Sen. Harry Reid: The Postal Service Must Be Saved Because 'Seniors Love Junk Mail'

from the because-nothing-says-'human-contact'-like-something-addressed-to-'oc dept

You know a service is on its last legs when the best argument a person can make for its continued existence is both a) very likely untrue and b) incredibly depressing. The United States Postal Service, best known these days for its massive accounting losses and quarterly stamp price increases, is being forced to deal with the reality of a world that sends most of its mail via the internet. With deep cuts and office closures looming, Sen. Harry Reid took to the Senate floor to say a few words in its defense, as The Consumerist reports:
Speaking yesterday to his fellow Senators, Reid really sucked the air out of the room with this part of his "Save the USPS" speech:

"Elderly Americans rely on the United States Postal Service... I'll come home to my home here in Washington and there will be some mail there. A lot of it is what some people refer to as junk mail. But for the people that are sending that mail, it's very important. And, talking about seniors - Seniors LOVE to get junk mail. It's sometimes their only way of communicating or feeling they're part of the real world."
Here's Reid in "action:"



It's rare to see someone make a statement that undercuts the "essentialness" of the USPS so thoroughly, especially one made in its defense. If the best argument a person can come up with is that the Postal Service needs to remain intact in order to provide a point of contact between desperately lonely seniors and the companies that prey on them, then it's time to admit that maybe, just maybe, the "service" is actually more of a burden.

In fact, with "austerity" being the watchword (well, not here specifically, but all over Europe), maybe it's time to (and this is an unfortunate turn of phrase, but trust me, it gets worse...) kill two birds with one stone and cut off the flow of junk mail to seniors. Now that they won't have a third rejection letter from Publishers Clearing House to look forward to, perhaps they'll go more gracefully into that good night, thus reducing the strain on the already-overmatched Social Security fund.

Speaking of overmatched retirement funds, most the USPS's massive losses stem from having to prefund retiree health benefits, an issue that could be negated with another "two birds one stone" solution. The USPS could cut loose its potential retirees, shifting them from "mounting losses" category into the more profitable "willing recipient of mass mailing" demographic. We call that "win-win" where I come from (a rural Midwestern area known for its redundancy).

Or maybe it's time to privatize. The USPS seems to believe it can compete if the government takes the, uh, governor off rates and services. If so, the USPS will need to hit the ground running, something massive entities are rarely good at. As the Consumerist has shown, both FedEx and UPS are willing to step in to fill the void. The two companies already have a proven track record for getting packages from Point A to Point B (even if the final destination was supposed to be Point C) as well as making great strides in treating your packages with a government-like callous disregard. This may also hasten the adoption of paperless billing, which should prove to be a boon to the economy as the affected companies will be able to collect "convenience charges" for electronic transactions, something simply not possible in the era of horse-and-buggy pen-and-checkbook.

Of course, paperless billing requires an internet connection and the ability to navigate to secure sites without picking up a variety of obnoxious toolbars and pernicious malware, so maybe Harry Reid is right. Despite the fact that Grandma likely has over 96,000 hours of AOL packed into a file box in the hall closet, the internet can be a weird and dangerous place for those used to more analog experiences. And AOL itself is no help. Signing up for the service seems simple enough for those with landlines, but once you decide you no longer need its portal to the sanitized internet, getting them to cancel your service is about as simple as removing your own kidney. (Actually, it's more difficult than that. It's like trying to persuade the surgeon to remove the faulty kidney and instead being told that what you really want is a third kidney.)

If Senator Reid is right, and the USPS is the only thing standing between seniors and a not-all-that-untimely (but very lonely) death, thanks to its continuous flow of "human contact" via junk mail, perhaps the solution is to move some postal workers over to Meals-on-Wheels and let the private sector decide whether or not it wants the aching loneliness of America's growing elderly population on its hands. My guess is that no matter who's handling the delivery side of the business, junk mailers will still find a way to get their ads into the hands of general population.

As for Publishers Clearing House, it will have to make a few adjustments. For starters, it may have to stop pushing magazine subscriptions, as most magazines at this point are pamphlet-thin and nearly 75% ads. (Except for Reader's Digest Large Print Edition!) As the denizens of the internet march slowly towards their golden years, they're not going to have much patience for an information source with less interactivity than a PDF. And they're certainly not going to be checking the mailbox for contact with the outside world.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 27th, 2012 @ 6:57pm

    So Harry Reid's only way of communicating or feeling he is part of the real world is through his junk mail.

    Is this what qualifies him to be a Senator? I sometimes wonder what it would be like to have politicians that can feel the real world. Pretty sure it is an oxymoron though.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 27th, 2012 @ 7:01pm

    Darn teenagers

    Get off my lawn!!!

     

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    MrWilson, Apr 27th, 2012 @ 7:19pm

    I don't have sympathy for old people who might connect to the world through junk mail. AOL was available a long time ago and now the internet is even more user friendly.

