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Pros and Cons of Raising The Debt Limit

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This article will explore the varied options President Obama and the Congress have to work toward a normalization of the national debt over time. Fitch’s Rating Service Recently advised that the US credit rating will go down if the debt ceiling is not raised. Over the course of this year, President Obama and congress will meet to agree on an overall plan to increase the debt ceiling, together with a mutually agreed upon mix of spending cuts to avoid the sequester. The sequester provides automatic rounds of spending cuts to domestic programs and defense, with some exemptions.

The gross public debt rose to 121 percent (Chart 9) of GDP in 1946, and dropped steadily to 32 percent by 1975 and 57 percent at the beginning of this millenium. Gross public debt as a percentage of GDP hovers at approximately 101 percent, still under the highest point at the end of World War 2.

From 2005 to the present, GDP rose from $11.6 to $15.1 trillion, while total US debt between 2005 and 2012 increased from $11.4 trillion to $16 trillion and the population rose from 300 million to the present 315 million. The recent economic activity shows that the gross public debt tends to increase more prominently during wartime and recessions, while debt as a percentage of GDP goes down during peacetime coupled with good economic times, as evidenced by the experience at the close of the Clinton administration. Gross public debt stood at 57 percent of GDP in 2000. Currently, the US economy is leading the advanced economies, as well as Europe, and the trend will continue into 2013.

A closer look at the numbers shows that US total debt as a percent of GDP went down steadily from 382 percent in Sept. 2009 to 350 percent in Sept. 2012. What’s happening is that even a slow growing economy is reducing total debt as a percentage of GDP. The long term average is 207.2 percent.

The arguments in favor of raising the debt ceiling are numerous. Examples include the need to borrow to keep up with current expenses. A financial confrontation and meltdown could lead to chaos in the financial markets and derail the fragile recovery from blossoming into a full scale uptick in the world economy. The population has grown from 300 million to 315 million. A growing population will mean greater needs for infrastructure and public spending. Taxes were raised in the early 1990s despite the fact that the recession then was shallower and Operation Desert Storm was nowhere near the size of the Iraq War or the conflict in Afghanistan.

The arguments against raising the debt ceiling are to enforce spending discipline. The control over spending was basically lost soon after the commencement of the dual wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the Great Recession. The enforcement of spending discipline is essentially to remove ourselves from these conflicts so that the military budget can normalize over time. A growing economy will also reduce deficits as wage earners pay more taxes into the Treasury, instead of drawing unemployment and social safety net costs from the government.

The United States economy, as well as the other advanced economies and Europe are on an upward trajectory, with the US and China leading the way. Increased revenues, coupled with spending restraint should lead to a reduction of the debt as a percentage of GDP, as was the case at the close of the Clinton administration. The Obama administration and congress have raised taxes. This act, coupled with spending restraint, should make the deficits a smaller factor in the overall budget equation over time.

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About Dr Joseph S Maresca

I've taught approx. 34 sections of collegiate courses including computer applications, college algebra, collegiate statistics, law, accounting, finance and economics. The experience includes service as a Board Director on the CPA Journal and Editor of the CPA Candidates Inc. Newsletter. In college, I worked as a statistics lab assistant. Manhattan College awarded a BS in an allied area of operations research. The program included courses in calculus, ordinary differential equations, probability, statistical inference, linear algebra , the more advanced operations research, price analysis and econometrics. Membership in the Delta Mu Delta National Honor Society was granted together with the degree. My experience includes both private account and industry. In addition, I've worked extensively in the Examinations Division of the AICPA from time to time. Recently, I passed the Engineering in Training Exam which consisted of 9 hours of examination in chemistry, physics, calculus, differential equations, linear algebra, probability/ statistics, fluids, electronics, materials science/structure of matter, mechanics, statics, thermodynamics, computer science, dynamics and a host of minor subject areas like engineering economics. A very small percentage of engineers actually take and pass the EIT exam. The number has hovered at circa 5%. Several decades ago, I passed the CPA examination and obtained another license in Computer Information Systems Auditing. A CISA must have knowledge in the areas of data center review, systems applications, the operating system of the computer, disaster recovery, contingency planning, developmental systems, the standards which govern facility reviews and a host of other areas. An MBA in Accounting with an Advanced Professional Certificate in Computer Applications/ Information Systems , an Advanced Professional Certificate in Finance and an Advanced Professional Certificate in Organizational Design were earned at New York University-Graduate School of Business (Stern ). In December of 2005, an earned PhD in Accounting was granted by the Ross College. The program entrance requires a previous Masters Degree for admittance together with a host of other criteria. The REGISTRAR of Ross College contact is: Tel . US 202-318-4454 FAX [records for Dr. Joseph S. Maresca Box 646 Bronxville NY 10708-3602] The clinical experience included the teaching of approximately 34 sections of college accounting, economics, statistics, college algebra, law, thesis project coursework and the professional grading of approx. 50,000 CPA examination essays with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Additionally, membership is held in the Sigma Beta Delta International Honor Society chartered in 1994. Significant writings include over 10 copyrights in the name of the author (Joseph S. Maresca) and a patent in the earthquake sciences.
  • Glenn Contrarian

    Dr. Maresca –

    A closer look at the numbers shows that US total debt as a percent of GDP went down steadily from 382 percent in Sept. 2009 to 350 percent in Sept. 2012. What’s happening is that even a slow growing economy is reducing total debt as a percentage of GDP.

    Yes, that’s ABSOLUTE PROOF that Obama’s deliberately destroying the American economy because of his ‘deep-seated hatred of white people’.

    But refusal to raise the debt ceiling is not the same as ‘spending discipline’ – it’s refusal to pay the bills we’ve already racked up. That, and if we fail to raise the debt limit, we’ll almost certainly go back into a recession along with much of the rest of the developed world, and that will hurt our tax base and further degrade our ability to pay the bills we’ve already incurred.

    So there is no good argument whatsoever for refusing to raise the debt limit – it’s the metaphorical equivalent of shooting oneself in the foot.

  • Baronius

    Total debt really doesn’t have anything to do with it, though. It’s good to see that number dropping, but that has as much to do with the credit crunch as anything.

    As for “paying the bills we’ve already racked up”, we could do that without increasing the debt limit. We’d have to make some rough choices, but we could do it.

  • Baronius

    I’m also not sure why you chose 2005 for your debt and GDP/debt comparsion. Consider the following numbers from the OMB:

    (yr) (change in fed debt/GDP)
    1996 0.1
    1997 -1.7
    1998 -2.2
    1999 -2.3
    2000 -3.6
    2001 -0.9
    2002 2.4
    2003 2.8
    2004 1.4
    2005 0.6
    2006 0.4
    2007 0.6
    2008 5.1
    2009 15.5
    2010 9.0
    2011 4.5
    2012 6.1 (est)

    The wars and recession of 2001 clearly have an effect, but the big story by far is the change of pace in 2008 forward.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Baronius –

    Note that the times of negative change in the GDP came during times of higher taxes.

    And if we did not increase the debt limit, then we would default, repeat, default. We would not be able to pay our already-incurred obligations. It would be a matter of which bills that we owe, that we would choose not to pay…

    …but in any case, it would be a default, which would result in the loss of our credit rating, which would increase the interest rates all the way from the Fed down to every small-town bank in America.

    Do you not see how that would greatly harm the American economy? Do you not see how that might very well force us into another recession, and decrease our tax revenue, thereby increasing the deficit anyway? The key, Baronius, is to boost the growth of the American economy and cut needless spending (like a hundred billion or so from the DOD) until the point that our tax revenue overcomes our deficit just as it did in the 1990’s – and we can’t do any of that by going into default.

  • clav

    GAO: “The current structure of the federal budget is unsustainable.”

    Here’s an interesting excerpt from the 2011/2012 edition of the federal government’s GAO (General Accounting Office) report, Financial Audit: U.S. Government’s Fiscal Years 2012 and 2011 Consolidated Financial Statements, published earlier this week:

    It can be found in the conclusions section of the report, on page 247; it’s titled:

    Long-Term Fiscal Challenges

    Increased attention to risks that could affect the federal government’s financial condition is
    made more important because of the nation’s longer-term fiscal challenges. The comprehensive
    long-term fiscal projections presented in the unaudited Required Supplementary Information
    section of the 2012 Financial Report show that, absent policy changes, the federal
    government continues to face an unsustainable fiscal path.
    The oldest members of the babyboom
    generation are already eligible for Social Security retirement benefits and for Medicare benefits. Under these projections, spending for the major health and retirement programs will increase in coming decades as more members of the baby-boom generation become eligible for benefits and the health care cost for each enrollee increases. Over the long term, the structural imbalance between spending and revenue will lead to continued growth of debt held by the public as a share of gross domestic product (GDP); this means the current structure of the federal budget is unsustainable.
    (Emphasis added)

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clav –

    Yes! That ‘structural imbalance’ was NOT there when we had a budget surplus…when taxes were higher and as a result we had higher tax revenue! But thanks to those who somehow think that low taxes are a sure way to prosperity (despite all the evidence to the contrary), that surplus went away. Out with the tax revenue, and in with the tax cuts!

    That, sir, led to the imbalance.

    It’s as I’ve told you several times before – if you want to live in a first-world nation, you’ve got to be willing to pay the taxes that make it a first-world nation.

  • clav

    But thanks to those who somehow think that low taxes are a sure way to prosperity (despite all the evidence to the contrary)

    There are none so blind as those who refuse to see, and you are one such, Glenn. You didn’t even read the excerpt, much less the rest of the conclusion. The GAO, the government’s OWN expert and impartial accounting office, lays the blame square on the spending; not the tax rates — spending. The IRS could begin to tax every one of us at 100% of our income, and STILL the deficit would continue to mount — THAT is the problem; NOT the tax rates; we are not only spending more than we do take in, we are spending more than we could take in.

    No one, not even the inept and stupid United States government can spend more than they take in for very long, Glenn. Read the effing report: even the government itself is saying, “We can’t keep this up any longer.”

    It’s not rocket surgery.

    PS Early in the report, the GAO confirms what I wrote more than three years ago in this article: the USPS, in full disarray, as it continues to piss its revenue and government subsidies away, is going broke.

  • clav

    Oh and Glenn:

    I’ve gotten used to not living in a first world nation since I moved here a few decades ago, so i don’t care; third world is fine with me.

  • clav

    Hey, Glenn, here’s something else for you to chew on. This is copied from your comment #49, posted on August 30, 2009, in the thread of my article about the USPS to which I linked in comment #7, above:

    So that’s my prediction – when we’re slogging through another election cycle in 2012, you and I will discuss how USPS returned to profitability in 2011…and perhaps even in 2010. You’ll still bitterly claim how terrible the USPS is, but they’ll still be making a profit.

    Your crystal ball must have been real dirty that day, Glenn…

  • troll

    the problem isn’t taxes or spending – it’s production…an economy that runs on growth can’t afford to run out

    …and how robust an analytic tool is a gdp figure that incorporates financial products anyway – while toilet paper and paper towels are among mankind’s great inventions Certificates of Ownership of tulips and MBS don’t appear to be

  • Baronius

    No, we wouldn’t default.

    The government receives (I’m not looking this up so the numbers are going to be wrong) $2.4 trillion a year. The interest on the debt is no more than $500 billion. That’s the only thing that we’re obligated to pay. The President says that if we don’t increase the debt limit, (a) seniors won’t get their checks, (b) the military won’t get paid, and (c) we’ll default on our loans. None of that is true. The President could have the Treasury pay for all of those things and still have enough for weather satellites and food safety. The government currently pays out $3.5 trillion per year, so yes, we’d be shutting down a lot. The economic consequences would be enormous, and those all translate to personal consequences for millions of people. But it’s false to say that we’d default.

  • troll

    …in keeping with such sentiments we at Acme Recliners have put together a line specifically designed to ease the process of exposure* – our dear ones need not seek out random uncomfortable rocks

    now you can provide them the maximal comfort that they deserve as they undertake this final act of social responsibility

    no one need go through life wondering if all that could have been done for Mum and Da had been

    *crib models available

  • clav

    Bwahahahahaha!!

  • Dr Joseph S. Maresca

    The Great Recession took a lot out of the economy and the Treasury itself. Taxes were just raised so that additional revenues can come in. Another dimension of the problem is huge waste throughout the government and even the private sector. America simply consumes too much and saves too little.

  • Baronius

    The increase in taxes will account for what, .5% of the deficit?

  • clav

    If that…

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clav –

    Sorry, but the excerpt clearly states that the problem is the IMBALANCE between spending and revenue. That much is quite clear. Seems to me that you can’t see the distinction in the last phrase that you bolded, perhaps between thee and me, I’m not the only one who has a problem with reading comprehension.

    And when it comes to the failure of my ‘crystal ball’ concerning the USPS, hey – I’m wrong sometimes…but I trust those who are sometimes wrong and admit it far more than those who are always right.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    And Clav –

    I’ve gotten used to not living in a first world nation since I moved here a few decades ago, so i don’t care; third world is fine with me.

    If you really think that America’s not a first-world nation, then you have a lot less experience with third-world nations than that with which I first credited you. Or perhaps you simply didn’t learn the lessons those third world nations had to teach you.

    BTW, that last sentence is not meant as any kind of insult – I’ve seen many times good men and women who were raised in America walking down the street in third-world nations, all the metaphorically looking at this or that tree, but never looking at the forest as a whole, at the whys or hows of its existence, much less at the lessons it had to teach.

    If these Americans had a common flaw, it was in their lack of respect for those trapped in the cycle of poverty.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Baronius –

    No, we wouldn’t default.

    Well, then, we should fire all the economists of every stripe – liberal and conservative – including everyone at Moody’s, Standard and Poor’s, and every other credit-rating agency, and everybody at the GAO and the Fed who ALL say that we would default. We know we wouldn’t default because Baronius says we wouldn’t.

    Sorry, Baronius, but when pretty much all the experts (regardless of political leaning) agree on something, it’s time to listen. But then, conservatives don’t want to believe in AGW either, regardless of what 98% of climatologists say….

  • Igor

    @7-clav: the USPS actually makes a profit every year, but in 2006 the Bush/republican congress saddled USPS with ponying up $75billion within 10 years to pre-fund the pension plan.

    That might be a viable plan if it were applied to ALL companies in America, but it is not. Nobody pre-funds their pension plan, they all plan to pay pensions out of future revenues. Thus, the rightists burdened USPS with an unfair disadvantage WRT their competitors.

    Don’t people know about these things?

  • Igor

    @14-Joe: No, we need to save less and spend more. The USA is in a demand drought. Savings are dormant monies that just accrue rents to rentiers.

  • Baronius
  • Baronius
  • Baronius
  • clav

    Glenn, I grew up in a third world country; I know them as well as anybody else who was raised in one.

    I know you don’t like to hear this, but there’s far more about your USA that is third world than first world these days, including a substantial portion of the population, and I’m not just talking about immigrants; most of the heavily rural southern states are pretty third world in the sense that the bulk of their populations don’t even have the rights bestowed by the Bill of Rights — you know that.

    Think about it.

    I’ll admit that much of my negativity arises from a profound dislike of the gringo mindset, but there is nonetheless a pretty good case to be made that the US is headed downhill and the “leaders” are far more interested in one-upping each other and collecting their bribes than fixing things.

  • clav

    Sorry, but the excerpt clearly states that the problem is the IMBALANCE between spending and revenue.

    Of course. Where did I say otherwise?

    The problem is you Dems (including Obama) are fixated ONLY on revenue, and are ignoring — nay, are deliberately increasing, spending at a much greater clip than increasing revenue; and, as the GAO says, that’s unsustainable.

  • clav

    @7-clav: the USPS actually makes a profit every year

    Bull, Igor.

    Read my article; the data shows that most years the USPS loses far more than its books show at fiscal year end. Why? Because for years now, the federal government has been giving it $3+ billion a year to keep it from going under. It’s all there in the links in that article — from authoritative sources — usually the government’s own data. See for yourself.

  • Dr Joseph S. Maresca

    At bottom, some taxes must be raised along with a modicum of spending cuts. The Clinton Administration raised taxes to cut the deficit quite successfully. We need to look at excess consumption taxes because the waste in this society is considerable at every level of government and the private sector too.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clav –

    The problem is you Dems (including Obama) are fixated ONLY on revenue, and are ignoring — nay, are deliberately increasing, spending at a much greater clip than increasing revenue; and, as the GAO says, that’s unsustainable.

    We are NOT ignoring spending! If you’ll check, Obamacare follows the design first outlined by the Heritage Foundation and put into practice by Romney…and this design was chosen because it was deficit-neutral (or at least far closer to deficit-neutral than what we progressives wanted, which is true single-payer for all).

    If you’ll check, almost every liberal and progressive wants to slash defense spending, and get rid of the tax breaks and what effectively amounts to subsidies for Big Oil, not to mention the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas.

    And if you’ll check, the last time we had Welfare reform was not under a Republican president – it was under Clinton. And it’s under Obama that the growth of government spending is the slowest it’s been since Eisenhower.

    So…NO, Clav, we aren’t ignoring spending. Y’all are simply ignoring the fact that we are aren’t ignoring spending. Frankly, the Republicans are the LAST people who should be castigating the Democrats for spending – you KNOW this, too. I don’t need to give you a list – you know it by heart.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    And Clav –

    No, America’s not a third-world nation. In a third-world nation, it is not at all unusual to get by on two or three dollars a day; cops are corrupt as a rule, and not as the exception thereof; same thing goes for government functionaries at all levels.

    In a third-world nation, the homeless are not looked down upon by the middle- and upper class, most of whom know all too well that just one or two generations before, their families were in the same condition.

    In a third-world nation, child labor is rather common…and educational attainment is prized to a much greater extent than here in America. In a third-world nation, the idea of a social safety net is a distant dream.

    Clavos, no first-world nation is poverty-free (although we have more than most), but no first-world nation (including America) is anything like a third-world nation. Even in the poorest, least educated

    In other words, you grew up in a third-world nation, but you didn’t learn what it had to teach you. IIRC, your parents were in the State Department – please correct me if I’m wrong – and that tells me that you probably went to school at the local international school, or at least an upper-class private school. You probably did not personally know some of the homeless or came to understand the lives they led.

    Perhaps that’s all way off the mark, but I’ve seen it before in the whites that grew up and spent all their lives in majority-black towns and counties and swore up and down they knew the blacks as well as anyone…but in actuality didn’t have the first clue.

    Again, maybe I’m really, stupidly wrong…but you’re the one that said that America’s more of a third-world nation than it is a first-world nation.

    But maybe there’s another reason you said that. Maybe it’s because you’ve seen third-world nations where life is not bad at all – like where Dan M. lives (in Panama, IIRC). But the third-world nations I’ve seen – Thailand, Kenya, and esp. the Philippines – are true third-world nations, and America’s nothing like them at all.

  • clav

    We are NOT ignoring spending!

    I’m sorry, you’re right, you’re not.

    Your party (and especially your president) are spending like drunken sailors, with nary a thought to the future, and what’s worse your economists (Paul Krugman et alia) are egging your party and the president on — encouraging them to spend even more with this bogus idea that they will spend themselves out of this recession, even though after four years, the recession roars on unabated.

    Your party is in thrall to the unions, so at their behest you bail out losing companies like GM, only to see, a mere four years later, them begin to slide right back into the muck and mire from whence they came; you pour millions of our money into failures like Solyndra in thanks for campaign contributions, and on and on, ad nauseam.

    Yep, you’re not ignoring spending.

    You’re right.

    Oh and one more time: I am not a Republican; I despise you both — you’re birds of a feather — vultures — carrion eaters.

  • clav

    Glenn, I haven’t like you merely visited and lived in a third world country; I am OF one; I know what constitutes one far better than you — case in point: third world countries at most have miniscule middle classes, like Mexico; most have no middle class. And the upper classes have NO concern for the poor, for they NEVER were part of them; there is NO upward mobility in true third world countries, they are invariably serfdoms with a ruling class (Usually 20% or less of the population) and the vast majority of the rest relegated to the peasant class — permanently.

    The corruption in this country rivals that of third world countries in its ubiquity; it outdoes by magnitudes in terms of the monetary volume of the corruption vis a vis third world.

    And no,my parents had no connection whatever with the USA when we lived in Mexico; we lived in the Mexican economy; my father went to Mexico to establish and run his own business; which he did.

    One cannot live in a country like Mexico and not come to know the poor (who are actually so poor they are better described as the destitute); they are everywhere, they outnumber those with even modest means. Why do you think those millions of illegals risk their lives to come here? One learns to ignore the destitute there, yes, because there are so many it is impossible for you as an individual to help in even a remotely significant way and the government is overwhelmed. The destitute are just a part of the landscape and always will be is the attitude of the haves.

