, the billionaire Koch brothers followed suit.  Just reminding the ordinary folks to remember their place – as drudges whose only value is in making sure that billionaires remain billionaires.

Which leaves me thinking that maybe they should stop exclusively focusing on the France of the ancien regime, and perhaps pay just a bit more attention to what immediately followed it and brought it to an end.  As Louis XVI would no doubt tell them, the loss of a bit of your financial stature is nothing compared to the loss of a bit of your physical stature.

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Mitt Romney: Gormless Motherfucker

September 18, 2012 1 comment

Serendipitous coming so soon after my Labor Day observations:

Sounds like he’s channeling Australian mining heiress Gina Rinehart, doesn’t it?  If all you poors would just step up to the plate and pony up your fair share of the taxes (read:  at a higher rate than Rmoney pays) out of your paltry $20,000 per year earnings, then the noble Job Creators could catch a much-needed break on their taxes.

I can’t wait to see polling numbers at the end of this week.  It’s beginning to look a lot like a landslide.

Happy Parasites and Moochers Day

September 3, 2012 8 comments

For this, our country’s annual recognition of the contributions of working people (or as I like to call them, “wealth creators”), I thought I’d examine the current up-is-down understanding of economics by the average citizen – particularly the average self-described conservative citizen – and the entireity of the business media. 

My first thought was about how we have a Labor Day for honoring workers, but no Masters of the Universe Day for honoring our Galtian (aka “Job Creator”) overlords…then I was reminded of the question that most kids get around to asking their parents at one point or another, and the inevitable response they get in return:  “how come there’s a Mother’s Day and a Father’s Day but there’s no Children’s Day?” which is usually answered with the universal response:  “that’s because every day is Children’s Day.”  And so it goes in our country and economy:  we spend one day of the year recognizing the people who actually do the work that generates the wealth, and the rest of the days lauding the people who profit from their labor and trying to help them profit even more.  But fear not; I’m sure in the near future Fox News will point out how heartless we’ve been for not setting aside a special day for recognizing the contributions of those who own us all, and will whip up the anger and rage of the barely sentient lifeforms who make up their viewing audience in favor of creating such a holiday.  It will be a working holiday of course; it would be just wrong to make it a paid day off.  In fact, it probably should be a day in which we all contribute our labor, free of pay, in gratitude to those who out of the goodness of their hearts “give” us jobs.

It wasn’t always so.  We’ve gone from a nation where, as recently as 40 years ago, an elected official wouldn’t dare insult workers by suggesting they were overpaid or otherwise a drag on national progress and productivity, to one where the ordinary people whose work creates the wealth of the nation are routinely insulted with the suggestion that they are superfluous.  Teachers and other public employees are regularly derided for what is described as overly-generous compensation and benefits plans, while at the same time the value of their work is given short shrift.  During the last few very difficult years, we’ve been treated more than once to claims by elected officials – who are, after all, our employees – that the unemployed are lazy and merely riding the dole, completely ignoring the reality that there simply aren’t enough jobs to go around – the result, in many cases, of these same public employees’ efforts to stymie economic recovery in order to bolster their own chances of electoral success.

The fact is, the history of our country, like the history of the rest of the world, is a history documenting the theft of labor.  Up until the 1860’s we were at least honest and forthright about it; no one, not even slaveowners themselves, was under any delusion that slavery didn’t constitute the theft of labor.  This theft isn’t unique to capitalist economic systems, either – the Soviets were every bit as guilty of stealing the labor of the many for the benefit of the few, and to make things worse, did so in a particularly heavy-handed way that brooked no objection or dissent.

