Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Post Office That Never Worked

I had so much fun in my last post with Dr. Donald May that I decided to do a few more. This time, it's in his post in which he claims Obama Admits Government is Inefficient.

And Obama's statement was pretty straightforward:

My answer is that if the private insurance companies are providing a good bargain, and if the public option has to be self-sustaining…then I think private insurers should be able to compete. They do it all the time. I mean, if you think about it, UPS and FedEx are doing just fine, right? No, they are. It’s the Post Office that’s always having problems.”

And by "problems," he was referring to their financial problems, because they lost money last year and are set to lose even more money this year. But he was clearly exaggerating, as they have had big profits in the past. And of course, one reason they have problems is because they guarantee services that neither UPS or Fed Ex would attempt to perform at a comparable price.

Plus, they work at a scale far larger than either of them. According to Wikipedia, the post office is the third largest employer in America, after the Department of Defense and Walmart; and had almost $75 billion in revenue last year; compared with less than $52 billion for UPS and $38 billion for Fed Ex. And because their prices are far lower than either of the private companies, it's obvious they're doing far more work than either company.

And hey, this is exactly what the government is for: Providing needed services that private industry won't do at a price we're willing to pay. And that's what Obama is purposing for health insurance: Guaranteeing a needed service at a price people can afford.

Dr. Mays Makes Shit Up

But of course, none of this is in Dr. May's piece. Obama was making an argument showing how private organizations could compete in the same market with a public organization, and May used it as a fact-free sledgehammer to denounce Obama and the government.

And this was all an "apparent blunder" on Obama's part. In the mind of Dr. May, Obama "admitted that the government could not do as good a job as private enterprise." And in a prior post, he actually went as far as to write "Obama admitted on Tuesday that the Post Office has never worked." Never worked??

And yet they obviously do. The post office says they averaged 667 million pieces of mail a day last year; no one else can claim that. And I don't know about you, but I've never lost a letter in the mail, and I doubt Dr. May has either. I know it happens, but it happens to Fed Ex and UPS too, and they don't make nearly as many deliveries. In fact, I used to have UPS deliver packages to the wrong house more than they got to the right one.

And for as much as conservatives whine that the post office has a monopoly on first-class mail; it's obvious they can't compete. The law states (PDF) that private carriers would need to charge $3 or twice the amount of first-class mail (whichever is greater). And yet, I can send my mom a birthday card (which I consider to be "extremely urgent") from Austin to San Antonio for forty-four cents and it arrives the next day. UPS, on the other hand, says they'd charge me $18.64 for the same service, while Fed Ex quoted me $8.33; and neither of these include a pick-up from my house.

And that's clearly more than the requirements of this statute. It seems obvious to me that the post office is most definitely competitive with these other services. And for as much as the post office is having problems, it's because they're stuck delivering to everyone, and can't pick and choose their rates nearly as well as the private carriers. For them, it's a forty-four cent fee whether they're going across town or across country. And again, the private carriers wouldn't do that for ten times the price.

They All Got it Wrong

And Obama wasn't referring to any of this. He was referring to their economic problems, not their service problems. So not only was May's post devoid of facts, but even his conclusion was wrong. But of course, this wasn't really May's conclusion at all. He just rewrote a post by Byron York. And York just rewrote part of a post from the Heritage Foundation.

And so May's post was a wrong conclusion based upon a wrong conclusion based upon a wrong conclusion, which was based upon a misinterpretation of Obama's words. They know that the government is "always" inefficient, and could only assume that this is what Obama was saying too. Some conservatives are even going as far as to suggest that Obama was saying he'd run healthcare the way the post office is run; based entirely upon the voices inside their own heads.

And none of them addressed Obama's main point: Private industries can compete with a public entity. May went as far as to ask why Obama wants "the government to take over health care" if he thinks private industry works better. And he answers his question by asserting that Obama is only doing this so he can " gain greater power and total political control of our lives."

And he "knows" this based upon his complete misunderstanding of Obama's words and healthcare plan. But of course, May got that conclusion from other people too. And so his entire post was just a nothing of a nothing. He already had his conclusion and was trying to fit Obama's words into that conclusion, based upon the Heritage Foundation's post. Thus is our modern conservative movement.

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