    You have lived among foreigners in third world countries; I was living in my country, among my countrymen.

  • Baronius

    “The Clinton Administration raised taxes to cut the deficit quite successfully.”

    Not accurate.

    The Clinton Administration raised the top marginal tax rate in the first term. In the second term, he cut the capital gains tax. That’s when the economy really took off. Faster growth = more revenue and less outlays.

    But it wasn’t just growth. He and Congress kept spending low. Some numbers: in his first term, revenues as a % of GDP went up 1.3%, but spending declined 1.9%. In his second term, revenue increased even more (1.8%) despite capital gains tax cuts, and spending declined at roughly the same rate (2.0%).

    For comparison purposes, during the first Obama term, revenues as a share of GDP have fallen 1.8%, but spending has increased 3.5% (both estimates). We’re now spending at a rate higher than the early 1980’s recession and defense buildup.

  • Clavos

    @ Igor #20:

    My USPS article was published in 2009. Here’s the USPS’ own annual report covering the years 2008-2010, which clearly indicates massive losses all three of those years.

    And here’s 2011’s Annual Report (2012 hasn’t come out yet). As you can see, not only did the losses continue, they increased.

    Two major reasons for their continued losses (which don’t explain USPS’ failure to react and take measures to alleviate these external conditions) are the precipitous decline in First Class mail (for which USPS has a monopoly), as the public increasingly relies on email and online bill paying in lieu of snail mail, and the equally precipitous drop in their other principal revenue source: Standard (“Junk”) mail (for which they don’t have a monopoly), as the private carriers (FedEx, UPS, e.g.) increase their market share in this, the most lucrative USPS franchise.

    The USPS has suffered from a double whammy of very poor management and near invincible labor unions for decades.

    It’s been a deadly combination, as their results indicate.

  • Doug Hunter

    I don’t know why we credit the entire economy to the president, he shares the responsibility with congress and they only set broad policy, the private sector is more directly responsible. The internet bubble is what caused the growth which generated the taxes and made Clinton look good. Even then, alot of the ‘Clinton’ policies were forced on him by a Republican congress. The housing bubble was a fairly bipartisan failure but since both bubbles popped (only by a few months on either end) of the Bush administration is has put the nail in the coffin for Republicans for awhile. The economy will always go in cycles. Obama was gifted the greatest starting point ever, from a collapse there’s nowhere to go but up. Had the music kept going another year and the bubble popped in 2009 we’d be blaming this all on Democrats.

  • Igor

    @34-clav: as I said, it is the financial trap invented by the republicans in 2006 that is killing the USPS, not unions or mismanagement.

    From the 2010 report you cited (p.11 of the 2010 PDF):

    Unlike any other public or private entity, under a 2006 law, the U.S. Postal Service must prefund retiree health benefits.

    We must pay today for benefits that will not be paid out until some future date. Other federal agencies and most private sector companies use a “pay-as-you-go” system, by which the entity pays premiums as they are billed. Shifting to such a system would equate to an average of $5.65 billion in additional cash flow per year through 2016, and save the Postal Service an estimated $50 billion over the next ten years.

    With the announcement of our Action Plan in March, we began laying the foundation for change, requesting that Congress restructure this obligation.

    The prefunding requirement, as it currently stands, contributes significantly to postal losses. Under current law, the Postal Service must follow a mandated prefunding schedule of $5.4 billion to $5.8 billion per year through 2016. In 2009, Congress granted a much needed deferral, allowing us to pay $4.0 billion less than the orignally required $5.4 billion payment. This year, Congress opted not to provide this deferral. In the absence of legislative relief, the Postal Service was required to make, and made, this year’s $5.5 billion payment to the Retiree Health Benefit Fund. We had sought a deferral of this payment to minimize the risk of default-

    The republican congress was executing a simple plan to destroy the USPS so as to clear the way for monopoly takeover by their masters at UPS, FedEx, etc.

    At the same time that politicians require these several billions of pre-funding, they limit USPS ability to control their own revenue by limiting postal fees.

    But if we allow the handmaidens of monopoly (congress) to eliminate this important government service which was created by The Founders, you can bet that prices will go through the roof and that service to citizens will disappear.

    It is NOT unions that are destroying the USPS, it IS the machinations of republican politicians in service to their monopoly masters.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doug –

    I don’t know why we credit the entire economy to the president, he shares the responsibility with congress and they only set broad policy, the private sector is more directly responsible.

    For the same reason that we credit a general with winning or losing a battle. We all know it wasn’t the general firing the guns, and it wasn’t he who was praying in a foxhole on the front lines, but it is he who bears the blame and gets the credit…even though so many factors – weather, supply, support from elsewhere in the theater, reinforcements – are all to often well beyond his control.

    He gets the blame, he gets the credit. That’s why Clinton and NOT the veto-proof Republican majority in Congress gets the blame for repealing Glass-Steagal – he signed it, he owns it.

    Lastly, no one person has as much influence over the economy as does the president – as we all know from what Dubya did to the budget surplus he was handed from an oh-so-fiscally-irresponsible Democrat.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    case in point: third world countries at most have miniscule middle classes, like Mexico; most have no middle class.

    That is true – but while America’s middle class has been shrinking ever since the onset of anti-union supply-side Reaganomics (check the trends out sometime – they match quite well), our middle class comprises a much greater percentage of our population than do those of third-world nations. Furthermore, you have to take into account how “middle class” is defined, because our poor would usually be considered middle class in most third-world nations.

    And the upper classes have NO concern for the poor, for they NEVER were part of them;

    That’s true and false, sir. There are the elite who maintain their wealth over generations and who do their worst to maintain their feet on the necks of the poor, but there’s even more who have worked their way up and own nice houses and nice cars and who are in the terms of the local economy in the upper middle or even the upper class, but who in American terms of real income and assets would be middle class at best.

    there is NO upward mobility in true third world countries, they are invariably serfdoms with a ruling class (Usually 20% or less of the population) and the vast majority of the rest relegated to the peasant class — permanently.

    And America is NOT like that at all. In America – depending on how one defines the middle class – 47-49% of the population is part of the middle class. The vast majority are NOT poor, not as is defined in most third-world nations – and I cannot imagine that you would disagree with that statement. After all, most poor people here do not have to live in dwellings shared with other families. Most poor people here have electricity and heat and water, not to mention cell phones, microwaves, American-sized (as opposed to everywhere-else-sized) refrigerators, televisions, and (more often than not) computers. In America, most of the poor people (even in the poverty-ridden Mississippi Delta) have cars! And yet you say we’re more like a third-world nation than a first????

    Your last paragraph in #32 says (more succinctly than I ever could say) what it’s like to live in a nation where so many are so destitute – and I agree that ‘destitute’ is the right word. So how, then, can you possibly say that we’re more a third-world country than a first?

    Clavos, I think what happened here is that you engaged in hyperbole when you made that statement. I called you on it (and engaged in a bit of my own which you quickly pointed out), yet you’re still trying to defend your hyperbole.

    Either that, or you’re using a different definition of third-world than I am, if your statement concerning social mobility is any indication. England’s social mobility, btw, is lower than our own. Lack of social mobility and income inequality do not combine to make a third-world nation – that’s like saying that height and quickness combine to make a high-scoring basketball player: such factors help, but the most important factor is the ability to shoot and score. Likewise, the most important factor in determining the third-world status of a nation is the level of destitution of its population…and you must agree that (proportionally speaking) very, very few of our people are truly destitute. Without that high level of destitution, a nation cannot – at least in my eyes – be a true third-world nation.

    Clavos, I learn a lot from you – I really do, and I mean that in a positive way. But I’ll still point out the rare occasion when I see you go off on a hyperbolic tangent, just as you do (and do more often) for me.

  • Clavos

    The flaw in your thinking, Igor, is that their losses far exceed what they are obliged to pay. Last year, (2012) they even defaulted altogether on those payments and still lost $15.9 Billion.

    The whole retiree health benefits matter is a strawman to hide the egregious losses caused by a combination of totally stupid and inept management practices coupled with firing-proof employees protected (and overpaid) by some of the strongest unions in any government agency or private enterprise.

    And it wasn’t the Republicans who put that responsibility of retiree benefits prepayment on the USPS, it was the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management in response to Congress’ removal of the USPS from the Civil Service Retirement System. From wikipedia:

    The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is the main bureaucratic organization responsible for the human resources aspect of many federal agencies and their employees. The PAEA created the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefit Fund (PSRHB) after Congress removed the Postal Service contribution to the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS). Most other employees that contribute to the CSRS have 7% deducted from their wages. The PAEA enabled the prefunding of health insurance for employees by stipulating that the USPS was to not to have a surplus and end the use of its savings to eliminate postal debt, which it had been instructed to do in the Postal Civil Service Retirement System Funding Reform Act of 2003.

  • Dr Joseph S. Maresca

    Please stay away from personal attacks.Also, the Clinton Admin. raised the top marginal rate from 31 to 39.6%
    with the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of ’93. Pres. George Bush II lowered it to 38.6% in ’02 and again to 35% in the Jobs Growth Tax Reconciliation Act of ’03.
    Source: Politifact.com 7-7-11

  • Doug Hunter

    #38

    Interesting link on social mobility. To add to intrigue people in the low mobility US believe more strongly they live in a meritocracy whereas where social mobility is high they take a more fatalistic view that factors outside their control.

    At first it seemed odd, but then after more thought it made some sense. Each group’s answer may indeed be correct and revealing a central truth about the nature of our respective systems.

  • Baronius

    Glenn – You always credit or blame the guy at the top, except for blaming President Obama for the economy. That you always put on the Republicans.

    I’m waiting for another apology about your earlier default claim. I provided links from Slate, Investor’s Business Daily, and I forget what else, to show that people on the whole spectrum of politics recognize that the debt limit wouldn’t cause a credit default.

  • Igor

    @39-clav: No flaw in my thinking. Everyone knew in 2006 that the goal was to sink USPS to clear the way for a private monopoly.

  • clav

    Sure Igor. I notice you don’t cite any credible sources to back up your ridiculous claim.

    Again, in 2012, USPS still lost $15.9 Billion, despite the fact they defaulted altogether on those payments.

    Its own inefficiency, bad management for several decades, outrageous employee pay packages and email and online bill paying are killing it, not some whacko conspiracy.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Baronius –

    I had a substantial reply and then lost it and I don’t have time to redo it right now – later today or in the morning I’ll redo it and post it.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Baronius –

    You always credit or blame the guy at the top, except for blaming President Obama for the economy. That you always put on the Republicans.

    Frankly, I give him a lot of credit for the economy. Want more? How about this, from Bloomberg:

    Tom Donohue, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, last week said higher taxes and a “flood of new regulations” will damage an already subpar economy. “In many ways, we’re going backwards,” he said.
    Such complaints, echoed by corporate executives throughout President Barack Obama’s first term, obscure one fact: American business has never had it so good.
    U.S. corporations’ after-tax profits have grown by 171 percent under Obama, more than under any president since World War II, and are now at their highest level relative to the size of the economy since the government began keeping records in 1947
    , according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
    Profits are more than twice as high as their peak during President Ronald Reagan’s administration and more than 50 percent greater than during the late-1990s Internet boom, measured by the size of the economy.
    Business leaders cite low labor costs in an era of high unemployment, the Federal Reserve’s easy-money policies, and their own management savvy for the profit boom. Prosperity has come in spite of the president, not because of him, they say.
    “I don’t think he deserves any credit,” John Engler, president of the Business Roundtable, a Washington-based association of chief executive officers, said in an interview.
    Economists disagree. In a February 2012 survey, 80 percent of senior economics professors said unemployment was lower at the end of 2010 than it would have been without Obama’s stimulus spending. A July 2010 study by Alan Blinder, former Federal Reserve vice chairman, and Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics, said the stimulus, bank rescues and Fed policy “probably averted what could have been called Great Depression 2.0.”

    Got that, Baronius? You and the Chamber of Commerce and a passel of CEO’s want to say the economy’s going to hell in a handbasket. Y’all complain that we liberals aren’t laying the blame at Obama’s feet. “BLAME OBAMA!!!!” you say…yet when we show you how the economy has in many ways done better than under any Republican president (except Eisenhower) since 1900, y’all say, “Well, we don’t think Obama should get any credit at all for that!”

    So which is it, Baronius? If you’re going to blame the president for what went wrong, then you’ve GOT to give the president credit for what went right!

    AND bear in mind that his efforts have worked in spite of the most obstructionist Congress since the Civil War.

    Read that again, Baronius – Obama’s had to deal with the most obstructionist Congress since the Civil War. Remember, even before Obama was sworn in the first time, the Republican leadership had a meeting and essentially made a pact to obstruct everything they possibly could…and they have tried to do so even when it was legislation that they enthusiastically supported in the past, even on bills that Republicans authored and/or sponsored.

    Do you really think the blame does not lay at their feet? It IS the Republicans’ fault…but that doesn’t matter. Why? Because fifty years from now, a few old timers (which hopefully still includes me and mine) will remember what really happened, but all the history books will lay the blame or give the credit for the state of the economy during these years to Barack Hussein Obama. And I’m quite sure you know it.

    End of first reply to your #42.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Baronius –

    Second reply to #42:

    I’m waiting for another apology about your earlier default claim. I provided links from Slate, Investor’s Business Daily, and I forget what else, to show that people on the whole spectrum of politics recognize that the debt limit wouldn’t cause a credit default.

    Okay, fine – I was wrong (and thank you for showing me my error) – there ARE those who are Absolutely Sure that if we don’t raise the debt ceiling, that America won’t go into default.

    But did you really read the articles? Did you really? Look at the I-obviously-don’t-like-Obama editorial from investors.com:

    Like the fiscal cliff, the dangers of hitting the debt ceiling, while dire, are not necessarily fatal.

    Got that? He says that if we don’t raise the debt ceiling, our economy will really hurt, but it’s PROBABLY not fatal to the economy…so let’s DO IT!!!! Oh…the stupidity…it BURNS!!!! (apologies and thx to whoever it is that I’m robbing that last line from – it’s just so apropos)

    And from the Slate article:

    But that would leave about half of the bills unpaid. Federal employees, from the zookeepers to the prosecutors to the prison guards, would have to make do without their salaries. There would be no transfers for food stamps, housing programs, the IRS, the EPA, or the troops either. The Bipartisan Policy Center notes that “the reality would be chaotic.” The results would be unfair. Treasury would be picking “winners and losers.”
    During that time, the country would also suffer from any number of knock-on effects. The major ratings agencies would downgrade U.S. sovereign debt, possibly raising the country’s borrowing costs permanently. (Politico reports that’s what the White House is really worried about.) Some money-market and mutual funds would not be able to hold Treasuries without an AAA rating, meaning the specter of plummeting bond values and a credit crunch. Even if the bond market stayed relatively calm, investors might dump U.S. stocks and other investments, hoarding cash instead. Nobody really knows what would happen.
    So we might not have a great term for what we have inaccurately termed the big “default” after Aug. 2. But we know its risk: a recession. And we know how we got here: idiots.

    That last word is a link to a quote by Mark Twain: “Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.”

    My question to you is this: given the economic successes that our economy’s had under Obama – a couple of which I outlined in my previous comment (there are several more – and given that these successes are greater than those of almost ANY Republican president to date, do y’all really hate Obama so much that you’d be willing to do that which would risk the health of our economy just so’s his will be seen as a failed presidency?

    I mean, YES, unemployment is too high…BUT are you really looking at the big picture? Consider this:

    – corporations have done better than at any time since WWII

    – the Dow has nearly doubled since its low point

    – the growth of the federal government is the slowest it’s been since Eisenhower

    – the federal tax burden on you and me is the lowest it’s been since Truman

    – corporate taxes are the lowest they’ve been since Nixon

    And this is all in spite of the shit sandwich that Obama inherited in January 2009! And yet y’all are Absolutely Sure he’s leading us all down the road to economic perdition.

    Just like I said in the previous comment, Baronius: you can’t have it both ways – if you want to blame Obama for what’s going wrong, then you’ve GOT to give Obama credit for what’s going right.

    I challenged you once before to list what you think Obama’s done right. Your reply? It was something along the lines of “well, I could if I really wanted to, but let’s look some more at just how terrible he’s been!”

    You’ve shown some integrity and I right away gave you props for it. Now I repeat my challenge – how about giving a list of what you think Obama’s done right. Try it as a form of therapy – you’ll feel better about yourself when you’ve done it, I promise.

  • Baronius

    Glenn, I should know better than to give you an opening to go on a rant. To reiteraqte: I never said “let’s fail to raise the debt limit”. I said that it wasn’t the same as failing to pay our bills. I was right. I said that you blame the Obama-era Congress for all the economic problems and credit Obama for anything you see as economically promising. You’ve just done that. I said, well, whatever else I said, and I was probably right about that too.

  • Igor

    USPS losses forced by congress


    Vast Majority of USPS 2Q Losses from Pre-Funding Burden
    Thursday, May 10, 2012

    You’ve probably read a panicked story or two today about the U.S. Postal Service’s second quarter losses totaling $3.2 billion.

    But what you most likely didn’t read is that 96 percent of those quarterly losses come from the unnecessary 2006 mandate that USPS pre-fund its future retiree health care benefits for the next 75 years , in just ten short years. That is: the Postal Service is being required by Congress to fund health care benefits for people who aren’t even born yet, on an accelerated schedule, instead of pursuing thoughtful postal reform to ensure USPS’s ability to serve Americans long into the future.

    This Congressional mandate is expected to cost USPS $11 billion this year.

    Unfortunately, the Senate’s recently passed postal legislation doesn’t go far enough in reducing this onerous burden. And the House’s pending legislation, H.R. 2309, just doubles down on this flawed strategy, rather than offering Americans a real solution to the Postal Service’s problems.

    As is explained in-depth in Postal Facts and in a fact sheet, pre-funding has caused almost all of the Postal Service’s red ink since 2007. It is something no other public agency or private company is required to do. And, according the USPS Inspector General, the Postal Service is currently already funded at 49 percent of its estimated liability. This mandate is not necessary, and it is crippling the ability of the Postal Service to adapt to the 21st century.

    The Postal Service has called for reductions in service, such as getting rid of Saturday and door-to-door delivery. But as National Association of Letter Carriers President Fredric Rolando notes:

    It would be absurd to start to dismantle the universal network and degrade service to the American people and America’s businesses, when almost all of the red ink has nothing to do with the costs of those services but stems directly from a burden that Congress imposed and Congress could fix overnight.

    USPS faces real challenges to adapt to a new economy, but it cannot do so with this burden hanging around its neck. Congress should get rid of this debilitating requirement and pursue a thoughtful restructuring of the Postal Service.

    The republicans lie to people constantly and repeatedly.

    Five things to know


    Operationally speaking, the USPS nets profits every year. The financial problem it faces now comes from a 2006 Congressional mandate that requires the agency to “pre-pay” into a fund that covers health care costs for future retired employees. Under the mandate, the USPS is required to make an annual $5.5 billion payment over ten years, through 2016. These “prepayments” are largely responsible for the USPS’s financial losses over the past four years and the threat of shutdown that looms ahead, take the retirement fund out of the equation, and the postal service would have actually netted $1 billion in profits over this period.

    This doesn’t mean, however, that the USPS’s financial situation is good. Revenue has been declining for years, and even if the agency manages to get past this year’s $5.5 billion payment, it would again face insolvency next year.

    2. The postal service doesn’t rely on taxpayer funds.

    Until 1971, mail delivery was handled by the Post Office Department, a Cabinet department in the federal government. Postal worker strikes prompted President Nixon to pass the Postal Reorganization Act in 1971, transforming it into the semi-independent agency we now know as the United States Postal Service. The USPS in its current form runs like a business, relies on postage for revenue and, for the most part, has not used taxpayer money since 1982, when postage stamps became “products” instead of forms of taxation. Taxpayer money is only used in some cases to pay for mailing voter materials to disabled and overseas Americans.

  • Igor

    Crooks and Liars


    The Plot to Kill the Post Office…And Its Union Contracts

    Rolando lays out the real root of the problem: “The problem lies elsewhere: the 2006 congressional mandate that the USPS pre-fund future retiree health benefits for the next 75 years, and do so within a decade, an obligation no other public agency or private firm faces. The roughly $5.5 billion annual payments since 2007, $21 billion total, are the difference between a positive and negative ledger.”

    Postal Service management recently claimed: “If we were a private company, we would have already filed for bankruptcy and gone through restructuring, much like major automakers did two years ago.” NALC responded by calling this claim the “Big Lie.” If the USPS were a private company, NALC argued, it wouldn’t have been subjected to the pre-funding requirement and it would’ve been profitable, since the pre-funding requirement is responsible for 100 percent of the Service’s losses in recent years.