In the past 40 years, labor theft has made a big comeback here in the US; not surprisingly, this has coincided with the erosion of the power of unions.  Lest you think the term “labor theft” is being overly dramatic, consider the following:  at this point in time, the six members of the Walton family, heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune built by founders Sam and Bud Walton, have a net worth equal to that of the poorest 41% of Americans.  That kind of discrepancy can only occur when people are not being fairly compensated for their labor, and in fact, we know this is what is going on with Wal-Mart:  the company is rabidly anti-union and regularly uses tricks such as the 35-hour workweek to avoid paying for health insurance for workers; it relies on slave and near-slave labor overseas for producing products at the lowest possible cost to stock its stores; it’s been caught red-handed breaking minimum-wage and other labor laws, particularly when dealing with illegal workers; and it shamelessly offloads the consequences of underpaying its workers onto federal, state, and local governments, going so far as to hold seminars to instruct workers on how to apply and qualify for food stamps, Medicaid, and other programs that we all pay for.  Wal-Mart isn’t alone in these practices, either – the majority of profitable chain businesses in the US are also underpaying their workers.  It’s just that Wal-Mart offers such a glaring example of why all the whining about how put-upon the so-called “job creators” are is such patent bullshit.  Seriously, is it possible that these 6 people contribute more to the country’s GDP than the 41% of Americans whose net worth their fortunes exceed?  Not a chance.  And that’s before we even consider that these folks are the heirs of the men who actually had the bright idea and built the company.  No, the heirs didn’t build that – so why should it be priority number one in this country to make sure they not only get to keep it all, but that we make it even easier to help them get even more?

As I’ve noted before, a capitalist economy is kind of like a huge poker game – it can only keep going as long as more than one player has some scratch in the game.  It also mimicks a poker game in the tendency for most of the wealth, over time, to accumulate into just a few hands.  When that happens, it’s game over.

None of this is to say that there’s anything wrong with a business owner generating some profit from the labor of his employees.  That is, after all, the whole idea behind capitalism.  The question is, how much of that profit should go to the owner?  The truism that one of our political parties, most of our wealthy citizens, and the entire business media would like for us to ignore is that no one has ever become a billionaire through his own labor alone.  Wealthy people become wealthy as a result of how successful they are in profiting from the labor of others.  Sometimes, they have a good idea, which coupled with the labor of others, generates great wealth for them.  And oftentimes, they just are good at profiting from other people’s labor.  In the 2000’s, we saw productivity gains of 20% in the US, none of which went to workers, who were, after all, the primary generators of those gains.  And so we find ourselves today in a position where 6 people are worth more than 41% of our citizenry – 6 people who didn’t “build that” but rather, inherited it.

Government has only two ways to slow down the corrosive concentration of wealth that spells stagnation for a capitalist economy.  One is mandating higher minimum wages, and the other is higher taxation on great wealth.  For the past 30 years, one of our political parties has dedicated itself to blocking both of those mechanisms, and today we are living with the results.  Rather than face the reality, however, they retreat further and further into fantasies about “job creators,” ignoring that most basic economic rule of supply and demand – jobs are only created when there is a demand for the goods or services they produce; they are not created out of the goodness of some multi-millionaire or billionaire’s heart, because spending money on hiring workers to do work for which there is no demand is roughly equivalent to setting the money on fire.  Our economy sucks because too many people have too little money to drive the demand necessary for full employment; they have too little money because too few people are hoarding most of it.

I have recently had an epiphany, in which it occured to me that in this era of grotesque wealth for the few and growing poverty for the many, one of the most popular shows on television focuses on people who have a mental illness that causes them to hold on to physical objects for which they have no need or use.  Millions tune in to tsk-tsk these poor, obviously ill individuals who live in houses stuffed with garbage, and then turn the channel to watch other individuals who do things like spend $100,000 on handbags, who they envy and wish to emulate.  But how is one any different than the other?  If hoarding is an illness marked by an inability to let go of anything and a desire to accumulate ever more, whether it is needed or useful or not, how is it any different to feel that $500 million, $1 billion, $5 billion, or $20 billion isn’t enough?  Sure, the money hoarders aren’t living in garbage dumps, but isn’t the irrational need to continue accumulating more than you need or can ever use the same?  The man, or woman, with a billion dollars could lose half of it today and it would change the way they live not one iota.  So why do they fight so hard, and so dirty, for even more, at the expense of the people who have generated that wealth for them?

It will be a great day when we as a nation wake up and recognize wealth hoarding as an illness rather than a goal to emulate.  In the meantime, would it be too much to insist that our national policy not be driven by the mental illness of a handful of people for whom even “all of it” would not be enough?

I’ll close my Labor Day rant, which might at first glance seem to have wandered a bit far afield, with this news item in which Australian mining heiress Gina Rinehart, one of the richest women in the world worth some $20 billion, complains bitterly about “class warfare” – not, of course, the warfare she and her peers have engaged in, but the “warfare” that results when the proles who made her wealthy question how the pie is being divvied up – and suggests the following: 

 “There is no monopoly on becoming a millionaire,” she writes. “If you’re jealous of those with more money, don’t just sit there and complain. Do something to make more money yourself – spend less time drinking, or smoking and socializing and more time working.”

