I never took economics in college, so forgive me if I get some stuff wrong in this post.
Often when I speak with conservatives at work, I am bombarded with illogic. One illogical statement I hear at the Post Office is praise for the “free market” and “free trade”. I guess this a staple talking point on conservative talk radio, and I hear it parroted by my co-workers, who are middle-class, union laborers. “We need to free the markets,” they’ll tell me. “We need market-based solutions, not more government. Privatize. Privatize! PRIVATIZE!!!”
Often these people are great regurgitaters of their talking points, but can’t really listen, or explain their arguments beyond the gibberish quoted above. If they will listen, I try to explain how LITTLE sense their talking points make, at least when applied to lower and middle-class wage-earners (like Postal Workers).
Fiscally, the Post Office does alright as it is. It finishes the year in the black, year after year. Take away military retirement payments the US Government has been forcing the USPS to pay, and the Post Office is very profitable. But that is besides the point, since the USPS is not a traditional business, but a constitutionally-mandated service to the American people. The USPS has a duty to provide low-cost service and home delivery to EVERY American in the USA. This duty is stated in the US Constitution and lawfully upheld by Private Express Statutes. UPS won’t, and can’t, deliver to everyone in the US, ditto Fed-Ex and DHL. It simply isn’t cost-effective to send a driver into the middle of nowhere to deliver a birthday card to your Aunt Doris. But the Post Office does, because we are mandated by our Government to do so. Our motto is “WE DELIVER.”
So, first-off, if you privatize the Post Office and “free the market”, suddenly citizens “off the beaten track” are going to find themselves S.O.L when it comes to getting delivery–possibly even having to pay fees to get mail delivery, and everyone will be paying higher postal rates. Overall quality will diminish also, with low-cost mailing options suffering the most in an attempt to force customers to choose higher-cost, higher-quality options.
Secondly, to increase corporate profits, the newly-privatized Post Office is going to slash good-paying union jobs and decrease benefits across the board. Their ultimate goal will be to eliminate the union altogether and replace union laborers with minimum or below-minimum wage-paid guest workers from Central and Latin America. The Post Office already has lower-pay, no benefit temporary workers, but a private Post Office will try to break the union and increase this workforce exponentially. This is how corporations do business, and this will be their goal.
So, from a purely selfish desire to keep your job and benefits as they are, I don’t see how a union Postal Employee can support privatization or the “freeing of the market” as it applies to the Postal Service, or even as a national policy.
I have been reading Dean Baker’s blog Beat the Press at The American Prospect since hearing about him on The Thom Hartmann program recently. Baker is an economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. He’s also a super-smart guy. Some of the things Baker says, and backs up w/ data, are:
- Real wages haven’t grown in almost 5 years–and average wages today are below the December 2002 level, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics. So, since Bush took office and continued to “free the markets”, real average wages have been flat while corporate profits and executive paychecks have soared. Contrast that with a 1.6% annual growth in real average wages in the late 90’s.
- If “free market” types are so keen on removing all protections for American labor and manufacturing, why not free the market altogether by removing protections for patents on prescription drugs, copyright protections, and restrictions for hiring foreign lawyers, doctors and economists? From Beat the Press blog by Dean Baker:
The NYT feels very strongly that Congress must approve further trade measures that put downward pressure on the wages of workers without college degrees. It made this case in an editorial promoting new “free trade” agreements today. At one point it presents the finding of a study from the Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics that eliminating all remaining barriers to trade will add $500 billion a year (@ 3.8 percent) to GDP.
Serious people might ask how the Peter G. Peterson Institute determined the remaining barriers to trade. Did it consider the patent monopolies on prescription drugs, which cost consumers hundreds of billions a year, a barrier to trade? Did it consider the copyright protection that obstructs the free transfer of music, movies, software and other material over the web a barrier to trade? How about all the restrictions that make it so much more difficult to hire a foreign doctor, lawyer or economist than to buy a foreign made car or shirt? Did the Peter G. Peterson Institute view such restrictions as barriers to trade?
The answer to all these question is “no.” The Peter G. Peterson Institute has no interest in reducing or eliminating trade barriers that have the effect of shifting income upwards. The Peter G. Peterson Institute, and apparently also the NYT, only wants to eliminate the trade barriers that might benefit less educated workers. And, because they have so much influence in the media, they get to call this “free trade.”
Much economic knowledge is as limited as my political knowledge, but I’m trying to fix that. I read Thom Hartmann’s Screwed recently, and plan on picking up Mr. Dean Baker’s The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer. You can order Dean Baker’s book here. You can get Thom Hartmann’s book just about anywhere, but you can buy the book, and support a good progressive website, by ordering the book at Buzzflash.