    NALC suggests that the problem has an easy fix. Instead of eliminating the requirement for pre-funding future benefits, Rolando says that the Postal Service should be allowed to transfer funds from pension surpluses instead of operating funds. That would continue to fund both pensions and retiree health benefits funded well into the future while putting the operations budget back into a surplus without cutting back on services or laying off workers.

  • Igor

    More.

    FDL


    The USPS economic crisis is the result of a provision of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 that requires the Postal Service to pre-fund the health care benefits of future retirees, a burden no other government agency or private company bears.

    The legislation requires the USPS to fund a 75-year liability over a 10-year period, and that requirement costs the USPS more than $5.5 billion per year. Guffey also pointed out that “the federal government is holding billions of dollars in postal overpayments to its pension accounts.”

    All of the USPS losses over the past four years come from this mandate. You cannot find another organization in the world, AFAIK, that pre-funds 75 years of benefits over a 10-year period.

  • Cindy

    Good stuff, Igor. Thanks for posting all that.

  • Igor

    Oh, there’s more.

    There can be little doubt that the USPS is being destroyed by a sinister plot to give that billion dollar business to the delivery oligopoly.

    Of course the republicans relish that since it will destroy a successful government operation at the same time.

    Beware citizens! You will be looted for billions of dollars.

    From the inside

    Post Office in crisis: the real story
    Printable Copy Here
    by: John Marcotte (President, Michigan Postal Workers Union)

    For those of you who have followed postal issues including the latest press release from USPS headquarters your outrage is well placed. For the rest of you this article is an overview of a scandal every bit as outrageous as the banking crisis and driven by the same motivator, pure greed.

    To tell the story of the demise of what we have come to know as the United States Postal Service (USPS) you need not look at the economy, mail volume or reductions in first class mail volume. It isn’t the fault of overcompensated employees, 6-day delivery or having to service rural America. The current state of the Postal service was ensured the moment President Bush signed into law the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 (PAEA). Like every other bill in Washington was given a positive sounding name, which doesn’t reflect the intent or its effect on the American people.

    To completely understand the devastating effect of PAEA lets look at how the USPS operated pre PAEA. In 1970 to end the political firestorm every time stamp increases were announced congress passed legislation making the Postal Service self-funding. This created the USPS out of the Postal Department and placed the USPS on a three-year cycle for stamp increases. Profitable first year, break even second year and operating at a loss the third year until the next stamp increase repeated the cycle. Using this formula the USPS’s speed of delivery increased and the cost of the stamp increased less than the rate of inflation while paying over 100% of its employees retirement obligation and paying 100% of its current and retirees health care costs from 1970 until 2006. The USPS had the lowest postage rates and highest service in the world. The USPS was an extremely rare governmental success story and the most trusted government agency by the American people.

    The PAEA of 2006 mandated that the USPS prefund its retirement health care obligation for current employees. No public or private employer is mandated to do this prefunding, only the USPS. The scant few companies that do prefund retirement healthcare fund at 30% of the forecasted obligation. The USPS was mandated to prefund a 100% of the obligation. The normal actuary tables would have the USPS prefund this obligation over a 75-year time frame. The USPS was mandated to prefund 100% of future healthcare obligations in ten years. The cost of this prefunding to the USPS averaged 6 billion dollars per year. At the inception of the PAEA in 2006 the USPS was a 70 billion dollar a year government service entity mandated to have revenue equal expenses, there was no profit margin as that would effectively be a stamp tax on the American people. There were no existing funds to pay the 6 billion dollar a year cost of prefunding retiree healthcare, PAEA forbade any increase in postage rates to cover this cost. The PAEA further limited rate increases for stamps and services to a rate of inflation not the actual cost increases of fuel and expenses that worked so well for four decades. The effect of PAEA was to make the USPS run at a 6 billion dollar a year loss for ten years. Given all this information in 2006 the Postmaster General touted the PAEA as noting less than the salvation for the USPS. Postmaster John Potter and his staff from USPS headquarters testified and promised congress that the USPS could afford this enormous financial burden through cost savings and pressed for passage of PAEA.

    This begs the question why? Why would the Postmaster General abuse his position of public trust and press for a law that would ensure the USPS would not have the funds to operate? In a word, GREED. Also in the PAEA were provisions to increase the compensation of the Postmaster General and his staff through salary, bonuses, increased retirement benefits and deferred compensation into “special” retirement funds. It didn’t take long for the Postmaster Generals yearly compensation to double that of the President of the United States and quadruple that of Generals and Admirals who make life and death decisions as part of the job.

    Fast forward to yesterday where the Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe (a close colleague of John Potter) announced a plan to break labor agreements by laying off 120,000 employees, take control of the employees health care and retirement funds and use these funds as a way to keep the USPS financially solvent. Donahoe states the USPS has lost 20billion dollars in the last four years and mail volume has dropped 20%. These facts may be true but are very misleading. The reason the USPS lost any monies during this unprecedented recession/depression is the congressional requirement to make the payments to prefund retirement. Had PAEA not been enacted the USPS would have operated at a small profit during this traumatic period. Lets be clear there is no fund with money for postal worker retirement health care in it. That money was spent by the federal government the second it arrived. So in effect congress has enacted another unfunded program where the money is spent and an I-owe-you is placed in its place.

    The USPS and the American Postal Workers Union were in contract negotiations for over 8 months and the union made many concessions in exchange for a contract that maintained the health care and retirement of its members to be administered just like all other federal employees. Postmaster Donahoe signed this contract May 23rd 2011. Not even three months later he is asking congress to break this contract to lay off 120,000 workers and allow him to use healthcare and retirement funds to balance his books. However the concessions made by the workers would still be contractually binding. These are the actions of someone bereft of integrity and devoid of honor.

    The actions of the principals responsible for the banking crisis are the same as those by Postal Headquarters. Blatant self interest with the comfort of knowing when the bubble bursts they will not pay the price, it will be the American people. Bonuses have no place in public service. A fair days wage for a fair days work? Absolutely. At the end of the day every public employee should be motivated by one thing, to serve the American people to the best of their ability. It only took one generation of postal management to take the USPS from a culture of service to the American people to a “company” that is in the business of “making money”. No kidding this is the kool-aid that is being drunk at L’enfant Plaza. We pay no property taxes, have a monopoly on mail service, are exempt from state sales taxes and we do not have to even license our vehicles or insure them. We are not a company we are a government service. If we consistently make money on our products then we are overcharging the American people, the owners of the postal service.

    The Bush administration in its war on the working class took direct aim with the PAEA and their insistence of the prefunding of healthcare. They knew full well three things would happen: one, the USPS would be out of money no matter how hard they tried to cut costs and run more efficiently, two this would force concessions from the workforce that otherwise were not needed and three the USPS in an attempt to stay financially solvent would be forced to destroy its own infrastructure aiding private sector competition and push toward privatization. In their sick, warped view a job that keeps a family off food stamps, out of subsidized housing and not dependent on government health care is one with “excessive compensation” and to be able to retire with dignity makes one part of the “privileged class”. There is no crisis at the USPS that is not politically induced and easily solvable. An additional 120,000 workers unemployed would further suppress a struggling economy. The measures suggested by Postmaster General Donahoe would be laughable if not so ominous their precedent. The whole point of having a third party handle retirement and healthcare is to protect employees from nefarious managerial actions and prevent a government bailout of another pension fund.

    In conclusion: Let me get this straight the same group of managers that squandered the massive cash savings of automating postal operations in the nineties, that continues to have the same bloated regional management structure from when all information flowed on pen and paper, that entered into agreement after agreement with Emery, FedEx and UPS where costs exceed benefit, that strongly supported a law that critically underfunded the postal service and also agreed to a contract with its employees and then requested a third party to break that same contract less than 90 days later now wants to manage its employees health care and retirement funding without any previous experience in those fields. In the words of the Daily Shows Jon Stewart “Are you f$@&ing kidding me?”. Representative Issa has voiced concerns about a postal bailout when the USPS asked for the return of its 70 billion dollars of overfunding into the governments retirement system. That is not a bailout that is a return of excess monies paid. Makes one see exactly what will happen when postal employees retire and it time for healthcare. That’s another 70 odd billion that postal service won’t get back. Having congress foot the bill for the unfunded retirement and heath-care of postal employees once postal management spends the money on neither healthcare nor retirement that will be a bailout of massive proportions. If the wizards of L’efant Plaza can turn the USPS from a model of a self-funded government agency into a debt ridden shell of its former self in 5 years imagine what they can do when they have no idea how to administer healthcare or retirement benefits. The solution is to return the postal service to is mission of serving the American people and it’s funding to the model that worked so well for 4 decades and clean house of the suits operating within the protection of the public sector that fancy themselves private business executives. We should allow the postal service to move into banking and money transfer services as well as other areas that help low income families while enhancing postal revenues. To believe postal management you have to be willing to swallow that they were wasting 6 billion a year prior to 2006. They did not need a law to fix that, just give the orders. The truth is that was a lie to congress, their employees and the American people they serve. Since PAEA management has tried with abysmal results to reach these savings by gutting the postal service. Closing offices, reducing hours, not replacing 25 year old vehicles, not training its technical employees on new equipment, reducing the maintenance on its facilities and sorting machines sending them into disrepair, severe reductions to rural America and the list goes on and on. What the postal service did not do was bring back the work sub contracted out to private sector mailing houses via “work-sharing”. The USPS’s own inspector general reports the money paid to these mailing houses exceeds the cost avoided. That’s government speak for the USPS paid mailing houses more to process mail than if their own employees performed the work at a time mail volume was declining by 20%. With reduced volumes this mail would have been worked for almost no cost while capturing much needed revenues. The postal service also did not terminate a contract with FedEx that once again the OIG reported was costing the USPS money not saving it as intended. They did continue with “network realignment” which, you guessed it; the OIG reported that the savings stated by the USPS could not be substantiated or real costs actually went up. Network realignment is the closing of smaller processing centers and consolidating them into large mega-processing facilities. This is after the USPS spent 20 odd years and untold billions to de-centralize processing resulting in reduced transportation costs and faster mail delivery this is what allowed stamp increase to lag behind inflation. In a panic to “do something” the USPS is cannibalizing this great achievement and according to the OIG spending money they don’t have to do it.

    Congress trusted postal executives and special interests when it passed PAEA in 2006 under the guise it was to fix the postal service. The problem was that the postal service was not broken and PAEA has pushed it into a crisis. Congress must act now to address the postal service again. It will either be action to benefit the special interests or to benefit the American people. The special interests already have their paid lobbyists and have written the checks. Only loud, continued contact with congressional representatives by the American people demanding quality universal service can overcome money and ideology. If this insane march to extinction is allowed to continue the protection of secure communication that binds this nation together through universal rates and equality of service to all Americans regardless of income or location will be lost. A government service so important to a free country that the post office was created in the original Constitution of the United States of America will be sacrificed on the alter of special interests and political zealotry.

  • Dr Joseph S. Maresca

    People won’t be looted for billions. They’ll simply utilize email more often, pay bills electronically and give more business to private carriers in the event the post office closes. I don’t favor the post office closing but I believe that its operations will evolve into a smaller bureaucratic institution.

  • clav

    Nice try, Igor but the “Crooks and Liars” promulgating the BS you wasted bandwidth posting are the USPS management and the postal unions who have beaten the dead horse of the PAEA for years now in the vain hope that the old saw that a lie told often enough becomes the truth will work for them.

    Unfortunately, the lie cannot make the FACT that the Postal Service defaulted totally on those payments in 2012 and still lost $15.9 Billion, according to their own financial statements.

    And of course the strawman of the employee retirement health benefits prefunding (which only began in 2006) doesn’t begin to explain the massive losses experienced by the USPO (NOT the USPS) going all the way back to the sixties — losses so enormous that the federal government took the extraordinary step of asking President Nixon to sign the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970 to remove the Post Office Department from its position as a Cabinet Department, remove it from the federal government entirely (but not quite, as it turned out), and change its name to the United States Postal Service (USPS), setting it up as quasi-private corporation (but one eligible to receive government (read taxpayer) funds, which, despite protestations to the contrary continue to this day, appearing on the USPS balance sheets (P.85) as a line item labeled “Capital contributions of the US government,” and which amount to a little more than $3 Billion every year. This despite claims by both management and unions that the USPS “receives no taxpayer funds.” Reality check for USPS managers and workers: ALL funds in the hands of the US government are “taxpayer funds,” the government doesn’t have any significant income but taxes; it’s not a company making something useful people would actually want and be willing to pay for; it can only get money by stealing it — which it does — at gunpoint, every April 15.

    Igor, your union sources are suspect at best, given their obvious vested interest in the mess; the USPS management bleating is little better; if you really want to find the truth, go to the GAO data base (as I did) and get the unbiased, unvarnished truth, not the self-serving lies dished out by the very people (management and unions) who are destroying the Service, and have been for decades — long before the retirement health benefits brouhaha.

  • troll

    …gunpoint? hardly a surprize given that to date “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun” …or something like that

    …how else could the few impose their will on the many?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    You notice I’ve been staying out of the debate between you and Igor – IMO he’s wrong on the finances, and you’re wrong on the the necessity of the USPS (esp. to the business world) and the flat impossibility of any private company doing what the USPS does, anywhere as cheaply as the USPS does it. If any company in the nation should be subsidized by taxpayer funding, the USPS should be it…as should be obvious by all the junk mail we all get, since that junk mail is all the evidence one needs to know that business still thinks that sending advertisements to all of us through mail helps them make money.

    But I wanted to address a certain hyperbolic comment of yours:

    the government doesn’t have any significant income but taxes; it’s not a company making something useful people would actually want and be willing to pay for; it can only get money by stealing it — which it does — at gunpoint, every April 15.

    1. A government is not there to make a profit – to think that it should be run on the same principles as a for-profit company is one of the big lies that the Right has been feeding you for years.

    2. Actually, it DOES give you something useful that you’re willing to pay for: the regulation and infrastructure (from education to transportation and every other crucial service the government provides) that enable the rest of this nation – including every business large or small (including yours) – to function.

    BTW, Clav – which nation’s government on this planet DOES function as you think it should? And if you think that NO government functions a you think it should, perhaps the problem isn’t with government (none of which can ever be perfect since they are all comprised of human beings) – maybe it’s with your understanding of how you think the world should be.

  • clav

    A government is not there to make a profit

    And ours doesn’t, as I said. I have never heard anyone “on the right” make a statement that they thought the government should be making a profit — on what? It makes nothing.

    As to whether it should be run on the same principles as a for profit company, that would depend on which of those principles you’re referring to; obviously it shouldn’t be paying $5K for a wheelchair priced at $2500, but it does, and most corporations, whether for profit or not, wouldn’t make such a silly (and expensive) mistake.

    Once again, your entire post is based on a misinterpretation of one sentence in my preceding comment.

  • http://www.rosedigitalmarketing.com Christopher Rose

    It isn’t actually correct to say that the US federal government makes nothing. There are many government owned companies, not least the Rock Island Arsenal, producing both manufacturing and service industry products.

    This may be extending the idea beyond what you guys were already addressing but for the sake of filling in the picture a little more, looking below federal level, there are many thousands of corporations owned by individual states, in both manufacturing and service industries, to say nothing of all the municipal level corporations.

  • Igor

    @54-joe: sure, next time I order fishing lures I’ll have them emailed to me.

  • troll

    @59…the whole government-doesn’t-make-profit line gets fuzzy in the US given the impact on the economy historically of GSEs

  • http://www.rosedigitalmarketing.com Christopher Rose

    You’ll have to take that up with the person who said that, troll…

  • Igor

    Connolly-Young letter


    100+ House Members Join Connolly, Young Letter on USPS reform

    Washington, D.C. : Virginia Congressman Gerry Connolly was joined by more than 100 members of Congress in calling on Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to maintain robust mail service, including 6 day delivery and rural post offices, and develop a transformational 21st Century business model for the USPS.

    Republican Don Young of Alaska joined Connolly in circulating the letter.

    “Legislation proposed in Congress, specifically H.R. 2309, presents a false choice to the American public,” said Connolly. “Giving up six day mail service, closing rural post offices, and ending next day mail service will forfeit USPS’ competitive advantage, and would accelerate the decline of the Postal Service.”

    “Rather than pass legislation which dismantles the Postal Service, Congress must be a partner in building a postal business model for the 21st Century,” said Connolly. “By allowing the Postal Service to innovate and relieving the retirement prefunding obligation imposed by Congress in 2006 we can protect the infrastructure of a $1 trillion mailing industry while maintaining universal service for all Americans, rural, suburban, and urban.”

    Connolly and Young’s letter suggests alternatives to legislative proposals that cut mail delivery from six days to five, eliminate 3,600 or more rural post offices, end next day mail service, and stop 90% of door-to-door mail delivery. The letter highlights the devastating effects H.R. 2309 would have on the Postal Service, including lost revenue and cuts in service. Connolly and Young suggest there are alternatives, such as restructuring the $5.5 billion annual Retirement Health Benefit prefunding requirement, refunding USPS overpayments into FERS, and permitting USPS to adopt new business practices that would allow USPS to forgo these drastic cuts in service. In contrast to HR 2309, bipartisan Senate legislation reschedules retirement health benefits payments to protect USPS solvency and allows the Postal Service to innovate and earn new revenue.

    Connolly and Young look forward to working with congressional leaders to build a Postal Service business model for the future which closes the current gap in funding while continuing robust mail service to all areas of the nation.

    ###

    The text of the Connolly / Young letter:

    Dear Speaker Boehner and Leader Pelosi,

    We are writing with respect to recent efforts to address the budget crisis facing the United States Postal Service (USPS). Considering the Postal Service’s Constitutional mandate to provide reliable mail service and delivery to all areas of the country, we ask that you work with us to ensure any postal reform legislation develops a business model which will allow the Postal Service to maintain robust service in the 21st century.

    House and Senate committees as well as USPS management have considered different postal restructuring proposals. Some have called for eliminating 3,600 or more rural post offices, eliminating six day mail service, ending next day mail service, and stopping 90% of door-to-door mail delivery. We recognize the need for USPS to restructure its business model, but believe that we must not be rushed into false choices which could accelerate the decline of the Postal Service, with negative impacts both for our constituents and the trillion dollar private sector mailing industry which depends on the Postal Service.

    For example, closing thousands of rural post offices would save less than 1% of the Postal Service’s annual operating budget, and would not have a significant impact in closing the Postal Service’s approximately $9 billion budget deficit. However, closing rural post offices would have a devastating impact on communities where the post office is the center of a community and a primary means of communication. By comparison, restructuring the $5.5 billion annual Retirement Health Benefit (RHB) prefunding requirement, imposed by Congress in 2006, would save far more money without any negative impact on mail service or the solvency of USPS pensions. That 2006 law required that the USPS prefund 100% of anticipated retirement and retirement health costs, a requirement that no other public or private entity in America faces. By comparison, many AAA rated localities and states prefund retirement up to 80%.

    We also have practical alternatives to reducing mail service from six to five days. The Postal Regulatory Commission found that USPS exaggerated savings and underestimated revenue losses which would result from a reduction in mail service to five days or fewer. However, even if we were to accept the generous cost savings estimate presented by USPS, it saves three times less money than refunding money that USPS employees and customers overpaid into FERS. Since USPS has overpaid some $10 billion into FERS, its own money, not money paid by taxpayers, simply refunding that overpayment would have a much larger impact on USPS’s balance sheet without the negative impacts to service associated with reducing mail service from six to five days. This is an important choice for us to make because six day mail service is a competitive advantage for the Postal Service, and because six day mail service ensures that pharmaceuticals and other important communications and products can be shipped to our constituents in a timely manner.

    Ending next day mail service and stopping 90% of door-to-door mail delivery, most of which occurs in small towns and older communities, also would degrade service. The USPS earns three times less revenue from non-postal sources than comparable postal services in Europe, due to a provision of the 2006 postal restructuring bill which precludes many sources of USPS revenue. Rather than tying the hands of USPS Congress should let it operate like a business, in partnership and not competition with other businesses. It would be difficult to determine how much revenue could be generated, but we do know outdated restrictions impede innovation and should be removed.

    By considering reforms which save money without damaging service cuts, particularly for rural areas, we can maintain fidelity to the Postal Service’s Constitutional mandate, create opportunities for business growth, and perhaps obviate the need to lay off hundreds of thousands of our neighbors who work for the Postal Service. We appreciate the opportunity to comment on such an important matter, and share the commitment to developing a new Postal Service business model which closes the current gap in funding while continuing robust mail service to all areas of our nation.