Got that?  The heiress, who didn’t “build that,” thinks the reason all you poors aren’t rich like her is because you’re laying about drinking.  Looking at her, I can’t help but think it has yet to occur to her that perhaps she could spend less time eating.  But I digress.  Rinehart goes on to elaborate what’s wrong with Australia, and it’s strikingly similar to what Mitt Romney is telling us is wrong with America:  rich people pay too much taxes, businesses are regulated to make sure they follow the rules, and poor people make too much money (the Australian minimum wage is about equivalent to the US minimum wage).  She goes on to issue the same veiled threats we hear whenever our own MOTU are in danger of paying a few percent more in taxes:  if you tax us, it will only hurt you, because it won’t be worth it anymore for us to continue to try to make scads of cash.

And this is where we bring it back home:  when we recognize that these people suffer from a mental illness, we can stop worrying about their idle threats to “go Galt,” to take their fortunes and “screw you guys, I’m goin’ HOME.”  They can’t do it; their illness won’t allow it.  They must have more; they live for more.  Making it a little harder for them to get it won’t stop them; it will merely insure that the rest of us don’t suffer as much as result of their illness.

So that’s my wish for this Labor Day – that people will wake up and recognize that the idle threats of the wealthy are exactly that; that they need us more than we need them; and that we will stop allowing a bunch of mentally ill people to dictate economic, tax, and labor policy.  It’s a tall order, but not one that would be all that difficult to fill.  All it takes is for us to recognize our own power – we are the source of their wealth – and their weakness – enough will never be enough.

Update:  In the truth is stranger than fiction department, it seems my suggestion for Fox News to rile up the mouth-breathers was scooped by this essay in today’s Wall Street Journal.  However, after reading through it and noticing that the author is a retired labor and employment attorney, I have a sneaking suspicion that the WSJ just got trolled, and like their brain-dead brethren who have yet to figure out that Stephen Colbert is a parody of a Fox News host, it completely eluded them that the author was being tongue-in-cheek.  

h/t to commenter RSA at Balloon Juice for the link.

Ruh-Roh, Rmoney

March 21, 2012 3 comments

As if things weren’t already bad enough, what with most people not being able to figure out who he really is, and those who have deciding that they don’t like him and people making fun of him on the internets with things like this:

…now comes word that, after the Bataan Death-March which this year’s GOP nominating contest has become, following a divisive and dispirited convention in which Dog-on-Car battles Man-on-Dog to the preordained Pyrrhic victory,  both he and Republicans in general face an astounding 55 point gap* with the President and the Democrats among Hispanic/Latino voters.  Add that to the pre-existing gap with women, which has grown into a chasm in the midst of a quixotic national slut-shaming campaign by conservatives (slut = any woman who ever has, or has ever had, sex – or thought about it) and it all adds up to no way this guy can win, probably not even with the assist of the most aggressive attempts to stop the wrong people from voting that we’ve seen since the days of Jim Crow and unlimited superPAC funds.

In a way, you almost have to pity Romney.  He seems like he’s not a horrible guy, just one who’s very out-of-touch with the daily realities and concerns of people who aren’t quarter-billionaires.  Unfortunately, the only principle he seems to be able to hold firm is that he should be the president, and this opens him to a world of ridicule.  There’s just something unseemly about a guy with that much wealth debasing himself with awkward greetings of “Mornin’, y’all” and visibly insincere paens to “cheesy grits” (note, Mitt – they’re cheese grits, not “cheesy” grits).

Even in a Republican party not gone insane, Mitt would still be a less-than-compelling candidate.  But he has the misfortune of having his turn come up at a time when the party faithful will accept nothing less than barking lunacy in a candidate, and to his discredit, he’s tried to accomodate – which has earned him a slight plurality in the nomination race.  The Beatles were right all those years ago – money can’t buy you love, but it can certainly insulate you from those who don’t love you – if only you’ll let it

On second thought, maybe Romney’s as crazy as the rest of the bunch – he’s sought this out, when he could just be hanging out around the pool at his 11,000 sf seaside mansion, playing with his grandkids and secure in the knowledge that his fortune will keep them wealthy to the end of their lives.  Instead, he spends his time on the road, sleeping in motels and probably eating fairly crappy road food, to pander to people who don’t really like him under the pretense of being a fellow Wal-Mart shopper. 