    Sincerely,

    Gerald E. Connolly Don Young
    (VA-11, D) (AK, R)

  • troll

    (Chris – my comment was meant to be additive rather than a challenge…probably should have said ‘also’)

  • http://www.rosedigitalmarketing.com Christopher Rose

    Okey dokey!

  • Igor

    Postal workers would like a say over their own pension plans.

    postal workers


    Al Griffin, president of Letter Carriers Branch 377 and a 29 -year postal employee, said a major problem is a bill Congress passed in 2006 that requires the postal service to pay a 75-year liability in 10 years.

    It is a “pre-fund,” for future retirees, but costs the USPS over 5 billion a year.

    Protesters rallied in front of the Federal Building in downtown Evansville to inform the public about the financial situation at the U.S. Postal Service and to show their support of House Bill 1351.

    MOLLY BARTELS / COURIER & PRESS “This is a bit of an education for her. I want to her to see how you peacefully support an idea,” said Wade Stewart, who walks with daughter, Addison, 9, during a rally in support of the post office and House Bill 1351 in front of the Federal Building in downtown Evansville on Tuesday.
    Griffin said despite popular belief, the post office is not broke because of mail delivery, but it is struggling because of the huge fees it faces every fall. These fees pay for retirement funds of some people that are not born yet and do not work at the post office yet, he said.

  • Igor


    Griffin warned that unless changes are made thousands of post offices could close, Saturday delivery could be eliminated, and 120,000 employees could be laid off.

    Local demonstrators held up signs and chanted outside the Federal Building in Downtown Evansville.

    “We don’t want a bail out, we just want the mail out,” pickets chanted in unison.

    Demonstrators, in a letter to Indiana’s 8th District Congressman Larry Bucshon, asked him to co-sponsor House Resolution 1351.

    “1351 is basically a bill that would give back to the Post Office, the money that they have overpaid into the pre-fund of the employees,” Griffin said.

    He said the Postal Service has overpaid about $20 billion into the pension fund over the past four years, and if it were given that money back, it could pay the next four years of the fund for future retirees.

    “What Congress did in 2006 was totally unjust and unfair to the post office and it’s employees,” Griffin said, “If it wasn’t for this pre-standing mandate, the post office would have made money every year.”

    H.R. 1351, introduced by U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., already has 200 co-sponsors from the House of Representatives. If the resolution is passed, it will not do away with the pre-funding, but would let the Postal Service apply for the billions in pension overpayment.

    “What do we want? A co-sponsor, When do we want it? Now,” the pickets chanted during the 4-5:30 p.m. demonstration.

  • clav

    As I’ve said all along, close it…

  • Doug Hunter

    “Postal workers would like a say over their own pension plans.”

    Everyone would. Most people don’t get to negotiate those details with “owners” who aren’t in business to make a profit and are spending other people’s money… in that situation the table is tilted against the taxpayer and is why government is just about the only place where unions still thrive.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    Close what – the entire USPS?

  • Igor

    Eliminate pre-funding, not the USPS.

    Washington Examiner

    With the fate of a venerable American institution older than the country itself likely to be decided by the next Congress, it’s important that lawmakers, administration officials and the public understand the actual situation at the United States Postal Service.

    This is a matter that should unite conservatives, moderates and liberals. There has never been, and shouldn’t be, anything partisan here.

    The conventional wisdom — of a flailing agency losing billions of dollars a quarter because everyone’s on the Internet, leaving no choice but sharp cuts in service — is highly misleading. In fact, the Postal Service’s financial performance has been admirable. Through the mid-2000s, the Postal Service was making annual profits in the low billions. Since 2007, in the worst economy since the Depression, the USPS has had an average operating loss of about $1.2 billion a year, or $300 million a quarter — unsurprising given mass unemployment, extensive business failures and high foreclosure rates.

    The struggling economy is pivotal because for more than 30 years the Postal Service has been self-sufficient, funding itself through revenue generated by the sale of stamps and other products — with no taxpayer money.

  • Igor


    So, what about the oft-cited multibillion-dollar sea of red ink? It has little to do with the mail and much more to do with politics. In 2006, Congress mandated that the Postal Service do something no other agency or company in the country has to do — prefund future retiree health benefits. Moreover, lawmakers set a highly aggressive level — prefunding for the next 75 years, paid within a decade.

    The mandate accounts for 80 percent of all USPS red ink, $11.1 billion alone in just-completed fiscal 2012. Without it, the Postal Service could readily have weathered the tough economy. But this artificial crisis has exhausted the agency’s savings, its borrowing authority and its periodic profits, while distracting it from doing what it’s always done — develop a business plan to meet the challenges of an evolving society while seizing opportunities.

    Rather than rushing through a flawed bill in a lame-duck session, the new Congress should start over in January and fix prefunding. That would eliminate the biggest drain on postal finances. It also would relieve the crisis atmosphere, letting the postal community focus on developing a forward-looking plan.

    Opportunities abound. Although more folks pay bills online, they’re also ordering goods online — packages that require delivery. This exploding e-commerce market already is boosting Postal Service revenue — in fiscal 2012 alone by 8.7 percent — as even FedEx and UPS turn to its highly efficient network to deliver their packages.

  • Igor

    ….

    Under a program President George W. Bush began and President Obama continues, letter carriers — of whom one-quarter are military veterans — have voluntarily trained to deliver medicines to residents in several metropolitan areas in the event of a biological attack. The Carrier Alert program protects the elderly and disabled living alone. Letter carriers annually conduct the country’s largest single-day food drive, replenishing food banks nationwide. All for free, and without a dime of taxpayer money.

    Why should we care about the USPS’ fate? It offers the world’s most affordable delivery service. It’s rooted in the Constitution. It unites this vast land. It’s critical to small businesses — including its Saturday service. It anchors a $1.3 trillion mailing industry employing 7.5 million private-sector Americans.

    For 200 years, the Postal Service has faced technological innovations such as the telephone, fax machine and telegraph, emerging stronger each time. If lawmakers address the prefunding fiasco — rather than reducing services to Americans and their businesses — postal authorities can do so once again.

  • Dr Joseph S. Maresca

    The post office can survive if a way can be found to keep it viable. Technological advances like email have cut into postal revenues, as well as the private carriers like UPS and others.

  • Clavitos

    It offers the world’s most affordable delivery service.

    Actually no; email does (and email and its speed and nil cost are a major reason the USPS is in trouble. Now that scanned .pdf files are legal documents, I can (and do — every time) all of the closing of a boat deal in which buyer is in one country (or state) and seller in another, entirely by attaching scanned documents to emails and sending them. because of this, I can now close a deal in an afternoon, (including the secretary typing up the contracts); a process that used to take up to a week or ten days in the bad old days of “snail mail!”

    It’s rooted in the Constitution.

    Actually, it counts its birth as 1639, almost a century and a half before the constitution was written in 1787.

    hey’re also ordering goods online — packages that require delivery.

    I am one such. For years now (at least three) I have have made all of my purchases of goods online; 90+ percent of my purchases have been delivered by FedEx or UPS. When the USPS carries them they take between two and three times longer to arrive and the only packages that never arrived were “carried” by the USPS.

    This exploding e-commerce market already is boosting Postal Service revenue — in fiscal 2012 alone by 8.7 percent

    And yet, in 2012, a year in which they defaulted on both prefunded retiree health plans payments they were contracted to make, they still lost $15.9 Billion, even though they were paid (as they are every year) a more than $3 Billion US government subsidy of taxpayers money!! Payments which their unions deny the USPS receives (as did you in your #73, above), yet they are plainly and clearly listed on the Service’s balance sheets. (Linked in my #55, above)

    as even FedEx and UPS turn to its highly efficient network to deliver their packages.

    That is a total lie propagated by the postal unions — there’s not a word of truth to it. The truth is that the shoe is on the other foot: the USPS is using the long haul services of FedEx (who operates the world’s largest fleet of aircraft) and UPS, because both can long haul the Service’s traffic much more cheaply than the USPS can. Neither FedEx nor UPS buy one cent’s worth of services from USPS, they don’t need to: their services and networks are much superior to those of the USPS across the board, and are performed by employees whose compensation packages weigh in at between 25-35 percent less than those of USPS employees in parallel jobs.

    The USPS, on the other hand, annually pays both FedEx and UPS hundredss of millions of dollars to perform the long hauls for them. Why? Because the only segment of their franchise which the USPS does perform reasonably well (though still not as well as the two private carriers) is the famous “Last Mile.” So, for example, in New York, say, the USPS will haul all its Los Angeles bound mail and packages for the day to LaGuardia and hand it over to FedEx or UPS, who will then haul it all to LAX overnight, and deliver it to the LAX airport sorting facility the next morning. And do it less expensively — MUCH less expensively than USPS can do it for itself.

    In the overnight mail segment, the USPS charges as much (and sometimes more) as the two carriers, ,but will not guarantee next morning arrival! So who do you think gets all that business — the highest margin segment of the mail business? Easy, Old “When it absolutely, positively has to be there on time.” Wonder who that slogan was a dig at?

    Do your homework, Igor. You’re spreading union lies, not the truth. I researched all of this thoroughly when I wrote my article, and I have kept up with developments since then for follow ups; you’re regurgitating propaganda.

  • Igor

    Too bad you don’t have something of substance to say, clav.

    USPS is the most reliable and inexpensive delivery service. I order stuff from the internet every week, and UPS and FedEx cannot find my place but when it goes to my USPS PO box I just have to walk 2 blocks to get it. USPS is the most reliable. Plus, the people are friendlier.

  • Clavitos

    Too bad you don’t have something of substance to say, clav

    Right, Igor. In one graph I’ve laid out more and truer information than you’ve said in an entire comment. I’ve backed my assertions with impartial sources; you keep quoting the unions and the bumblers in management.

    This is your funniest (and most erroneous) line on the subject of the USPS yet:

    USPS is the most reliable.

    Bwahahahahaha!!

    You lose.

  • Igor

    I’ve never had a USPS shipment go awry, but a couple times I chased fedex or UPS all over town trying to find a shipment.

    Even when I give them detailed instructions they can’t find me.

  • Baronius

    Once again, Clavos, your mere documented facts wither and die in the presence of Igor’s anecdotes and opinions.

  • Zingzing

    Hey now, my post office is terrible, but if I want something delivered to my apartment, they’re the only ones that can handle it. Delivery times for fed ex, et al, don’t cover the fact that I’m at fucking work and can’t sign for it. If I miss it, I can travel to their depot an hour and a half away to retrieve it. The post office is four blocks away, and a pain in the ass, but it’s there.

    That said, I get shit delivered to work most of the time, but the post office offers some things those others can’t: sex toys. Take that anecdote and shove it up your filthy ass.

  • Baronius

    Zing, that comment would have been more persuasive if you’d worked in two less vulgarities, or one more.

    The “fucking” and the “pain in the ass” take the punch out of the “sex toys” line and the “filthy ass” ending. Stephen Spielberg talked about how in the original cut of Jaws, there was only one big jump moment. He wanted to add something more, so he put in, I think it was, a corpse floating by underwater. Whatever it was, it was a second jump moment. In the screenings, he noticed that it got a jump, but the reaction to the second one (the shark and the boat) was lessened. You’re putting too much out there.

    Also, “pain in the ass” and “shove it up your filthy ass” both are throw-away lines when the anecdote revolves around sex toys, given the fact that most sex toys are probably inserted anally. Is it a call-back? Am I supposed to tie it all together in some kind of butt-friendly theme? It just distracts from the message.

    The “one more” would have to be something outlandish in sentence #1. That would’ve given the impression that you were so worked up about the topic that I’d be a fool not to agree with you.

  • Clavitos

    Excellent editorial notes, Bar…

  • Baronius

    Thanks. I don’t curse, but tvtropes.org has two concepts they use, the Precision F-Strike and the Cluster F-Bomb. As they say, the first relies on timing, the second on frequency and multitude. I just felt like Zing’s comment failed to surprise in the first way or overwhelm in the second way.

  • Baronius

    Oh, and how could I have failed to mention that the writer gets “shit” delivered to work? Shit arriving on its own, the disenfranchised ass having no role in society but as the receiver of sex toys, suggests ass as thematically equivalent to death as presented in Eliot’s masterpiece. Could USPS then symbolize water, which restores life but is missing from Eliot’s wasteland? Themes of ritual and loss abound.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Of course I like to help out those who have helped me out before (like zing certainly has), so I sat for about fifteen minutes trying to think of something witty with which to refute Baronius’ 81, 83, and 84…and I couldn’t. Everything I came up with was simply insufficient to the task. It made me feel so…inadequate.

    *begins to twitch uncontrollably from sudden lack of literary testosterone*

  • zingzing

    everyone’s a critic. but your explanation went on too long. did you want me to curse less or more? your first sentence contains all of that. the rest is just fluff. you should try to limit the fluff, as it is fluff. a critic criticizing just to hear himself talk does not edify. it merely takes up space.

  • Clavitos

    WOW! Now everybody’s an editor!!!

    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

  • http://cinemasentries.com/ El Bicho

    and it’s Steven Spielberg

  • Zingzing

    Actually, clavos, I am an editor, as in it’s what I get paid to do.

    And god, or our fear of such a thing.

  • Clavitos

    I knew you were, zing; you’ve mentioned it before.

    Re: god. Without the belief there is no fear, so I guess I’m unfettered…

  • Clavitos

    A followup to the discussion upthread in re the USPS. Turns out even other federal agencies don’t use it 98% of the time!

    (Thanks to Kenn Jacobine for the Fb lead!)

  • Igor

    @91-clav: this is a poor comment because the citation given is in a loop, that is, when one tries to find the root citation, the oft mentioned ‘report’, one just goes around in a circle, repeatedly encountering this reference: loop.

    The actual underlying report is nowhere to be found.

    Maybe clav likes running around in circles but most of us probably consider it a nuisance.

    I seldom read clavs posts seriously for that reason, plus, of course, his constant irrelevant ad hominem and personal attacks. At the least, his responses are dilatory.

  • Clavitos

    I seldom read clavs posts seriously for that reason, plus, of course, his constant irrelevant ad hominem and personal attacks. At the least, his responses are dilatory.

    Either you reply to comments you haven’t read or you’re lying, because you reply to me more consistently than anyone else but Glenn.

    Would that your replies were even half as well thought out and researched as his; at least then they would be challenging.

  • Clavitos

    There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that link in the article, Igor; must be your ignorance with computers. I just accessed it, clicked on te link within the first article, and it took me right to Bloomberg and the original report.

    I test all my links in comments before posting them; both of these worked before, and they did again just now.

  • Igor

    Please post the original report, not the puff piece by Angela Greiling Keane.

  • Clavitos

    Here are the first two graphs of Office of the Inspector General’s Federal Shipping
    Audit Report. The link for the report is after the quote. Funny how it reads almost exactly like Angela Greiling Kane’s “puff piece,” isn’t it?

    “The U.S. General Services Administration establishes long-term federal government-wide contracts with vendors to provide goods and services to federal agencies at volume discount pricing. The General Services Administration established contracts for shipping services with the U.S. Postal Service and its major competitors. While Federal Express and United Parcel Service have been participant vendors since 2001, the Postal Service did not participate until May 2009. During fiscal years 2011 and 2012, federal agencies spent about $342.6 million and $336.9 million, respectively, on shipping services through GSA contracts. The Postal Service’s share of this revenue was $1.2 million for FY 2011 and $4.8 million for fiscal year 2012.”

    USPSOIG Federal Shipping Audit Report

  • Clavitos

    I was right in my 2009 article, and the situation hasn’t changed: the USPS is a loser which costs taxpayers billions annually for ever decreasing quality and levels of service, while its nearly half million employees enjoy compensation packages 25-35% greater than those of similar workers in the private sector, and they are firing proof.

    The USPS is anachronistic, archaic and wasteful.

    Close it. Now.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clav –

    And say goodbye to all the businesses that depend upon the USPS…because there is no company that’s willing to do anything that even approaches the mandate of the Post Office – to be able to deliver to every single address most of every week of the day. There’s a lot of people who don’t need the USPS…but there’s many more people who DO. If it’s a problem with losing money, then the USPS should charge more money, because compared to most postal services in the world it’s dirt cheap, esp. when we bear the necessity of that mandate in mind…and yes, that mandate’s still a necessity no matter how much you want to believe otherwise.

    Your ‘close it’ solution is a cure that’s much worse than the condition it’s supposed to treat.

  • http://jetsgayheadlinenews-jet.blogspot.com/ Jet Gardner

    Of course it would elliminate all those pesky democratic absentee voters by mail too.

  • Clavitos

    Your ‘close it’ solution is a cure that’s much worse than the condition it’s supposed to treat.

    Obviously, I don’t agree with you there, Glenn. One reason why addresses your point above regarding businesses. Virtually all but a couple of the businesses I deal with, which include banks (private and for my business), stock brokerages, credit card companies, utilities, retailers of electronics, clothing, even pet meds, marine supplies, etc. already deal with me (and I with them) exclusively via the web and email.

    My last boat deal was entirely transacted on the web and via email, from first locating a boat to buy, to making an offer, the subsequent negotiation, even the closing — all were transacted via email, the USPS did not handle so much as one scrap of paper for us — hell, even FedEx didn’t get any business out of that deal; now that .pdf documents that are signed, scanned and sent as email attachments have been held as legal documents in court, there’s no reason even to use the overnight services, much less the dowdy old “post office.”

    As for the USPS’ much vaunted Standard Class mail (what we civilians call “junk” mail), even that is increasingly being handled by companies whose sole business is carrying those ads. The USPS is being killed by technology and innovation, and it doesn’t even know what’s happening to it; it’s a goner — whether or not the government heeds my advice (yeah, sure!) and that of others, it will die soon — by atrophy and obsolescence.

  • Clavitos

    I even bought my last (new) car on the web: I contacted the manufacturer, we negotiated the options and price via email, and they sent me the address of the dealer where I could pick it up — I didn’t even have to sign paperwork at the dealer; the factory and I had already handled it as noted above. I picked up the car and drove off the lot within 15 minutes; the only person I even spoke with was the dealer’s “Online Sales Manager,” a dorky looking twenty-something.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clav –

    Virtually all but a couple of the businesses I deal with, which include banks (private and for my business), stock brokerages, credit card companies, utilities, retailers of electronics, clothing, even pet meds, marine supplies, etc. already deal with me (and I with them) exclusively via the web and email.

    Well, I’m happy for you…but you may have noticed that there’s a couple hundred million or so of us who still go pick up our mail at the mailbox or at the Post Office box, and the vast majority of us don’t mind; we’re frankly glad it’s there – call us Luddites if you like, but proclaiming the death of the USPS is every bit as ill-advised as proclaiming the death of books printed on actual, honest-to-goodness paper instead of on Kindles or Nooks.

    There’s something about holding something substantial in one’s hands that means more than what one sees on the computer screen…

    …and this retired sailor can tell you from personal experience, a personally-written love letter – something I can smell (with perfume, even), that I can hold against my cheek and keep under my pillow during deployments – means a hell of a lot more than seeing something on a computer screen. Yes, we do have video-calls now and they are wonderful…but they can’t replace smelling one’s wife’s perfume or allowing me to see a lock of a wife’s hair, or from a baby’s first haircut.

    Besides, I don’t know about you, but I’m not really looking forward to computers that can transmit smells – I suspect ‘Spam’ would take on a whole new meaning.

    As for the USPS’ much vaunted Standard Class mail (what we civilians call “junk” mail), even that is increasingly being handled by companies whose sole business is carrying those ads.

    REALLY? Funny, but I have yet to see a single Costco booklet or ads from JCPenney or Val-Pak or any of the other dozens of junk mail I receive over the month delivered to my door by anyone other than the USPS. Maybe this morning will be different – but if the previous decades of this ongoing computer revolution are any indication, nobody other than the USPS is going to be bringing junk mail to my door today, or tomorrow, or twenty years from now.

  • Clav

    Funny, but I have yet to see a single Costco booklet or ads from JCPenney or Val-Pak or any of the other dozens of junk mail I receive over the month delivered to my door by anyone other than the USPS.

    You don’t see JC Penney ads in your junk mail because they stopped using that venue, and now rely on the Sunday ads in your local newspaper (another competitor that undercuts USPS junk mail rates and service)

    It’s coming. The private services, naturally enough, are most active in densely populated areas, but they are skimming off so much junk mail already, that the USPS’ piece count is already diminished, and with it, revenue.

    Here’s the web site for one delivery service. Note the names of their clients.

  • Baronius

    How can we *stop* getting junk mail? I’d guess that 95% plus of the mail I get goes into the trash. For all the debate about the Post Office’s relative efficiency, most of what it does is deliver a useless product. If mail delivery were reduced to once per week it wouldn’t change my life.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    I heard the same thing about JCP ads a few months back – but apparently my local JCP didn’t get the memo because I’ve gotten junk mail from them twice so far this year.

    And the private services will NOT serve most rural areas – it simply doesn’t make economic sense for them. Even if they charged a dollar per piece in a rural area, it wouldn’t pay for their operations costs. The only service rural areas would get would be from UPS, FedEx and the like, and then only for packages that cost enough to make it worth their while to make the delivery.

  • http://jetsgayheadlinenews-jet.blogspot.com/ Jet Gardner

    Did it dawn on anyone ti discontinue the bulk discount for mailing junk?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Jet –

    Actually, that wouldn’t be a good idea – the bulk junk mail discount is actually a form of subsidy for America’s businesses. Sure, it’s not called that, but that’s how it functions in the real world since we’re basically spending taxpayer dollars on helping those businesses succeed who use bulk mailings.

    So to just say the USPS should be closed down because it’s losing money is rather simplistic, because what we should be looking at is how great a benefit America’s businesses benefit from the subsidy as compared to the annual loss that the USPS is showing…

    …and I’d be willing to bet a lot of money that America’s businesses not only benefit greatly from those bulk mailings, but also – as a direct result of their greater level of success – when added together, pay much more in federal taxes than the American taxpayer is paying to keep the USPS afloat.

    Not that any conservative will buy into that explanation, of course – the idea that it can be a very good thing for government to invest in a nation’s business, well, that’s all just stuff and nonsense….

  • Clav

    Guess the rural folks will just have to drive to the PO,Glenn. There’s no justification for maintaining a service so expensive to the detriment of 80 or 90 percent of the population to save the other 10 or 20 percent a little driving.
    If we can inconvenience the rich to improve life for the rest of us, we can do the same to the rurals in mail delivery.

  • Clav

    Raising the price of bulk mail will only hasten the demise of the USPS by driving what bulk mail (their only money maker anymore) they continue to keep on a price advantage to the private carriers and their reliability advantage.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    And what was the justification in Benjamin Franklin’s day. He was the first U.S. Postmaster, you know…and it was not until rather recently in U.S. history that there was anyone demanding that the USPS made a profit. It didn’t make a profit in Franklin’s day, it didn’t make one in the heyday of the 1950’s, and if it really ever made a profit, that is the rare exception to the rule.

    As in Franklin’s day, the USPS is supposed to be a government service, and as such is not meant to make a friggin’ profit. It’s meant to bind the people closer together, to help the growth of business, to support the importance of communication. It’s NOT a business – it’s infrastructure.

    Your ‘detriment to 80 or 90 percent of the population’ is well off the mark – 80 to 90 percent of the population doesn’t live in cities where the USPS can operate profitably. A little under half the nation lives in rural areas, where the USPS cannot operate profitably.

    AND if that’s your benchmark – that a service must be able to operate profitably to everyone before it can be provided – remember that nearly every red state (since they are mostly rural) takes in more federal dollars than its citizens and companies pay out in federal taxes, whereas the mostly-urban populations of the blue states pay out more in federal taxes than they receive…

    …so to borrow your phrase, y’all in the red states are “inconveniencing the rich states to improve the lives of the mostly-poorer red states”.

    And one last thing – have you ever lived out in the boonies? I have, and mail is very important – particularly to the millions of aged or infirm who have lived in rural areas all their lives and care little for computers – to us. It’s not a “nice thing to have” – it’s a need. Why? Because the rural carriers get to personally know the people, and every month of every year you find how this or that postal carrier found someone at their home in distress and saved their lives.

    Your apparent demand that the USPS must profit in order to be allowed to exist evinces a real misunderstanding of the bigger picture – profit is not be-all and end-all of this world. Medicaid doesn’t make a profit, and neither do fire departments or K-12 schools…the list is effectively endless. It’s all infrastructure, Clav…

    …and government infrastructure is essential, and we’ve got to pay for it. It’s as I’ve told you many times – you get what you pay for. If you want to live in a first-world nation, then you’ve got to pay the taxes that enable the governmental functions that preserve that first-world status. If you don’t care about living in a first-world nation – and you’ve said many times you don’t – then you can live somewhere that you don’t have to pay such taxes.

    Infrastructure, Clav – that’s what sets a first-world nation apart from the rest…and it requires taxpayer funding. You get what you pay for…and you don’t get what you refuse to pay for.

  • Clavitos

    A little under half the nation lives in rural areas

    Wrong. See this Census Bureau table with 2000 and 2010 figures. You will note that the Census Bureau says 79% of the population lived in urban areas in 2000, and 80.7% in 2010. Of course the Census Bureau (which, in addition to the USPS, I have also worked for), also being a government agency, may well be as inept as the USPS, so their figures may be totally wrong.

    it was not until rather recently in U.S. history that there was anyone demanding that the USPS made a profit.

    And I’m not one of them. But, as a taxpayer, I have the right to demand that they run efficiently and without great cost to us; which is what I am (and have been) doing.

    AND if that’s your benchmark – that a service must be able to operate profitably

    It’s not my benchmark. See above.

    …and you don’t get what you refuse to pay for.

    We don’t need it. Shut it down. I (and millions of others like me) refuse to pay for it any longer.

  • Clavitos

    Because the rural carriers get to personally know the people, and every month of every year you find how this or that postal carrier found someone at their home in distress and saved their lives.

    Bogus reason. That’s not its function. You want rural elderly protected? Set up a service to do just that, and save money; letter carriers are not qualified nor trained to be out there “saving lives.” If that’s your goal, maybe we could have the Coast Guard replace letter carriers who are busy saving lives, and members of the House of Representatives should fill in for the missing Coast Guardsmen, and so on, ad infinitum (or is it nauseam?), makes about as much sense.

  • Dr Dreadful

    I have to say, Clav, that Igor’s positive reports of the USPS ring truer with me than your negative ones do. I don’t notice much difference in service quality between the Post Office and the “big two” private carriers, although I have a somewhat dimmer view of UPS as they’ve distinguished themselves in the past by being the only carrier to screw up multiple orders of mine. (What can Brown do for you? Not a whole heck of a lot, apparently.) USPS is significantly cheaper, which from my perspective as a seller is a big positive.

    I don’t know what happens in Florida to make your experience of the USPS so poor. Perhaps your mailman gets distracted and wanders off to the beach or the golf course halfway through his round.

  • Clav

    Doc, you say: I don’t notice much difference in service quality between the Post Office and the “big two” private carriers and: I have to say, Clav, that Igor’s positive reports of the USPS ring truer with me than your negative ones do.

    I don’t remember for sure, and it’s a long thread that I’m too lazy to review again, but I think the only direct comment I made regarding the USPS’ service from the POV of a customer (I’m not one) was in reference to their “overnight” services, which they steadfastly refuse to guarantee (and which are not “overnight,” not even their most expensive service) to arrive when contracted for.

    My focus (and beef) here and elsewhere, including my 2009 article, against the USPS is their decades-long history of losses year after year. I look at them from the viewpoint of a shareholder (which all of us are, since despite their protestations that they “receive no taxpayer funds — not one cent,” their balance sheets (to which I linked upthread) clearly indicate the federal government has been giving them billions a year for years), and as a shareholder who is forced to help cover their losses, I no longer am willing to do so.

    So, it’s their shoddy business practices, wretched management corps, and overbearing unions (which are more the fault of those wretched managers than the unions themselves) which are bleeding them (and because we pay the shortfalls, you and me) dry that I am unhappy with.

    And finally, I have to say that I’m astonished that you, who are one of the best, most effective arguers on these threads, really see Igor’s anecdotal reminiscences of personal experiences with USPS services as “ring[ing] truer” than my documented and linked presentation of facts, mais chacun a son gout, I suppose.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clav –

    Your perpetual rejection of the USPS smacks of confirmation bias – you see and agree with only that which builds upon what you already believe, yet you reject anything that argues otherwise. I’d say this might be behind Doc’s reference to the ring of truth.

  • Clav

    My “perpetual rejection” of the USPS is solely based on their perpetual losses of my money.

    Nothing more.

  • Clav

    And fuck off with the amateur psychology, Glenn. You have never even so much as spoken to me. Your total lack of training aside, you have some cojones thinking you can analyze me over the internet.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clav –

    Do you really think you’re innocent of engaging in amateur psychology on here? I daresay you’d have a hard time finding someone who hasn’t done so.

    My “perpetual rejection” of the USPS is solely based on their perpetual losses of my money.

    And I think you’re being dishonest with everyone here – including yourself – in that statement, given your oft-stated opinions of government workers in general. Yes, I know, the USPS isn’t supposed to be seen as a government agency, but it effectively is…and government is not there to make money; however, government IS there to help business make money…

    …and JCPenney just announced two days ago that they’re going to start offering sales again, which means that they found out that they were making LESS money without the mass mailings than they were saving by not making the mass mailings!

    But of course you know JCPenney’s business better than they do.

  • Igor

    I’ve never lost any money through the USPS.

    Yesterday I stopped at my local PO, picked up the mail in my box, picked up a parcel at the desk, bought a MO for $1 and posted it in the “Local” mailbox. Noticed that it goes to box 787, about a foot away from my box, but that’s just the way things are.

  • Clav

    government is not there to make money

    Nor do I expect it to, Glenn. But, as a taxpayer, I DO expect it not to LOSE my money because of bad management and ineptitude; government is expensive enough without the stupidity with which the USPS has been run for decades, and with very few exceptions, losing billions every year.

    Sorry, Igor, but you have. Unless you don’t pay taxes, you have lost money through the USPS, if for no other reason than they are a money-losing agency and the money they lose is what we all pay in taxes.

  • Clav

    …and JCPenney just announced two days ago that they’re going to start offering sales again, which means that they found out that they were making LESS money without the mass mailings than they were saving by not making the mass mailings!

    Maybe. Or maybe they too just don’t know what they’re doing. These days, there are any number of American corporations that don’t.

  • Clav

    given your oft-stated opinions of government workers in general

    Thank you for strengthening my point; the USPS is an excellent example of the truth in my “oft-stated opinions of government workers in general.” While management is primarily responsible for the sorry state of the USPS, the workers, and especially their unions, carry their share of responsibility for the failure of the USPS as well.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clav –

    Maybe. Or maybe they too just don’t know what they’re doing. These days, there are any number of American corporations that don’t.

    Ah, it’s the “who the hell knows?” defense…the same one you use in your arguments against AGW. In both cases your basic premise is “nobody knows for sure in the way that I think they should know it, so they must be wrong.”

    But in both cases, the people making those decisions are people who know a heck of a lot more about their chosen field of expertise than you do. Your cynicism has become your drug of choice, and it’s adversely affecting your perceptions.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    And Clav –

    ; the USPS is an excellent example of the truth in my “oft-stated opinions of government workers in general.” While management is primarily responsible for the sorry state of the USPS, the workers, and especially their unions, carry their share of responsibility for the failure of the USPS as well.

    Which is a classic example of a broad-brush statement, and fallacious on its face. I’ve seen the same kind of statements used (and used them myself) against northerners, southerners, Wal-Mart workers, sailors, Marines, K-Mart shoppers, the French, the Japanese, politicians, skinny cooks, conservatives, liberals, teenagers, pizza delivery drivers…and against blacks, whites, Asians, and so forth. I suggest that you recognize that broad-brush statement for what it actually belies: prejudice.

    Clavos, you’re quite entitled to your own truth, but you’re not entitled to your own facts.

  • Igor

    The only reason the USPS appears to be losing money is because of the pre-funding burden placed on them by the 2006 Bush/republican congress.

    USPS is the only company or agency in the USA under that burden. Clearly, it was intended to destroy the USPS with an insurmountable requirement.

    The opponents of the USPS have NEVER proposed that the same burden be placed on a competitor.

  • Clav

    The only reason the USPS appears to be losing money is because of the pre-funding burden placed on them by the 2006 Bush/republican congress.

    Wrong again, Igor. Apparently you have the same reading comprehension problems Glenn has; but at least you have your advanced age to offer as an excuse.

    As I pointed out more than once upthread (with linked data), most years, the USPS loses considerably more than the amount involved in the retiree prepayments, AND they have been losing money for decades (since the 1960s, in fact, which is why the Fed “spun off” the USPO, made it a “private” corporation and renamed it the USPS back in 1971), while those retiree prepayments only started in 2006. More proof: in 2012, the Service defaulted on both payments they were to have made for the retiree prepayments. These defaults totaled $11.1Billion!!! So that’s $11.1 Billion they did not pay out in 2012, and still they lost nearly $16 Billion!!! Here’s the full story in the New York Times the nation’s most liberal rag, so you know this not something made up by us right wing troglodytes.

    Go back upthread and look at the links in my comments from several days ago (obviously you didn’t read them then), it’s all there: the losses for DECADES, the long litany of stupid decisions by Postal “management,” who hadn’t a clue about how to run a business, and the rapacious unions, who saw to it that it’s nearly impossible to fire a USPS employee, even when caught sleeping on the job, and who also rammed through compensation packages 25-35% higher than those of the same jobs in the private sector.

  • Clav

    Which is a classic example of a broad-brush statement, and fallacious on its face.

    You’re full of shit, Glenn, there’s no other way to put it. For years, I have posted authoritative data from legitimate sources (even the USPS’ own financial reports) that proves every word of what I’ve said about the total mismanagement and malfeasance and misfeasance that have run rampant in the USPS for many, many decades. All the links to data are present on this thread, but obviously, neither you nor Igor ever bothered to read them.

    Neither of you has a clue about the USPS, Igor’s cute little personal anecdotes notwithstanding.

  • Clav

    Perhaps your mailman gets distracted and wanders off to the beach or the golf course halfway through his round.

    Since mail”men” are federal employees, I wouldn’t be surprised, Doc, but I don’t have a mailman in the traditional sense of the word; UPS is my post office.

  • http://www.rosedigitalmarketing.com Christopher Rose

    Clav, I don’t disagree with you about the idiocy of Glenn or your points about the USPS being badly run and loss-making, not least because that is so similar to the story of our own nationally owned postal service here in the UK.

    That said, there is some mileage in the idea that a national postal service which covers a whole country is a key part of the national infrastructure, just like roads are.

    Personally I object to large parts of my government’s expenditure on various grounds and, if I was an American, there would be much more to object to, not least the excessive military, security and police budgets and the overall huge size and cost of government at both federal and state levels.

    Although I’d want any taxpayer funded service to be as efficient as possible, I wouldn’t go so far as to call for the cessation of road construction and maintenance so long as they are needed; ditto the mail service, which helps to hold communities and, therefore, nations, together.

    Granted the US mail service is long overdue for substantial reform and even, in the not too distant future, dissolution, but almost all state owned infrastructure is loss-making by definition.

  • Clav

    Chris, All I can say is, what a refreshing change it is to see your assessment of the discussion!

    I’m not really sure how much the services of the USPS contribute to the cohesiveness of community and nation here in the USA, mainly because of our distances between communities and coast-to-coast, but your argument should I think, be a consideration in the debate. I can certainly see how the Royal Mail plays an even greater role in that regard, owing to the overall size of the UK. Here, I think the airlines may actually be more important than the USPS in helping to nurture cohesiveness and community, but it’s an idea that should form part of the decision-making process (after first being investigated and studied) as decisions are made regarding the future of the USPS.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    Are you familiar with the Washington Ferry System? It’s the largest in the nation. Instead of an 80- minute drive, hundreds of people travel each morning to their jobs in Seattle on a one hour-long (and MUCH safer and less stressful) commute to those jobs in downtown Seattle. Bainbridge Island – one of the nicest places to live in the country (you could easily compare it to La Jolla, but not quite the Hamptons) is a 35-minute ferry ride to Seattle, but easily two hours by road. And it goes both ways – hundreds of people come every day from Seattle to work in Bremerton. And the same goes for every ferry up and down Puget Sound.

    So what does this have to do with the USPS? Every single year, the WSF needs $200M or more in taxpayer support to keep operating…and according to your logic, should be shut down posthaste.

    But that logic is simplistic and shortsighted. Why? Because the travel of 25,000 passengers every day on their way to jobs they would not otherwise have. If the ferry system were shut down, then the people who could drive, would drive (adding to the congestion of what is already the second-worst traffic in the nation), and would do so at much greater cost to themselves. Bainbridge Island would die – economically speaking – and anyone there no matter how conservative would tell you the same. The jobless rate on the west (away from Seattle) side of Puget Sound would skyrocket – and the tax revenue would plummet thanks to the loss of jobs and subsequent decrease in local commerce and commercial and residential property values. And let’s not forget what would be a subsequent spike in those needing public assistance. This would be an economic vicious circle.

    In other words, yes, the State of Washington is spending $200M yearly in taxpayer dollars to subsidize this money pit…but this selfsame money pit is enabling the growth of the entire Olympic Peninsula. Once the economic growth of the Peninsula (and the tax revenue it provides) is taken into consideration, one begins to realize that the WSF enables more tax revenue than it costs.

    So it goes with the USPS. You can shout to the rooftops all you want about what a worthless money pit the USPS is (and you can make your frankly irresponsible broad-brush claims about their workers), but the actions of every single business, company, and corporation who DO use the USPS every single day belies the depth and breadth of your error. THEY use the USPS because it makes economic sense to THEM. THEY use the USPS because most of them find it crucial to their business operations – and JCPenney is but an example of a company who tried it your way and soon decided that no, that’s not smart, that they were making MORE money by sending out sale advertisements via the USPS.

    So who should we believe, Clavos? You? Or the tens of thousands of businesses, companies, and corporations who DO use the USPS because it makes economic sense to THEM?

    For someone who has in the past supported the idea that we should let the marketplace do its own thing, I find it sadly funny that you’re insisting on ignoring the actions of all those who know a heck of a lot more about running their businesses than you or I do.

    So…yeah, if all we look at is the basic bottom line, yes, the USPS is a money pit. BUT if you take into account the untold billions that businesses make because of their use of the USPS, and then take into account all the additional tax revenue, it soon becomes obvious that shutting down the USPS would be an utter disaster for business across the nation.

    Are you willing to ignore what tens of thousands of businesses and major corporations do every day just to make your point? Are you really?

  • Clavos

    Re #131:

    Where are your links Glenn? Did you forget them? Oh wait…I almost forgot: you don’t have any data to link to and back up the fevered rantings which stand in for real arguments with you.

    Rave on, Glenn. Tell us more about your state ferry system with no bearing on or commonality with the federal postal system.

    I gave you data, Glenn, real life proof of the ugly truth that is the USPS’ financials, and you respond with rants and imaginary relationships.

    I’m done trying to carry on a dialogue with you. Pester someone who doesn’t have anything else to do; I have to rearrange my sock drawer.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    So why do tens of thousands of businesses still use the USPS, Clavos? Are you telling me I need to provide links to prove there’s junk mail?

    Who should we listen to? You? Or the business community as a whole? If the USPS were such a waste of time and money, then why the heck would so much of the business community use it?

  • Clav

    You couldn’t miss the point any further if you blew your brains out.

    Of course “tens of thousands of businesses still use the USPS,” Glenn!! They’re being subsidized by the taxpayer!! That’s my principal point!!

    Sometimes, Glenn, you’re so far off the mark you cause me to wonder how you survived 20+ years as a Swabbie without being the target of friendly fire.

    You might be willing to pay most of the cost of handling all that junk mail for all those “tens of thousands of businesses,” Glenn, but I’m not — I don’t even want that crap sent to me, and I damn sure don’t want to pay for the privilege!

    If you don’t want to shut it down because all those poor, mollycoddled overpaid/underworked employees would lose their jobs, fine, but in that case raise the postal rates to cover those exorbitant compensation packages and cut service to the point that the USPS doesn’t continue to drain the treasury to the tune of several billions of dollars a year!! Let those “tens of thousands of businesses” pay for the service they’re using, instead of freeloading on our backs.

    Sheesh.

  • troll

    actually handling and delivering mail are implied federal powers…those functions could be delegated to regulated private businesses without an amendment – right?

    …but would such businesses accept the level of direction constitutionally required of the Congress?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    troll –

    Clavos thinks that’s a non-issue, that all USPS correspondence can be magically handled by either private companies or e-mail. He seems to think the mandate the USPS has of being able to deliver mail to every address in America is not of any real consequence in the modern world.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    Of course “tens of thousands of businesses still use the USPS,” Glenn!! They’re being subsidized by the taxpayer!! That’s my principal point!!

    YES!!! It IS a subsidy! That was the precise reason I referred to the ferry system here in Washington! YOU might not think that government subsidies help grow businesses, but they sure as hell do! Infrastructure, Clavos, isn’t just roads and bridges and ferry systems. It’s also speed AND depth AND breadth of communication of all types. The internet surely is the greatest advance in infrastructure since the invention of the internal combustion engine…BUT it doesn’t replace the USPS. If it could actually replace the physical mail system for business matters, then there would be few if any companies still using it! The internet doesn’t replace the mail…it complements it in the same way that air travel doesn’t replace our highway system, it complements it.