In the larger sense, Romney’s tragedy is the tragedy of the Republican party.**  As I noted elsewhere, back in the Reagan era, Evil drove the conservative bus; Stupid just paid for the gas.  That’s completely reversed now; Stupid is driving the bus, and it’s being funded by Evil in the form of the Koch brothers and folks like Sheldon Adelson, Gingrich’s pimp daddy.  Reagan had to pretend to be smarter than he was to win; Romney has to pretend to be dumber than he is to secure the nomination.  I remember thinking back at the beginning of the whole teabagging thing about Churchill’s quote:  “Dictators ride to and fro upon tigers which they dare not dismount.  And the tigers are getting hungry.”  I thought then that encouraging the expression of sheer id the party had appealed to for the past 30 years was probably not a very good idea; but encourage it they did.  It now appears that the 2012 election will be one where we witness the tigers feeding upon the entrails of their former riders. 

One can always hope, anyway.

*This is a Fox News poll, so it doesn’t have any of that icky liberal media bias on it.

**For all values of “tragedy” which fit the Mel Brooks definition (paraphrased):  “Comedy is when you fall down a flight of stairs and break your neck.  Tragedy is when I stub my toe.”

Awesome Anagram

February 4, 2012 5 comments

I just noticed this today.  This guy is so 1%, he’s even got “money” in his name:

Mitt, R-Money
This is so mind-blowingly apropos.  “Mitt, R-Money” –  his name, his political persuasion, and his constituency.
 
There’s got to be several  great bumperstickers lurking in there.  And really, any quarter-billionaire with “money” in his name should be a bit more careful tossing around statements like “I’m not worried about the poor.”
 
For fuck’s sake, Republicans, you might as well nominate the “Monopoly” banker.  I daresay he’s got more charisma and is liked better than what it looks like you’re going to end up with.
 
UPDATE:  I really should have thought of this other angle earlier – maybe it’s R. Money, like R. Kelly.  That would fit too, since like R. Kelly the Mittster is into pissing on people.  Except he refers to it as “trickle down.”
 
Update, also, too:  Apparently the Republicans have decided that the best person to take on Black Hitler™ is The Whitest Man in America™.

The F Stands For “Effing”

December 8, 2011 4 comments

Who knew that all it would take to get some participation up in here would be for me to go AWOL for a month?  Whatever the reason, I’m glad to see another of the Weird Sisters dropping a few pearls here.  I’m actually worried that I won’t be able to top the kink of a Christmas decoration depicting a guy whipping another guy, but on my word, I will try…  O yes, I will try.  Just not in this post.

No, this post concerns something near and dear to my heart, and to Beth’s as well:  our awesome US Postal Service, which like all else that serves the overall public good rather than just one small wealthy slice of the public, is under attack from various morons, ninnies, and lying assholes these days.

Under category the last, we find this bit of toxic effluvia issuing from the pen of one George F. Will (you know what the F stands for) and appearing in the pages of the used-to-be-a-newspaper, The Washington Post.  It’s essentially an ideological hit piece, and at turns, both a comically clueless and willfully dishonest paen to the concept that only activities which return a profit are a) worthwhile or b) efficient.

Let’s tackle “willfully dishonest” first.

Will starts by citing big scary numbers about USPS’ “red ink”, while carefully omitting the fact that it can all be attributed to one cause:  the departing Bush Congress in late 2006 gave one final flip of the bird to the American public and passed a mandate requiring the post office to fund employee benefits 75 years into the future from revenues over the next 10 years.  Yes, the USPS is currently funding benefits for workers it won’t even be hiring for another 25 or 30 years, and if not for this one purposely created problem, the post office would have shown a small profit for every year since 2006.

Will then spews out a bunch of factoids about the percentage USPS, UPS, and FedEx respectively spend on labor costs to try to demonstrate that USPS’ labor costs are out of control thanks to the evils of unionization.  Of course, he faithfully omits that he counts the pre-funding of benefits USPS is forced by Congress to pay now as part of the USPS’ percentage of current labor costs.  Using this tactic, he claims that 80% of USPS revenue goes to labor costs; the actual figure is 60% when Will’s dishonest accounting is thrown out.  This compares to 53% labor cost for UPS and 32% for FedEx – that last figure being hardly surprising, since the non-unionized FedEx has quite a few employees earning the princely sum of $8.50 per hour, which may explain why, even though the volume of mail I’ve sent/received via FedEx is much less than 10% of what I’ve sent/received via the USPS, FedEx managed to lose or misdeliver my packages with such regularity that I stopped using their service 10 years ago. 