    Sometimes, Glenn, you’re so far off the mark you cause me to wonder how you survived 20+ years as a Swabbie without being the target of friendly fire.

    Why? Because I’m not afraid to say things that are not popular? It’s VERY popular to point out what our government does wrong, and I’ve done so many, many times…BUT pointing out what our system of government does right is not popular at all. That’s one of the major differences between you and me: you’re SO sure that government (and almost all those who work for it) is bad, lazy, evil (place your own descriptive HERE), whereas I see both bad AND good…and you castigate me for it!

    You might be willing to pay most of the cost of handling all that junk mail for all those “tens of thousands of businesses,” Glenn, but I’m not — I don’t even want that crap sent to me, and I damn sure don’t want to pay for the privilege!

    What would happen if the USPS shut down just so YOU could save a few tax dollars? Well, on top of a few hundred thousand people being thrown out of work, the benefit that tens of thousands of companies – from mom-and-pop shops to major international corporations – derive from the mail would go *poof*. Instead of spending first-class postage (or less) to mail bills (particularly to addresses where the residents don’t use the internet for whatever reason), they’d have to pay the basic rate for UPS or FedEx to deliver those bills…and that would bite their bottom line big time. And more people would get fired.

    And it doesn’t stop there! All the benefit those companies make from advertising through the mail (which you hate, but which enough people DO use for it to make economic sense to those who continue to use it) would go bye-bye. And more people would get fired.

    And guess what, Clav? It would hit YOUR bottom line, too! Because your clientele tend to be those with pretty nice incomes…and when their incomes get pinched, yours does too.

    Again, Clav – the internet is to the mail what the airlines are to the roads. One doesn’t – and cannot – replace the other, but complements it. It’s all infrastructure, sir…and while infrastructure rarely makes a profit in and of itself (regardless of what Kenn claim in his most recent article), such infrastructure enables business to grow and make more money.

    Oh, and one last thing about government interference in the marketplace – Tesla – you know, the electric car company that won Motor Trend and Automobile Magazine Car of the Year awards? Yes, they’re still losing money – as most companies do when they’re starting out – but I’d say this particular company (which could not have gotten where it is now without government loans) has a pretty bright future.

  • Clav

    I don’t know what “level of direction constitutionally required of the congress” you’re referring to, troll. Since the privatization in 1971, the feds have basically stepped back and watched the USPS managers and unions twist slowly in the wind, while they gradually but steadily have been digging their own grave. Remember that the USPS organizationally and and in terms of federal oversight now bears very little resemblance to the old USPO. And that was precisely the government’s intent; they couldn’t wait to divest themselves of thst financial albatross quickly enough.

    And it’s all gone even further downhill from there.

    It’s interesting to me how, in this era of not having enough money to go around (which seems to be a worldwide pandemic), everybody wants newer, bigger more expensive programs like Obamacare, but no one is willing to give anything up; not even so decrepit a has-been as the USPS.

    $16 Billion in losses last year, and they didn’t even pay the retiree health insurance prepayments they’ve been blaming for their sorry finances, they defaulted, thereby saving themselves just North of $11 Billion — and STILL they lost $16B more!!.

    The management in that organization is the sorriest I’ve ever seen, (and I spent 30 years in management in the aviation business), going all the way back to when they rolled over and presented their backsides to the unions, starting back in the fifties. Even GM had better management when Obama “rescued” it. And nobody in congress wants to touch that particular live wire; they know there are millions of whining crybabies who will come out of the woodwork to sob on TV, in the papers, and on the Mall in DC if anyone so much as lays a hand on it.

    Troll, I worked several summers there, as a vacation replacement letter carrier. My very first day, with no training or experience of any kind, I sorted a route, loaded it in the truck in delivery order; drove out, delivered the entire route and was back in the distribution center in about 4 1/2 hours. As soon as i walked in, a supervisor, lowest level of management, ran up to me and asked what the hell I was doing back. I explained I was finished, and he began to rant that I couldn’t come back in only four hours, that I was supposed to work eight hours per shift. he then told me to get the hell out of there, and told me to go to a coffee shop located a few miles away. When I got there, I saw why he had directed me to that specific place: it had a parking lot in the rear of the building, which was not visible from the street. When I pulled in, I counted five Postal trucks parked in the lot. When I went in, the five carriers were all sitting at a table together, with practically no one else in the place (it was well after lunchtime). Back in those days, the starting salary for a letter carrier was $35K a year, and all those guys were long time employees; who knows how much of our money was wasted around that table that day. After we were graduated from college, my wife took a contract with the USPS as an independent contractor letter carrier; a job she worked for quite a few years. Despite the fact that her contract called for her to use her own vehicle, whxi was remarkably unsuited for the job (it was a Ford F-150 pickemup), she, too, wa able to finish what was supposed to bbe an eight hour route in between 4 and 5 hours! it is such an unholy mess it boggles the imagination! And the USPS PR department (what the HELL does a government agency need with a PR department???), is very adept at keeping most of this crap from the public. If they hadn’t, the people would have demanded its closure long ago.

    Clavos thinks that’s a non-issue…

    You don’t have a clue what I think, Glenn; hell, you don’t even understand what the real issue is.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Sooo….Clav –

    What happened to that $16B? Did it get poured down into a dark hole somewhere? Really, now, where did it go?

  • Igor

    One of the reasons the USPS has so much trouble is because the PRC that runs it is still dominated by republicans appointed during Bush

    PRC

    The PRC is composed of five Commissioners, each of whom is appointed to a six-year term of office by the President and confirmed by the Senate, similar to many other high-level Executive Branch office holders.[8] As with postal Governors, PRC commissioners are permitted to serve for one additional “holdover” year beyond the end of their term if a replacement has not been nominated and confirmed. The President designates one Commissioner as Chairman of the Commission. The Commissioners together designate one of their number as a Vice-Chairman for a one-year term.

    The current members are: Term expires:

    Chairman Ruth Y. Goldway (D) Nov. 22, 2014

    Vice Chairman Nanci E. Langley (D) Nov. 22, 2012

    Commissioner Mark Acton (R) Oct. 14, 2016

    Commissioner Tony Hammond (R) Oct. 14, 2012

    Commissioner Robert G. Taub (R) October 14, 2016

  • Glenn Contrarian

    And Clav –

    If the USPS and the government is SO terrible – as you always maintain – why is it that the highest standards of living for populations as a whole are almost always found in socialized democracies? Why is it that first-world nations are (except for the odd OPEC nation) ALL socialized democracies?

    A simple examination of what nations are succeeding and what nations are NOT succeeding should tell you that socialized democracies are doing something RIGHT.

  • troll

    Clavos – the constitution empowers (and thus requires some would argue) Congress to build Post Offices and establish routes…can’t find much else in the convention records on the topic

    Glenn asks…again…: “why is it that the highest standards of living for populations as a whole are almost always found in socialized democracies?”

    I reply…again…because the socialized democracies have depended and can continue to depend on the (now 1.4 trillion dollar) US military complex to enforce their economic privilege

  • Clav

    troll, while the constitution may indeed require the US Post Office to build and maintain stations and routes, there are two footnotes here which would also have some bearing on the Post Office’s franchise (if its license indeed achieves that level of legal imperative) the first is that the Post Office, to whom the initial role and responsibility were originally assigned, no longer even exists; it was done away with by President Nixon and Congress in 1971, with Nixon’s signing of the Postal Reorganization Act, under which the USPO ceased to exist and the US Postal Service was born. There is, of course a certain temporal continuity inherent in this event, but one wonders what a court might rule on the change.

    The second footnote might be a measure more imperative, since to my knowledge, it was never legally challenged. I’m referring, of course to the several private services which have existed off and on throughout the USPO’s and later, the USPS’ existence, one of the most well known of which was Messrs. Waddell, Russell and Majors’ justifiably famous Pony Express.

    I wouldn’t be surprised that, if a modern court were presented with a challenge to the USPS’ hegemony, the court might find itself ruling along the lines of striking down the Service’s monopolistic franchise.

    It would then be only a matter of time (and not much time at that) before the USPS would cease to exist; for the Service has never had to deal with a formidable, able and well-heeled competitor challenging it.

  • troll

    while the context was somewhat different it’s not like the founders didn’t have concerns that the mail would turn into a boondoggle: Jefferson to Madison

  • Clav

    VERY interesting, troll. I know it’s long since descended to the level of cliché (or worse), but I have to note yet again: those guys were damn smart, weren’t they?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    troll –

    I reply…again…because the socialized democracies have depended and can continue to depend on the (now 1.4 trillion dollar) US military complex to enforce their economic privilege

    I hadn’t heard that one before – I don’t doubt that you posted it, but I haven’t seen it. But the reply is obvious, isn’t it?

    1. Exactly how can we afford to maintain such a military, that we’re able to be the mercenaries that preserve the status of the social democracies of the world? I mean, if a socialized democracy is such a bad idea (and no, you didn’t say that it was), then how could we possibly be able to field and maintain the largest and most powerful military in the history of humankind?

    2. And I would also ask if you’re implying that our military is somehow robbing other nations of their wealth, as if maintainence of the various standards of living of the world is somehow a zero-sum game…because it’s not.

    I would point you to this article I wrote a few years ago wherein I argued that from what I’ve seen, Reaganomics was a disaster for America, but a financial boon for much of the rest of the world, particularly the developing world. Before Reaganomics and the wholesale departure of much of our manufacturing sector (thanks to Clinton who bowed to the free-trade-loving conservatives), the populations of these third-world nations were largely what we would consider to be destitute. Now, however, I can take you to places I’ve been in the Philippines, in Bangkok, in Nairobi and elsewhere that are every bit as nice as Puget Sound, which is the home of Boeing, Starbucks, Microsoft, and Amazon. I make the case that while our economy continues to suffer because of Reaganomics, the poorer nations of the world are now not nearly so poor, that Reaganomics was an unintendedly altruistic economic system, a rising tide that helped to lift most boats in the world.

    So…no. I would argue that no, the standard of living of the first-world social democracies is not maintained by our military to the detriment of the rest of the world – it’s not a zero-sum game. What our military does – when we don’t have graduates of the Hulk-Must-Smash School of Diplomacy in charge of it) is to maintain the status quo so that the world’s (not just America’s or the first world’s, but the whole world’s) as a whole can continue to improve. Yes, we’ll always have the poor and the destitute, the oppressed and the effectively enslaved, and we’ll always do our best to minimize such, but as a whole, humanity has it better now than we’ve ever had – EVER!

    And we have the socialized democracies to thank for that.

  • troll

    Glenn – while I see that ‘zero sum game’ was the magic word yesterday my argument doesn’t rest on it or the rhetoric of theft…the question I address is how the SDs maintain their (relative) standard of living advantage not how they maintain their standards of living “to the detriment of the rest of the world” – a separate question

    a description of the process and the militariy’s place in it are given in The Confessions of St. John (Perkins that is)

    we seem to be in essential agreement however as you say, “What our military does…is to maintain the status quo…” – which is what I said

    it’s difficult to carry on a conversation with someone who prefers to talk to himself

  • troll

    and Glenn – I’ve been trying to decipher your #1…are you asking how a ‘bad’ system could end up controlling so much of the worlds harvested resources that it could field a huge military?

    while you say this seems an obvious response to my proposal it seems like Hegelianish nonsense to me – the tyranny of the real…what is is what is good

  • Glenn Contrarian

    troll –

    just a quick one – I’m in a hurry – but much of my point wasn’t exactly that we ARE fielding and maintaining a huge military…it’s that we can afford to do so in the first place, in addition to maintaining a high standard of living.

    You also said:

    the tyranny of the real…what is is what is good

    Would you care to point out any time in human history when humanity as a whole has been so peaceful, has had it so good? Even given the wars we started, can you point out any comparable period in the past that – relatively speaking – is as peaceful as the world has been since the end of the Cold War, even given the Rwandan genocide and the Cold War. I don’t think so.

    To say how bad everything is, is a mistake without first looking at where we are compared to where we have been. It’s sorta like climbing a mountain – one might get tired or out of breath and sees how far the summit still is and lose hope for a moment…but one should every once in a while look back and enjoy the view, just to reassure oneself just how far he’s already come. Or, to put it more simply, you can’t realize just how far you’ve come, much less where you’re going, unless you understand where you’ve been.

  • Dr Joseph S. Maresca

    We need to consume less of the world’s resources. That means living smarter with much less waste across the board.

  • troll

    Glenn – when you can point out a time that the world as a whole has faced a period of greater AED – that would be anthropomorphic environmental degradation – then I’ll start to look at your question seriously

    in large part we have the socialized democracies to thank for that as well

    your nonsense here imo is to base ethical claims on such an abstract creature as humanity as a whole – (hyperbolically) I wouldn’t be comfortable consoling the family of the latest child dead of man made starvation by pointing to how good things for humanity as a whole are any more than by pointing out that they should rejoice as the child is with god

    finally for now – the US can field it’s huge military and maintain its standard of living because its economy controls better than 20% of the world’s harvested resources backed up by its huge military

  • Glenn Contrarian

    troll –

    1. I wasn’t aware that you demanded a utopian outlook. No matter what you do, no matter how good you make this world, you will not solve all the world’s ills – therefore, the key isn’t to solve all the world’s ills, but to continually strive towards making things better for as many people as possible. I would have thought that you of all people understood this.

    I assume you’re familiar with Deming management. One of his major premises (as I understand it) was that to demand perfection was folly, that one should instead strive for constant improvement.

    So it goes with humanity – you’re never, ever going to get perfection. You are always going to have children starving to death, husbands beating and killing their wives, and terrorists (of whatever stripe) planning the next iteration of Guy Fawkes’ Gunpowder Plot. But the simple fact that we’ll never reach perfection is no reason not to try as best we can to improve the lot of as many as we can – I really don’t see how you could argue that we’re on the wrong track in that sense.

    2. You referred to AED. The only truly major threat we face (other than a general thermonuclear exchange which is less likely now than at any time since the mid-1950’s) is AGW. Are you really going to blame the social democracies for this? If so, then what you’re really blaming is humanity itself, for humanity has a drive for progress that we as a whole cannot deny regardless of political, social, or economic structure. C’mon, troll, you know this!

    Furthermore, historically speaking, the only – repeat, ONLY – way to slow down population growth (which as you know is the real root of the AED problem) is by bringing progress to as many people as possible. Have you ever been to a poor third-world nation? AED in such places is far worse than here…but NOT because of the progress of first-world nations, but because of the poverty. You see, when people are just getting by on $2US or less per day, they could care less about protecting their environment. Things as basic to you and me as encouraging each other not to litter is nonsensical to them…and their population growth rate is much higher than our own, which results in more crowding, more poverty, and more AED. The only hope lay not in less progress, but in more, for that is the only way that we can slow down our population growth short of a major pandemic like the 1918 H1N1 outbreak (which was the last time in human history that the world’s population actually shrank from one year to the next).

    Things are going to get much worse before they can get better, but this is due not to socialized democracy, but to overpopulation of humanity. Our only real hope of improving our situation lay in green tech – and I think you’d agree that the social democracies are much more likely to adapt green tech than are other nations.

  • troll

    I do not accept your mythology

  • troll

    Glenn – I started off on a response here but realized after rereading your #1 that you once again aren’t talking to me as I hadn’t proposed anything dependent on an idea of human perfection

  • troll

    re your # 2 – of course the socialized democracies are (in large part as I implied above AGW being a subset of AED) responsible for AGW…consuming resources is a scatological business

    also I note that you failed to deal with the idea of the ‘world as a whole’ in your response but rather jumped to local differences further distorting the intent of my comment and missing the point of my position

  • Clav

    Welcome to The World According to Glenn, troll (with a tip o’ the hat and thanx to John Irving).

  • troll

    green tech?

    blah blah…we’re beyond that already – full steam ahead to nanotech based on nuclear energy all the way baby and if that leads to the extinction…transformation I mean…of humans as we know them – well we can learn to surf

  • troll

    The question was raised on another thread: are zero-sum winner take all games possible?

    while winner takes all outcomes are not unusual in nature you’ll find zero-sum games occurring primarily as formalizations and in conversations with Glenn

  • http://www.rosedigitalmarketing.com Christopher Rose

    No, they are not, troll!

    as to the whole nano/life extension thing, if that doesn’t work out I might just take the advice of one of my all time favourite artists and try to grow fins and go back in the water again!

  • Dr Dreadful

    troll @ #151: anthropogenic

  • Doug Hunter+

    Better for mankind to flame out than fade away… leave that long term passive outlook shit to the trees… no one will mourn their passing as they burn away when the sun goes all red giant on our asses. Smoke em while we got em, shoot for the stars, and fuck it. I’ll tell you what’s scatalogical… food stamps, more food production is more shit production. I only get a few years on this rock, I can’t busy myself with the 200,000 people or so of 7 billion that die every day… every one of us is going to end up there one way or another… only way to prevent death is to prevent life. I don’t give a shit about that, I just want to live in my own Gene Roddenberry novel, like, well , today…. that or be kept alive in a jar by nanobots!

  • Igor

    @158-troll: maybe people should actually read von Neuman and Morgensterns “Theory of games and economic behaviour” before blithering in public about ‘zero-sum games’ and such, this exposing their ignorance to public view.

  • Doug Hunter+

    On second thought, I’ll switch to Issac Asimov, Gene’s ideas played out mostly on the screen.

  • troll

    thanks Dreadful

    Chris – yes they are

    Igor – I agree…

    Doug – I agree with you as well – human suffering be damned I’m going to watch the trees grow

  • Doug Hunter+

    Damn trees. They drop babies out everywhere worse than the Duggar lady then choke them half of them out with their shade. I took my chainsaw out last weekend and killed and chopped up some of their offspring right in front of the elders and not so much as a dead limb dropped in my general direction. That’s what unchecked pacifism leads to… bitches. Their real mistake was changing the environment, belching out that nasty pollutant oxygen. Look how that worked out for them… ouch, BURN, literally… bet they didn’t see that shit coming.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Doug, have you been drinking with zingzing?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    troll –

    Glenn – I started off on a response here but realized after rereading your #1 that you once again aren’t talking to me as I hadn’t proposed anything dependent on an idea of human perfection

    Really? Look again at what you said:

    your nonsense here imo is to base ethical claims on such an abstract creature as humanity as a whole – (hyperbolically) I wouldn’t be comfortable consoling the family of the latest child dead of man made starvation by pointing to how good things for humanity as a whole are any more than by pointing out that they should rejoice as the child is with god

    The way I read that is in your view, if one child dies of starvation, then there’s something wrong with the system as a whole. While that is not what you strictly said (and Clavos beats me up on a regular basis for reading too much into what people say), but am I wrong that such is your view?

  • troll

    …Glenn – while I would argue that from a certain perspective ‘to destroy one is to destroy the universe entire’ you’ll need to explain what that has to do with human perfection…personally I’d be happier with a system that destroys people by stupid accident rather than by so called rational choice

    and the way I read your last you seem to be saying that a system that produces the starvation of a child is ok – in fact it is to be exalted – humans being what they are and all – as the best we can do

  • Glenn Contrarian

    troll –

    I would argue that from a certain perspective ‘to destroy one is to destroy the universe entire’

    I think I heard once that’s a Jewish saying…and I don’t wholly disagree.

    you seem to be saying that a system that produces the starvation of a child is ok – in fact it is to be exalted – humans being what they are and all – as the best we can do

    Of course the starvation of a child is never okay – never! But we were discussing socialized democracies, right? Can you tell me of a system that is more effective than a socialized democracy at preserving the lives of children and giving its population a long life expectancy, all the while providing the most modern lifestyle on the planet? Can you describe to me a sociopolitical system wherein no child ever starves to death and no one is ever locked in poverty, where the people are among the longest-lived on the planet and all live comfortable lives? Probably not – which is why I pointed out what I thought was a bit of a utopian viewpoint on your part.

    That’s why I keep pointing out that since we can’t reach perfection – we are human, after all – we should still try to do our level best. So until that day that someone comes up with a better idea, a sociopolitical system wherein no child ever starves to death, etc., we should stick with the one that currently does the most good for the most people.

    While America is a socialized democracy, I feel that ours is becoming a perversion of what a socialized democracy can be, as evinced by our “God loves guns” and “send ‘em all to prison” culture. I would point instead to several of the nations of the British Commonwealth. They aren’t perfect, but they’re far better examples of what we could be if we Americans had just a smidgen more common sense.

    And one more thing – unlike most other forms of government, socialized democracies are designed to be able to adapt and evolve. That’s important.

    So if you’ve got a better idea, one that would be more effective in minimizing (or better yet, preventing altogether) children starving to death, one that would do better for its people than the best socialized democracies of today while preserving our freedoms of speech and choice, and while protecting our civil rights and opportunity to strive for a better life, let’s hear it!

  • Doug Hunter+

    “I would argue that from a certain perspective ‘to destroy one is to destroy the universe entire'”

    Disagree 100%. If we’ve learned nothing else, it’s that life cannot be separated from death and that has always been brought down in large measure on the weak and vulnerable. Nature is a cruel, cruel mistress we can wall her off and hide for awhile but we cannot escape (nanobot life preserving jars excepted).

    Feeling responsibility for everyone leads easily down the path to seeking power and control over everyone as well. I don’t have a right to control others so I can in no way hold myself responsible for their actions. I’ve never starved a child, murdered a man, or raped a woman so my conscience is clear. To me that is the way: control yourself, be responsible for your own actions, take care of any offspring you choose to bring in this world until they can care for themselves, expect that everyone else will do the same, but don’t beat yourself up when they don’t. Them’s the basics, everything else (advocating, donating, volunteering) is just icing. Simple, effective, and you can sleep at night.

  • troll

    Glenn – you say So until that day that someone comes up with a better idea, a sociopolitical system wherein no child ever starves to death, etc., we should stick with the one that currently does the most good for the most people.

    so who’s going to be coming up with the better way if everyone is busy sticking with the current admittedly ever so flawed one?

    Doug – the perspective which I refer to is mine in trying to image what becomes of a person’s ideas about and perceptions of the universe at death…it’s not so much an ethical stance as you interpreted it

    I agree with you that it all turns on personal responsibility

    and while trying to decide whether to respond further to Glenn’s stuff I should try to come to more of an agreement with Chris’ “No, they are not…” – he usually means what he says and says what he means so this should be relatively straight forward

    now he might mean that zero-sum games aren’t found in conversations with Glenn and on this point he’s probably correct as these ‘debates’ look more and more like negative-sum games

    or he might mean that zero-sum games aren’t formalizations…but as game theory is itself a formalization of subjective utility theory I don’t think so

    or he might mean that winner takes all outcomes are not not unusual in nature – and I’m sure that he has thought at a level of analysis at which this can be true…but in my book when the spider catches the fly consumes its yummies and uses its shell to lay her eggs in tat seems pretty winner take all

  • Doug Hunter+

    #171

    But for it to be truly zero sum, the spider would need to be on death’s door needing the fly as bad as the fly needed it’s own life… it could be just an extra dessert to go with it’s meal. The fly gave it’s all and the spider got indigestion… not zero sum.

  • troll

    ‘winner take all’ Doug not zero-sum…as I said – zero-sum is a formalization based on human awareness of subjective utility

  • Glenn Contrarian

    troll –

    so who’s going to be coming up with the better way if everyone is busy sticking with the current admittedly ever so flawed one?

    Nobody’s stopping you from coming up with a better way. All that is required – as with any other major sociopolitical change – is for you (or whoever it is that comes up with that better way) to be able to sell it. Remember, it’s not what you sell – it’s how you sell it (are you old enough to remember Pet Rocks?).

    And you’d be surprised to see how many people would be willing to listen to you – including myself – if you present that better way. BUT simply saying what’s wrong with the current system ain’t good enough – you’ve also got to come up with a way to fix the problem.

    Some here think that griping about a problem is all that’s really necessary, that they shouldn’t be expected to even try to come up with a solution of their own. I don’t think that’s right. How about about you?

  • troll

    thanks for the advice Glenn…don’t dream it be it I say

    and can I assume that the question of how come the living standards in socialized democracies are as high as the are is resolved to your satisfaction?

  • troll

    (…….just realized that a fourth possibility is that Chris agrees with me on winner takes all outcomes – palm to forehead)

  • Cindy

    Ah, so we finally discover the REAL problem with the world is merely that troll is a poor salesman. Now that we have figured that out, only one more thing to do before the world can change.

    (Takes aim at the parrot perched on troll’s shoulder who keeps squawking that things are dandy just the way they are.)

  • Glenn Contrarian

    troll –

    and can I assume that the question of how come the living standards in socialized democracies are as high as the are is resolved to your satisfaction?

    I take it you’re going to work on your ‘better way’ and present it? I learned a long time ago not to underestimate you, so I’d like to see what you come up with. You never know where it might lead….

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cindy –

    No, it’s not that he’s a poor salesman – it’s that he needs a product (a workable sociopolitical model that is hopefully better than the one that is presently working best (socialized democracies)), and then the hard part – the salesmanship – begins.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    And as for myself, I suck at salesmanship – I can’t sell water to a man dying of thirst. I’m the classic “those who can’t do, teach”.

  • Cindy

    Here is a product for you, Glenn.

    If you want the world to be a place where not children die of hunger, then you will have to stop settling for this world and expect something else.

    That is the only way anything changes.

  • Cindy

    “not children” should be “no children”

    (The world is what all of us make it each day. It can only change if we change what we think and do, tolerate and expect.)

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cindy –

    Problem is, we have to deal with people who think differently from us, and we must also protect their right to think differently from us…even though they often believe that you and I have no right to think differently from them.

  • Cindy

    Glenn,

    I am not sure how I connect that with the previous discussion. Can you tell me how you mean that?

    For example, I can have an attitude which does not tolerate a single child starving and which does not apologize for a system in which most children do not starve by defending it (instead of criticizing it).

    Now, what does what anyone else think have to do with me choosing that for myself?

  • Cindy

    think(s)

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cindy –

    Almost everyone is horrified at the thought of letting a child starve to death – but the divisiveness comes when they start discussing how best to prevent that child from starving to death, hence the different societal approaches by liberals, conservatives, and libertarians – I can imagine what a particular Idaho senator would say who just submitted a bill to make Ayn Rand required reading in order to graduate high school…but don’t we also try to impose our way of thinking on conservatives and libertarians as well? They’re more aggressive to be sure, but the case can be made that we’ve been more successful in pushing our views on others.

    Don’t get me wrong – almost any solution you yourself would offer would likely be better than anything offered by the conservatives and libertarians, and I’d be with you on it. But we can’t expect them to think the same way we do.

  • Doug Hunter+

    “Don’t get me wrong – almost any solution you yourself would offer would likely be better than anything offered by the conservatives and libertarians,”

    Wrong. Capitalism and industry are the only things proven to relieve humanity from the oppressive burden of subsistence living. Yesterday’s “sweatshop” nations are today’s economic powers and the same transformation will happen tomorrow if the do gooder bleeding heart idiots don’t manage to get in the way (they haven’t been effective on a global scale so far). The liberal “solutions” include taking away their job at the factory, raising costs artificially where no one will open a factory there in the first place (if you’re going to pay high wages, might as well operate in a more developed location and get better workers), and sending in pallets of rice and condoms (the condoms are evidently thrown away and the rice just provides more fuel for procreation, best send 2 pallets next time). Golf clap. Seriously.

    As far as your e-sympathy competition for your imaginary starved child. Thank god there are people out there willing to come online and congratulate themselves for how fucking superior their compassion is, how much more they care than the next person. Here’s my entry: I flagellate myself daily and cry myself to sleep for every single one of the 200,000 people that died during that 24 hour period. Get real. If you truly cared that much you’d get off a stupid message board and do something, get a part time job and send money to the moronic families that keep having children they can’t feed or something. As is, it’s sounds like your more interested in flaunting your “compassion” around for the world to see.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Capitalism and industry are the only things proven to relieve humanity from the oppressive burden of subsistence living.

    Since capitalism, for many, simply replaces one form of oppression with another, this does raise the question of whether it has all been worth it.

    And depending on how you define it, subsistence living does not necessarily have to be oppressive. Societies like the !Kung of southern Africa and the Sentinelese of the Andaman Islands certainly don’t seem to see it that way.

  • Clav

    And depending on how you define it, subsistence living does not necessarily have to be oppressive. Societies like the !Kung of southern Africa and the Sentinelese of the Andaman Islands certainly don’t seem to see it that way.

    No doubt. But, for those of us used to a more “modern” lifestyle, theirs offers little or no attraction (except perhaps to a relatively few purists).

  • Doug Hunter+

    #188

    As it’s designated representative, I’d like to personally apologize to you that capitalism has not, in the span of a couple hundred years cured every human ailment, fed every mouth, and wiped every tear. The !Kung and their kind had tens of thousands of years. How many diseases have they cured? How many people other than a handful of themselves have they saved from starvation? Thanks to modern technology there are about 7 billion of us living happily along, by comparison hunter gatherer society was so violent and harsh that the carrying capacity of the planet was just a few tens of millions… not my definition of success. (Of course, the !kung are more peaceful else they would have been wiped out long ago. Among those societies you had the choice to either fight for your space and resources or move to an inhospitable area no one else wanted. The !kung are an example of the latter) I’m not going to set here and play the childlike game of putting the ‘noble savages’ on a pedestal as something to worship, they are a part of history, a step between animals and modern humans. They live more in tune with nature… so do monkeys, doesn’t mean I want to be one.

  • Doug Hunter+

    #188

    As to the oppression point, I don’t believe in slavery. If capitalism is oppression it should be the oppression you choose (and generally is). While polite company finds working conditions generally unsanitary and horrible when factories first enter an area, the reason people take the situation is because it was better than the shithole of a life they have before that… better to work for a few shillings for food than starve under a cardboard box. It’s not pretty but it’s part of the process. Next the factories need steady power and water so they contribute to the infrastucture and they create a need for literate workers which causes schools to spring up then the other dirty greedy capitalists move in to rape some profits from the locals but they have to raise wages a few pennies to draw new workers in and on and on until the schools are good and the workers aren’t sewing widgets they’re stamping widgets and making electronic widgets and wages are high… now that the parents are making enough to support their family in a reasonable workweek without the kids help the liberal steps in and ‘organizes’ them and declares the kids eligible for education and cements the workweek and pat themselves on the back for all the fantistic work they did. Meanwhile the first greedy capitalist is back on his way to the next god forsaken corner of the planet in search of lower wages and the cycle begins again.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doug –

    Capitalism has done much to help the world – that much is without question. But a capitalist system that is not used to contribute to a social safety net hardly helps at all. There are many third-world nations that operate with a capitalist economy – I own a house in one, remember – but have little if any social protection for the poor, sick, disabled, disadvantaged, etc. And you know what? They’re still third-world nations.

    The non-OPEC first-world nations, however, ALL have strong social safety nets. And remember, a key component of all these first-world social safety nets is educational assistance.

    Sooo…why are all the most successful non-OPEC nations those with strong social safety nets? Could it be that – gasp! – a strong social safety net does not detract, but rather contributes to the economic health of a nation? Probably, but only to a point – as in all else, moderation is the key.

    Oh, and one more thing – you said:

    If you truly cared that much you’d get off a stupid message board and do something, get a part time job and send money to the moronic families that keep having children they can’t feed or something.

    FYI, every year we send money to help distant family members and acquaintances to go to school and finish college. Sure, we send extra money two or three times a year, but it’s the college money that’s making the difference. We’ve helped put several in the Philippines through college – and then we remind them to pay it forward to help their own families. And then there’s the medically-fragile Foster children we’ve been raising since 1999.

    Some of us take our compassion seriously, Doug – so don’t go assuming that we don’t walk the walk. We’ve been doing that for many years now. Just because someone doesn’t hold the same sociopolitical beliefs as you doesn’t mean that that someone doesn’t strive to do their part to make this a better world for others, not out of greed, but because it’s the right thing to do. You’d find the same thing in people in every nation in the world, among the Muslims and the animists and the atheists, among the capitalists and the communists and in the dictatorships, and even among some of the mainstream ‘Christians’.

    Remember that next time before you start assuming that the compassion of others is somehow false.

  • Doug Hunter

    Rich nations have nice safety nets for the same reason rich people have yachts… because they can. Doesn’t mean my advice for poor people is going to be ‘dont worry about work, just go out and buy a yacht’.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/IanMayfield Dr Dreadful

    Doug, I’m neither putting the !Kung on a pedestal nor denying that capitalism has made many, many wonderful things possible.

    (As well as a number of not so very wonderful things, not least of which may be the demise of this planet as a comfortably habitable location for H. sapiens and numerous other species.)

    I’m just challenging your assertion that “capitalism and industry are the only things proven to relieve humanity from the oppressive burden of subsistence living”. [my emphases]

    Curing of diseases and removal from starvation wasn’t part of that assertion, and the effort of reading your demand for the !Kung to have demonstrated such achievements in order to be considered in the same light as capitalism has me swearing blind that, out of the corner of my eye, I can see those goalposts moving.

    And I do hope that the last two sentences of your #190 were Doug being deliberately provocative, because if not, they display a staggering degree of ignorance.

  • Doug Hunter+

    #194

    Good points. I was tying your statement together with the idea that if one person somewhere halfway around the world starves our entire system is a failure… an idea that was expressed somewhere else by someone else. Yes, it’s sort of an absurd goalpost to set which is why I turned it around on the hunter gatherer cultures you named.

    The last two sentences did indeed tread some serious social landmines, but the essence is my true feeling. It’s something I expressed before. I’d rather shoot for the stars and flame out (perhaps leaving a planet unfit for habitation) than go in reverse and live one with nature like the animals. This planet will die one day regardless of how good stewards of the land we are. I’m not suggesting we try and destroy it but let’s go forward and leave no technology unturned (the doomsayers do have a long history of underestimating the rate of technological change and being utterly and completely wrong, doesn’t mean that’ll hold forever but it does make me skeptical of their case).

  • Cindy

    capitalism, for many, simply replaces one form of oppression with another

    Nicely said. It would have (and has) taken me pages to try to express that.

    this does raise the question of whether it has all been worth it

    So hard for those of us who are privileged by it to put ourselves in the shoes of those many more who have been oppressed by it.

    Thanks for ‘consisifying’ these ideas, Dr.D.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/IanMayfield Dr Dreadful

    Thanks Cindy. It’s some of that thinking outside the box that Roger is always so insistent that I don’t do… :-)

    It can be instructive to think of capitalism as just one of many possible economic systems. Doing so opens up some useful perspectives, especially when it’s all one has ever known.

  • Dr Joseph S. Maresca

    We need to tax junk food more rigorously to raise revenue and improve health and wellness. This act alone would strengthen Obamacare or whatever program either takes its place or evolves out of it in 2014. In addition, wellness emphasis would strengthen Medicaid too. Once patient queues are cut into a fraction of what they are today, health care costs will go down.

    This is best done by a health and wellness emphasis in the healthcare delivery system
    coupled with an excess consumption tax.

  • roger nowosielski

    @197

    Well, I’m going to eat my hat then.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    I strongly agree with #198!

  • Cindy

    Pours Roger a nice Chianti to go with his hat. (cheers)

    :-)

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/IanMayfield Dr Dreadful

    [ponders approaching Roger for his business acumen in aiding with the startup of a novelty edible hat business]

  • Clav

    I strongly agree with #198!

    Why am I not surprised?

  • Clav

    We need to tax junk food more rigorously to raise revenue and improve health and wellness.

    You’re assuming that taxing it heavily will cut down consumption. That hasn’t happened with cigarettes; smokers now pay as much as $5 a pack for their cancer.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clav –

    You’re assuming that taxing it heavily will cut down consumption. That hasn’t happened with cigarettes; smokers now pay as much as $5 a pack for their cancer.

    Are you sure that hasn’t happened with cigarettes? The statistical story shows something else entirely.

  • Clavitos

    Are you sure that hasn’t happened with cigarettes? The statistical story shows something else entirely.

    No, it doesn’t. It shows one in five Americans still smoke, it was nearly at that level as much as twenty years ago, long before they started jacking up the prices. Here’s a report by the CDC for 1990, which says in part: In 1990, an estimated 89.9 million (50.1%) U.S. adults were ever smokers, and 45.8 million (25.5%) were current smokers. (Emphasis added — note that the total was down to 25.5% by 1990 and is only down to 20% now). This source, which is quoting CDC statistics, shows that even all the way back to 1980, only 33.2% of all American adults were still smoking. The decrease in cigarette smoking started long before the taxes were boosted. It decreased rather rapidly to the 20-25% of all adults level, and hasn’t changed significantly in more than 20 years. I know, I smoked until the early 1990s, when it began to be prohibited in bars and restaurants (which was still before the price hikes). When I quit we were down to 20-25% of the population, as my link shows, and it hasn’t gone down significantly since, as your link shows (and says — “About one in five American adults now smoke.” That’s 20%, where it’s been for years and years. Another interesting point: your link doesn’t even mention price as a deterrent — because it isn’t.

  • Clav

    Are you sure that hasn’t happened with cigarettes? The statistical story shows something else entirely.

    No, it doesn’t. It shows one in five Americans still smoke, it was nearly at that level as much as twenty years ago, long before they started jacking up the prices. Here’s a report by the CDC for 1990, which says in part: In 1990, an estimated 89.9 million (50.1%) U.S. adults were ever smokers, and 45.8 million (25.5%) were current smokers. (Emphasis added — note that the total was down to 25.5% by 1990 and is only down to 20% now). This source, which is quoting CDC statistics, shows that even all the way back to 1980, only 33.2% of all American adults were still smoking. The decrease in cigarette smoking started long before the taxes were boosted. It decreased rather rapidly to the 20-25% of all adults level, and hasn’t changed significantly in more than 20 years. I know, I smoked until the early 1990s, when it began to be prohibited in bars and restaurants (which was still before the price hikes). When I quit we were down to 20-25% of the population, as my link shows, and it hasn’t gone down significantly since, as your link shows (and says — “About one in five American adults now smoke.” That’s 20%, where it’s been for years and years. Another interesting point: your link doesn’t even mention price as a deterrent — because it isn’t.

  • Clavos

    Here’s another interesting datum. CDC figures again:

    When U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry issued a landmark report on health hazards of smoking in 1964, 42% of U.S. adults were smokers. His revelations triggered a long but gradual decline. (emphasis added)

  • Clavos

    So, in nearly 50 years,we have managed to reduce the total number of smokers by only 50%.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    So, in nearly 50 years,we have managed to reduce the total number of smokers by only 50%.

    And you can’t see what a sea change that is when it comes to the use of something that is more addictive than cocaine.

    Clav, the high taxes were for two reasons – one, to discourage the use of cigarettes, and two, to help pay the taxpayers back for the societal costs of cigarettes…and I really don’t think that you’re going to say that our generations-long love affair with cigarettes didn’t carry a terrible price. On the one hand, we couldn’t make them illegal – we all know how Prohibition worked out – but at the same time, we had to do something about that which was costing us over a half million lives each and every damned year.

    So what do you think we should have done? Nothing? Got any better ideas?

    And FYI, when it comes to your crack about “ONLY 50%” (caps mine), most smokers try multiple times to quit, and many are simply unable to do so – the physical addiction is too strong. I know – I watched my mother try to quit many times, but she simply couldn’t do it. Same thing for my uncle. And they were both quite strong-willed, each in their own way, but the physical addiction was simply too strong. “ONLY 50%” – what a tragic effing joke!

    Here’s a very interesting study on the effects of cigarette taxes in China. The math is a bit dense, but here’s the most pertinent part:

    Given the estimated price elasticities (-0.54), by introducing an additional 10% increase in cigarette tax per pack (from the current 40% to 50% tax rate), the central government tax revenue would twice exceed total losses in industry revenue, tobacco farmers’ income, and local tax revenue. In addition, between 1.44 and 2.16 million lives would be saved by this tax increase.

    But who cares about defraying the costs to the government that smoking brings, who cares about saving millions of lives, huh? That’s all just stuff and nonsense when compared to saving the people from the oh-so-onerous burden of higher taxes on cigarettes, huh?

    When something costs too much, there will still be many that buy it…but many will also buy less of it, and some will buy none at all. You know what our national addiction to junk food is costing us, and if you’ll think about it, you realize what it’s costing YOU. It’s already costing you taxpayer dollars through our social safety net – Medicare, Medicaid – so what’s wrong with having people defray what we’re costing you by paying a bit more in taxes in order to repay the taxpayers? And some will learn that yes, they can actually cook at home! We can’t have the taxes too high, because that would hurt businesses, but even a 5% tax would make a huge difference.

    What’s wrong with that? Nothing…except that it has that “t-word” – taxes – that you hate so much.