But I digress.  The big issue here is that “percentage of revenues devoted to labor costs” is a dishonest measure of efficiency to begin with.  Will waves it around as though it’s the end-all, be-all, which is understandable given that the cause of his butthurt is the idea that the people who handle our mail are paid living wages because they’re unionized.  Will wants to pretend that if they weren’t, the post office’s financial problems would disappear and we would also get better service.  But “labor costs” considered in a vacuum are meaningless; you’d expect that a business with twice as many employees as another business would have higher labor costs, for example, and this is why Will uses the “percentage of revenue” dodge.  Again, though, that’s not a measure of “efficiency.”

For comparison, I did what Will would have done if he were other than a dishonest hack, and compared USPS’ revenues, size of workforce, and daily delivery volume with that of UPS and FedEx, then calculated how much each costs in terms of deliveries to separate, unique addresses.  It’s not an exact comparison, because for UPS and FedEx I can’t locate data for “delivery locations” but only for number of letters/packages delivered daily.  Here’s what I found: 

FedEx has annual revenues of $40 billion and a workforce of 290,000 to deliver 3.5 million letters/parcels per day.  If we assume that each of those 3.5 million pieces are going to a different address, FedEx’s per-location cost works out to $44.82.  Keep in mind that this is the conservative figure; if FedEx is dropping multiple packages at locations, this means that their cost per delivery location is actually higher.

UPS has annual revenues of $49.5 billion and a workforce of 340,000 (inside the US) and delivers 15 million parcels per day in the US.  For that maximum possible 15 million delivery locations, this works out to $12.50 per delivery location.

USPS has annual revenues of $67 billion and 574,000 employees and delivers to 142 million delivery locations per day, at a cost of $1.86 per delivery location.

If we look at it from a standpoint of labor cost per delivery location – which we should, because otherwise we’re comparing apples to oranges – FedEx’s labor cost per delivery location is an astounding $14.34 and UPS’ is $6.63, or more, compared to a USPS labor cost of $1.12 per delivery location, thus proving that private business is a lot more efficient at hoovering money out of people’s pockets for performing essentially the same functions as evil government non-profit enterprises.  Which, after all, is what Will REALLY means whenever he waxes on about the glorious “efficiency” of private business.

Now, to be fair, both UPS and FedEx operate on a different model than USPS – it does cost more to move things cross-country and deliver overnight, just as it costs more to move large and heavy parcels.  But the fact remains that neither of them are able to cover the ground USPS does for 6 – 13 times the labor cost.

Will also throws around claims of how great privatized mail systems are working in other countries.  I looked into that as well, and found that most of the countries that conservatives claim have privatized their mail systems simply haven’t.  What they’ve done is lift the government monopoly on first class mail, allowing private carriers to compete in providing first class mail service.  This is true of both the UK and Sweden.  Other countries conservatives claim have privatized have only partially done so, as in Germany, whose service is 69% private.  The only example I came up with for a fully-privatized postal system is the Netherlands, where you can send a first class letter from one side of the country all the way to the other side 100 miles away for only 50% more than what we pay for first-class postage from Miami, Florida to Nome, Alaska (first class postage rate for the Netherlands is $.62).

So if a privatized mail system in a country smaller than most US states and more densely populated than any other on earth costs almost 50% more than what we pay, how would a privatization of our mail service compare?  There aren’t any vast, sparsely populated areas in the Netherlands which are more expensive to serve like we have here.  A private system can only work in the US if it’s mandated to cover unprofitable routes as well; otherwise you end up with companies cherry-picking the areas that cost the least to serve and so yield the highest profits, and either neglecting the less profitable or unprofitable areas completely or charging exorbitantly for service in those areas.  This is why both UPS and FedEx send about 25% of their shipments via USPS for “last mile” delivery – because the post office is already going down that rural route in Wyoming, and it’s uneconomical for UPS or FedEx to go there themselves. 

Here we come to the comical in Will’s hit piece, where he suggests that Wal-Mart could take over the role of the local post office.  Because as we all know, if there’s anything more appealing than standing in line at the post office, it has to be going to Wal-Mart and standing in a line there.