  • Doug Hunter+

    #209

    Nothing is incorrect about what you said. Through the healthcare (that I didn’t ask for or sign up with btw, this being the primary reason) every choice you make does cost the government. Smoking costs the government. Junk food costs the government. Eating meat costs the government. Sitting in front of computers and televisions costs the government. The government essentially takes ownership of your body and anything that happens to it is their business. There literally is no end to the things that government can (and likely will) seek to control about your life. Some people enjoy being the house negro, I’m the grumpy old field slave that doesn’t mistake the master’s calling out the doc for anything other than protecting his investment… gotta get him back out in the field harvesting those taxes.

  • Doug Hunter+

    Sometimes I wish the social contract was an actual piece of paper you had the option to sign at age 18 with clauses you could sign in or out of. I’d gladly give up all of ‘safety net’ for those taxes back and to get out of all the nanny regulations. Unfortunately, the idea is unworkable as most of the net contributors would opt out of most clauses with most of the poor opting in starving the welfare programs… but the concept would be nice.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doug –

    Remember, nothing is certain but death and taxes, and you have to play the hand you’re dealt. You might want to tell the world “Stop! I want to get off!” But the world will keep turning.

    You say you’d gladly give up on those ‘safety net’ programs, but I’ve seen many an older person who doesn’t have what they thought they’d have when they were younger. The elderly lady we care for 24/7 – she has dementia – pays us $3250/month for the professional care we provide…and let me tell you, most places charge more than that for what we do. Her funds are finite – a few years down the road, assuming she’s still around, she will no longer be able to afford what we do. At that point, Medicare will pay $2200/month…but we won’t be able to provide her care for that, so she’ll have to go to a different – and likely less capable – care facility, probably a nursing home…and the thought of growing old in one of those places gives me the shivers. BUT she will not be on the street.

    But the point is, Doug, if she – like you suggested you’d like to do – “opted out” of the social safety net when she was younger, once her funds ran out, what would happen to her then? We couldn’t take care of her for free, and her family is unable to care for someone with dementia.

    You see, it’s easy when you’re not faced with hard choices like this to say, “Oh, I wish the government didn’t take my taxes, because I can care for my money far better than the government can!” But if people took that choice, many, many of them would wind up on the street when they are elderly and unable to care for themselves, much less earn money for food and shelter.

    Hard choices, Doug. Something to think about….

  • Clavitos

    So what do you think we should have done? Nothing?

    For most of the time that those numbers were going down, other than the Surgeon General’s periodic reports. nothing is exactly what was done. The taxes didn’t begin to be raised for years after that first SG report in 1964.

    What’s wrong with that? Nothing…except that it has that “t-word” – taxes – that you hate so much.

    Sometimes you get so far off the point you amaze me (and, judging from the number of comments to that effect, I’m not the only one who is astonished at your lack of perception). If the elevated taxes have worked so well, why are the cigarettes still only $5 a pack? Why aren’t they $500 a pack, or $5,000? At only $5, more than one out of two who ever smoked STILL ARE, which, given the increase in population since 1964 means that actually we’ve reduced the number of smokers relative to the total population less than 50%.

    The first Surgeon general’s report appeared in 1964. According to this report from the National Cancer Institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health, the numbers of people smoking actually rose for several years after the SG’s 1964 report. The first boost in the Federal Excise Tax on cigarettes did not occur until 1983, and even then was only $0.08 per pack, yet the number of smokers had declined by nearly one out of four smokers by the time the tax was imposed, from 42% (of total population) in 1965 to 33% in 1980. So much for the effect of raising taxes.

    One more thing, Glenn. I don’t object to the cigarette tax being raised, useless as that apparently is. As a nonsmoker, I don’t pay the cigarette tax. What I object to is all the nannys in the ranks of you liberals who want to force me to toe their line, not just in the consumption of cigarettes, but in practically every aspect of my lifestyle with which you disagree, but which are none of your damn business. it is this tendency toward interference in citizens’ personal lives that I despise.

  • Clav

    Doc, every single one of my last four comments has run afoul of the spam trap; if I hadn’t figured out a hack, I’d be very unhappy.

    Can anything be done?

  • Clav

    The elderly lady we care for 24/7 – she has dementia – pays us $3250/month for the professional care we provide…and let me tell you, most places charge more than that for what we do.

    Aaaahhh. You have a vested interest in state nannyism!

  • http://www.rosedigitalmarketing.com Christopher Rose

    Clavos, I made it three, not four, but I’ve got them out of the trap and deleted the dupes.

    Don’t know why but it seems to be the length, not the content that triggers it in some weird random way. I’ve had several of my own rejected recently too.

  • Clav

    Thanks, Chris. Mine do tend to be long…

  • Doug Hunter

    #213

    True. I really comes down to preference and values we’re born with. I live in a low government town in a low government state. I’ve chosen to forgo unions and homeowners associations as well as employee protections like unemployment an minimum wage by being first self employed then a business owner. I’ve bought my own health insurance and saved for my own retirement, I practice what I preach to the extent possible and vote for those that I believe will offer the least interference in my life. I ask nothing of you or society as a whole but to be left alone, unfortunately that’s not good enough as you need people like me for your ideas to work… In essence I’m a slave.

  • Doug Hunter

    Luckily it’s only a part time gig… What is te government now 50% of the economy or so?

  • Igor

    Most of Big Government enforces corporate rule over citizens.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clav –

    Aaaahhh. You have a vested interest in state nannyism!

    No, Clavos, read what I wrote a little more closely. We only take private-pay residents – Medicare/Medicaid doesn’t pay enough for the services we provide. My point was, when her money runs out – and it will – if it weren’t for the social safety net, where would she go? Her family can’t care for her, so then what?

    Got any real, workable answers for the dilemma she’d face if it weren’t for our social safety net?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doug –

    I ask nothing of you or society as a whole but to be left alone, unfortunately that’s not good enough as you need people like me for your ideas to work… In essence I’m a slave.

    I don’t think you got my point – when we’re young (if only relatively so), we’re SO sure that we’ll make it, that we’re setting aside enough for our golden years, and that (hopefully) our family will take care of us when we can’t take care of ourselves.

    But all too often it doesn’t work out that way. Sometimes we spend all our money foolishly, or – more often – we use our money to get our kids out of a tight spot. And then when we’re old, we find that we’re too much of a burden for our progeny to take care of us, and that if it weren’t for our social safety net, we’d be out on the street.

    This goes for low-government states as well as big-government states, Doug. In fact, some of the reddest states in the nation are also the ones with the highest rates of food stamp recipients…and the list of states with the highest rates of people without health insurance isn’t much better. And then there’s the fact that the top ten states that receive more tax dollars than they pay out (in other words, the top ten states that are tax burdens on other states) are ALL quite red. It’s sad that the same people who gripe the most about “big guv’mint” are the same ones who are from states that are the biggest tax burdens on the other states.

    In other words, you can tell me all day long about living in a “low government” town and state…but the hard data show that most red states depend MORE on government largesse than do blue states. You say that we need people like you for our ideas to work…but the hard data show that the red states NEED the tax revenue from the blue states in order to keep functioning. Rhetoric is one thing – hard data’s something else altogether.

  • Doug Hunter-

    #223

    1. My state pays more than we get back, so that point is wasted.

    2. The democrat base is poor people and inexperienced youths: you win big in 18-29 year olds, people making under 30,000, and racial minorities… golf clap. Some kids who’ve never had a real job or a family, Walmart checkout clerks, and Jesse Jackson… that’s the coalition I want making important decisions in my life. exit polling data.

  • Doug Hunter-

    Here’s exit polling data for 2012. Despite the utter trouncing, the only income groups Obama won were the under $30K and $30-50K. Again, those are groups that are highly likely to qualify for food stamps and other government benefits. Among people that actually contributed to the economy as indicated by their compensation, none of those groups voted for more of Obama.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doug –

    1. My state pays more than we get back, so that point is wasted.

    No, it’s not – my point showed that for the most part, the ‘big government states’ are having to support the ‘low government states’…and that in and of itself should make you question why yours is an exception. That is, unless you live in a blue state already.

    The democrat base is poor people and inexperienced youths: you win big in 18-29 year olds, people making under 30,000, and racial minorities… golf clap. Some kids who’ve never had a real job or a family, Walmart checkout clerks, and Jesse Jackson

    THAT WAS THE 2010 MIDTERM ELECTION EXIT POLLS, YOU NIT! I knew something was wrong when I saw that it said the independents voted Republican 56% to 37% Democratic! You know very well that our turnout sucked in 2010…but in 2012 the story was quite different!. Obama won the 18-44 vote, split the independent vote almost exactly, and won the ‘some college’ vote, won the ‘post-graduate’ vote, and got 49% of the ‘college grad’ vote…and THEN look who voted most strongly for Romney – the red states that have the worst levels of education. Okay? Two can play this game!

    Now, let’s look again at what you said:

    The democrat base is poor people and inexperienced youths: you win big in 18-29 year olds, people making under 30,000, and racial minorities

    So, what you’re actually saying (using the 2010 exit polls as your ‘proof’) is that the Republican base is rich older white people – and is that somehow a good thing? Y’know, Doug, this nation is changing – by 2030 whites will no longer comprise a majority of this nation. Remember, this is supposed to be government of the people, for the people, BY the people…and if most of the people are minorities, then what the hell’s wrong with that? NOTHING.

  • Clav

    if most of the people are minorities

    By mid century, WASPs will be a minority, but I’ll be willing to bet they won’t be courted by the government, like the minorities of color are.

  • Clav

    Naiveté and lack of sophistication seem to be the hallmarks of Democrat minority voters.

  • Doug Hunter-

    #226

    Earning over $50,000 does not make one rich by my accounting. Unless minorities can close the achievement gap in education, income, poverty, single parenthood, employment, and criminality then no I wouldn’t necessarily see that as positive for this country. Although there are some bright spots in particular areas, those problems have proven very difficult to address (even in the bluest areas of the bluest states minorities are disproportionately poor, uneducated, and in prison). Perhaps a majority minority government can provide some better answers after 2030. Good luck, I’ll be waiting for the bill.

  • Dr Joseph S Maresca

    Essentially, the achievement gap is closed through a college education with courses targeted to acquiring specific job required skills or a skilled trade acquired from having a meaningful apprenticeship and education in the skill which perttains to the specific job category.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    Naiveté and lack of sophistication seem to be the hallmarks of Democrat minority voters.

    I can’t believe you wrote that. I’ve told you several times I hold you in high regard, but posts like that are beneath you.

    There is one ethnic group that has a higher general education level and a higher income level than whites: Asian-Americans…and they voted strongly for Obama.

    But to listen to you, they’re naive and lack sophistication.

    Shame on you, Clavos. You should know better.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    And it looks like Doug needs to learn the same lesson.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Speaking of naivete and lacking sophistication, perhaps our resident conservatives need to go Down South for a while and get familiar with the Republican base. Or they could save themselves the trip and just watch Deliverance.

  • Doug Hunter

    Or that documentary… What was it called… The Hills Have Eyes. Never would have thought they’d make our family reunion video into a movie.

  • Zingzing

    “By mid century, WASPs will be a minority, but I’ll be willing to bet they won’t be courted by the government…”

    You have to be kidding.

  • Clav

    Glenn, You’re right, I shouldn’t have said that.

    What I should have said was: “Naiveté and lack of sophistication seem to be the hallmarks of Democrat voters.”

  • Clav

    You have to be kidding.

    Oh? How so?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clav –

    If you want to put it that way, that’s fine. Still wrong, but fine.

  • Dr Joseph S. Maresca

    To get more people through college, we need to do a better job teaching the basics. There are behavioral things to learn as well. i.e. setting boundaries early so that there is time to do concentrated study and research

    Pimleur can teach basic language skills in 10 days. The principals of this country should take them up on the claim and embrace the Pimleur program on a limited basis at first.

  • Doug Hunter-

    #239

    I’m asking this question because I honestly don’t know, haven’t done a bit of research. Is there a point of diminishing returns with education? I mean not every job really requires 17 years of schooling, keeping people out of the workforce an extra 4 years for a bachelor’s degree that MAY (again, just my theory) not improve their job performance might not be the best option. All I hear is how we should get more people bachelor’s degrees, could that not just be some sort of inflation. A bachelor’s degree is held in only a little higher regard than a high school diploma was a few generations ago, perhaps we’ll get to a point where most jobs require a bachelor’s and then what, everyone needs a master’s? a doctorate?

    Should our focus be on making sure that every single person graduates high school with the majority going to college for a bachelor’s or should we be making sure that in the US a high school diploma and/or a bachelor’s degree actually mean something? (in a way the two concepts are in conflict) We need to make sure that in the rush for quantity, we’re not sacrificing quality. Maybe we identify people with an aptitude for creative or genius thought and steer them towards enriched programs to be the next generation of thought leaders, people with lower abilities could be taught specific skills in a more hands on oriented bachelor’s degree and people with limited intellect could be offered a high school diploma with more practical life and basic skills training. I’m not sure, but I think this is a model that has been tried with some success in other countries.

  • Doug Hunter-

    To add to the above as I’ve started reading other’s thoughts. It looks like education is used as a sorting mechanism as much as it is a vehicle for actual learning. In other words, a job may not require any more skills than SHOULD be learned in a high school diploma but because of the labor market surplus and the idea that those with a college degree have shown some tenacity, willingness to follow authority, minimal levels of goal setting and showing up on time. etc. etc they will slap a degree requirement on it (why not?) to get a more qualified candidate. What’s the problem then? Well, you wasted tens or even a hundred thousand dollars and 3-4 years of productive life for essentially nothing. Again, if everyone has a bachelor’s degree then the same job will just require masters or doctorates and so on.

    My initial thought. Inflation is not a genie easily put back into the bottle. I don’t think you can just make a high school diploma more rigorous and backtrack people into accepting it. Some of this is already being implemented, but could not very good students be advanced welll on their way to bachelor’s degrees through advanced programs taken in the high school years? This would decrease the years of schooling for them (and hence the cost) but still serve to identify those with higher work ethic and intellect…. in essence target the same group of people, require the same level of technical ability, but take the years of schooling back to 15 from 17 for a bachelors by making a more rigorous high school track available. Of course, higher education is big business that no one wants to mess with and their will be alot of pushback as expensive/exclusive schools do not want to participate and lose the extra two years of bloated tuition to lower institutions.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doug –

    It’s not that there are diminishing returns with education – it’s just that there’s so much more to learn, both in and out of school. While there are a lot of things that we were taught way back when that aren’t taught now, there’s far more to learn now.

    To put it a different way, I believe it’s been shown – or at least postulated – that the more intelligent an animal, generally speaking, the longer that animal spends in childhood and adolescence before adulthood. We’ve more to learn now, so I think probably two more years should be added to what we call our adolescence.

    That’s why I think we’ve gone beyond the point where a K-12 education is sufficient – I think we need to add a minimum of two more years of mandatory education, with an emphasis on things we must know in this new world that our K-12 was never designed to address. That, and we need to get rid of summer vacations.

    Not that I think any of this will happen anytime soon in America, but it’s nice to think about.

  • Clav

    We don’t need to lengthen our education process so much as we need to actually start educating kids, with accountability of results at every step of the process, on the part of administrators and teachers from first grade on.

    In most current American school systems there is little to no accountability; no one is measured for their effectiveness.

    Adding another two years to the process will not have positive results without some way of measuring the effectiveness of school personnel and taking appropriate action to improve the results where needed.

    It’s impossible to determine the quality of work without some means of measuring it.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    Do you deny that there is more to learn now than ever before?

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/IanMayfield Dr Dreadful

    I’ve been doing a bachelor’s degree online and although it might take longer to get your diploma, there’s absolutely no reason why the majority of people can’t work and pursue higher education at the same time.

    There are a lot of employers that will even pay for at least part of your schooling, especially if they believe a better-educated employee benefits them.

    If you’re doing engineering, medicine or one of the other applied sciences then yes, you probably want to devote your complete attention to your education. Otherwise, I think distance learning – and lifetime learning – is the model of the future.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doc –

    I agree that lifetime learning is – must be – the model for the future…but IMO there is so much more to learn now that high school graduates are not nearly as prepared for the world as they once were.

    If I had my way, we wouldn’t get rid of any of the old classes, but we’d add quite a bit when it come to the internet, insurance, investment (money in general), real estate, medicine, and the law. Of all these, only ‘investment’ might not need to be mandatory, but the rest certainly would be. If we could pack all this into one extra year – 13th grade, if you want to call it that, but I’d prefer “life preparation classes” – then I could see only having one more year.

    The way I see it, an extra year’s investment would keep many of those young adults from committing many of the mistakes young people tend to make once they’re out on their own.

  • Clav

    Do you deny that there is more to learn now than ever before?

    Are you trying to put words in my mouth again? Did I say that anywhere upthread?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clav –

    I didn’t say that you said that. I simply asked if you deny the truth of the statement that I made.

  • Clav

    Why are you asking? Is it because you think I do because of something you think I implied in what I wrote above?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Hey – it was just a question. You know I never, ever ask loaded questions, now, so relax….

  • Clav

    OK Glenn. I’m relaxed…..zzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  • Igor

    @243-Clav: IMO your call for accountability at every step weakens your argument by suggesting that you don’t have a plan will constantly requires mid-course correction.

  • Dr Dreadful

    If we could pack all this into one extra year – 13th grade, if you want to call it that, but I’d prefer “life preparation classes” – then I could see only having one more year.

    There’s no real reason why you’d need an extra year for that: there are probably some subjects that could be shedded except as optionals to make way for those classes.

    Education, at least at the primary and secondary levels, hasn’t changed fundamentally since the Middle Ages. Life preparation classes weren’t offered in medieval schools because they weren’t necessary. Apart from the occasional scholarship, you only went to school if you were (a) wealthy and powerful or (b) entering the clergy. In both cases, the expectation was that on reaching maturity somebody else (servants, scribes, serfs, the abbot) would be taking care of all those everyday concerns for you.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doc –

    They’ve been shedding subjects for decades. Geography used to be a subject – now it’s a couple of weeks, and we all know how many Americans weren’t able to find Iraq on a map. History isn’t a required subject in many schools now. English and literature used to be two separate subjects – but that’s usually not the case now.

    Schools have been forced to do more with less (and the conservatives think that even more cutting will magically fix it all) for a long time now. It’s long past time we get rid of summer vacation, raise the pay of teachers to the point where they get paid at a level commensurate with their education, give the schools they funding they need, AND give the children the time and additional courses they need to succeed in this world.

    And yes, we all need to pay the taxes necessary to make this happen. Getting rid of our aircraft carriers, the M1A1 tanks that the Army didn’t want, and ending the war in Afghanistan would go a long way to providing all this funding.

  • Dr Joseph S Maresca

    Educators need to teach the behavioral dimension of studying early enough so that students develop stellar study habits. This is even more important than the 3 R’s. Unless children can set meaningful boundaries-they simply will not have the time to concentrate and study.

    In addition, students need to read real literature that forces them to consult with a dictionary more often. This deficit is seen during the junior year of high school when many are memorizing vocabulary lists for the SAT exam.

    Lastly, students need to go to the library more often in the primary grades. They need to read more quality books and write more book reports. Writing across the curriculum should be encouraged.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    I agree with #255 wholeheartedly!

  • Igor

    The best time to add education is before kindergarten. Pre-school. The first 1000 days of a childs life are the most important educationally.

  • Clav

    I agree with you on that, Igor. My grandmother began to teach me to read at 18 months. By the time I was three, I could read as well as any grade school kid.

  • roger nowosielski

    Not to mention that all children are by nature curious, until they’re exorcised of their curiosity but the dumb adults.

  • Dr Dreadful

    While not as precocious as you, Clav, my literacy was also encouraged at an early age. I could read pretty well at least a year or two before starting school and haven’t stopped since.

  • roger nowosielski

    Same here. Which is why, Dreadful, getting a BA may be a waste of time for you unless it be Oxford.

  • Igor

    It’s not an original idea of mine. Every psychologist I’ve talked to says the same thing. Some fellow wrote “The Scientist in the Cradle”.

    Neil de Grasse Tyson points out that when a child tips his bowl and watches oatmeal flow across the tray and drip on the floor he’s conducting experiments in hydrology and gravity. Sadly, we discourage him. Even worse with a girl who we think should appreciate neatness before exploration.

  • Igor

    @239-Joe: IMO most people are afraid of propaganda and mind control when they read something like “… behavioral things to learn…”.

  • Dr Joseph S Maresca

    Igor. I agree that kindergarten and pre-kindergarten are the optimal times to teach or instill good habits toward learning.

    I don’t see this as mind control because children can go all the way up through high school and even the first years of college without knowing how to set boundaries so that studies come first.

    The mind control is when a student sits down to study -hears the buzzer of the cell phone- stops his/her studying- answers the text- goes back to study- hears the cell phone again- answers another call or text- gets back to study- hears the cell phone again- ad infinitum

    That’s mind control and it should stop now in the case of many students in this country.

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