All of the preceding ignores that the entire USPS deficit for the current year could be solved with a $.03 increase in first class rates or by a lower first class increase coupled with a bulk rate increase.  The seemingly insurmountable projected deficit of $14.5 billion forecast for 2012 would raise first class rates another $.09 – that’s if we did nothing else  – no repeal on the benefit pre-funding farce, no increases on bulk rate, no closing of distribution facilities or community post offices, no cut-back to 5 day delivery.  Taken together, if the post office addressed the deficits with only an increase in first class rates, we would be paying $.56 instead of the current $.44.  That’s a large increase percentage-wise, but hell…at $.56 for delivery in 5 days or less to any address in the US, that’s still a hell of a bargain – and it’s less than almost any other first-world country pays for first class mail currently.  Note that it’s still less that what the Dutch pay in their fully privatized system to serve their postage-stamp-sized country.  At $.56, our cost for first class mail service would still be less than every country I looked at other than Brazil (at $.39, the only country currently cheaper than the US for mail service), Poland ($.46), New Zealand ($.47), Israel ($.46) the Czech Republic ($.53) and Mexico ($.52).  All the other European countries, Canada, Japan, and Australia are already charging more than what we’d have to charge to keep our system just as it currently is.

So it is indeed discouraging to hear the discussion I heard on NPR day before yesterday, in which NO ONE bothered to point out any of the above facts, but instead both host and guests just solemnly intoned that “the USPS is broken,” “mail service is a dinosaur,” “they haven’t kept up with the times,” and etc.  None of that is true.  What is true is that with falling volume on first-class mail, there is no doubt that some tweaks need to be made.  But don’t let anyone fool you – none of them would require cutting back delivery to 3 days per week, or closing mail distribution centers in remote areas, resulting in delivery slowdowns of 2 days or more.  Those things aren’t necessary if the post office is allowed to do what any other business would do in the same situation – raise prices.

I fear this is all too late.  What will come next is the gutting of the postal service – as the mail is slowed down and deliveries per week are cut back, the morons who elected the morons who created the problem will conclude that the morons they elected are correct – government can’t do anything right, because look at the post office.  It costs more than it used to and we’re getting less in return.  Unfortunately, being morons, they will conclude that the answer is to turn the whole enterprise over to some private company, who will likely provide even worse service for double – or more – the price we pay now.  Imagine Comcast in charge of delivering your mail, and you get an idea of just how bad it could be.  And then there’s the issue of legally certified mail, ballots sent by mail, and other things of that type.  I’m sure Koch Brothers Delivery Services, Inc. will make sure those ballots are handled correctly.  Of course, they’ll also be paying employees a sub-living wage to maintain profit share, which will further ensure that we’re getting the best possible service.  And then, all will be right with the world and George Effing Will will finally be happy, as some worthy investor is profiting from a service where the revenues used to go to support the lazy layabouts who delivered our mail, and their families.

Message Refinement

October 7, 2011 8 comments

I’ll admit – I’m drawn to inflammatory speech and positions.  That said, I am capable of recognizing it, and usually come around eventually to a more balanced position.  I’ve let my little toy from the last thread stew for over a day now, and finally have decided what it needs to say:

It reads as less of a direct threat than as an admonishment to remember the lessons of history.  And, it’s undisputably true.

I can’t tell you how thrilled I would be if I saw this image popping up on posters at protest rallies!  If you borrow it, please be so kind as to include our web address.

 I’m looking into the shirts and can do them for the price indicated in the last post – these will be Hanes Beefy-T’s  or tagless Ts (same weight as the Beefys) because so many folks fussed about those “cheap American Apparel shirts!,” which totally derailed my plans to bring you a completely made-in-USA product (the AA shirts, though perceived as being “cheap,” actually cost more than the imported Hanes shirts).  Just do me the favor of letting me know if you’ve said you want one but you’re really NOT serious about purchasing because I don’t want to be stuck with a dozen T-shirts.  Plan for now is to accomodate all of you from the last thread & will be ordering 3 size XXL, 1 small, 1 large, and 7 XL, which hopefully will cover all bases.  These will take probably 2 – 3 weeks to reach you, so make sure you’ll still want one then!

Also, too:  novelty item I’d most like to see, covet, and have:  Nerf guillotine.