    My grandfather still manages to connect with the world by forwarding racist or urban legend emails to the extended family. Surely some young whippersnapper intern in Harry Reid's office can explain the interwebs to him.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 27th, 2012 @ 7:37pm

    Privatization

    "Or maybe it's time to privatize."

    Privatization is not a solution: If a private company can run the US Postal Service at a profit then so can the US Government so long as the necessarily policies are put in place. Private companies are free to do a better job, if that's what you want, but don't delude yourself into thinking privatization is some sort of panacea that will magically cure any government organization's problems.

    I don't want to live in a world where everything is private property.

     

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  5.  
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    Brian, Apr 27th, 2012 @ 7:48pm

    FUD

    In 2008-2012, the worst economy since the Great Depression, the USPS produced a $700 Million profit.

    The right wing killed the USPS with the "Postal Accountability" act, to make room for privatization. How? Simple absurdity: the USPS must now PRE-pay the health care benefits of every employee it has. And of every employee who will retire any time in the next 75 years. You're reading it correctly if you think this means that the USPS is now required by law to PREpay the US Government for employees that aren't even born yet. All of the money to cover the benefits for all its employees for more than the next 7 decades has to be in Uncle Sam's wallet by 2016.

    No company or agency anywhere in the world has such an absurd burden placed upon them.

    This is costing the USPS about $6 Billion per year - but wait, it's better - the government had already (back through 1970) overcharged the USPS to the tune of $80 Billion. Simply giving the agency back its own money would cause the 'collapse' to vanish overnight.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 27th, 2012 @ 7:56pm

    Wrong, Reid; you think the Postal Service must be saved because YOU love junk mail.

     

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    duane (profile), Apr 27th, 2012 @ 7:56pm

    The Postal Service must be saved because it beats the alternative

    I laugh heartily any time someone starts talking about privatizing the US Mail.

    Yes, UPS and FedEx say they could fill the void because they would do it like they do service now -- cut deliveries to remote, unprofitable areas and not deliver anything that hurts the bottom line. I wager the USPS would do that too, if they were allowed to.

    If the government actually let the Post Office run like an actual government organization or an actual business, we wouldn't have so many complaints. Instead, it's a business beholden to government oversight and half the government wants to see it fail. No wonder they have problems.

    However, even with all that, it's been twenty-five years and they still haven't lost a package or letter coming to or from me. And that includes a pair of shoes I sent to Peru where they don't even have zip codes. Can't say the same for FedEx or UPS.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 27th, 2012 @ 8:11pm

    the mail service would not be running in the black if they weren't being forced to pay health costs for employees whose grandparents are still in grade school.

     

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    The Devil's Coachman (profile), Apr 27th, 2012 @ 8:24pm

    Harry needs some junk mail himself.

    Maybe then he can also feel connected to the "real" world? He sure as hell doesn't look like he is now.

     

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  10.  
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    TechnoMage (profile), Apr 27th, 2012 @ 8:38pm

    Re: Privatization

    perhaps it is the time to look into allowing the USPS to either be a FULL part of the fed. government ...meaning that it is ran as a location for people to do fed. business such as get a federal ID, take out a loan (which other countries do), or even my personal favorite:

    Provide a P.O. Box address that is a legal mailing address such as "US Fed P.O. Address 90483409230423423" which will be shipped to my house. This provides an additional degree of anonymity to the recipient and could be an easy way for the PO to raise funds. I'd pay 100$/year for this service. Heck I'd pay another 100$/year to not allow mass mailings to be delivered there (other than magazines, or IEEE/ACM/etc journals I happen to want). Heck.. I'm sure some people would pay 25$/year to get notifications sent to their email when mail arrives, Perhaps a photo of the shipping from and to address.

    I mean... the idea just gives itself legs. The USPS already has the computational capabilities to forward mail, So this seems like an easy way to both monetize, but more importantly to improve the USPS.

    Also I don't think Reid was that far off about the mail... It is sad how some of our seniors don't get out into the community(partially b/c the same people who want to cut the USPS want to cut community funding... but that is another rant...) So they go to the mall or other places like that and just talk to store employees for hours at a time, trying to stay connected to the rest of the world. This argument does sound silly, but I've personally had elderly people do that, so it IS real. Perhaps he should have phrased it better and said that they like to see what is going on in the world and to browse through ads now that they have time... or something... but still..

     

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    orbitalinsertion (profile), Apr 27th, 2012 @ 8:48pm

    So everyone gets an assured free internet connection

    and a device on which to access it? Because not everyone does.

    And good luck with secure sites, malware infections notwithstanding. Most businesses don't do secure very well in the real world, most suck at it terribly on the internet. And then they'll tell you that you need a certain browser or a different OS something else equally ridiculous.

    Reid's crap argument only reflects on Reid, not the USPS, which of course has problems. So Cushing's argument is what, exactly? Or is this a humourous Poe counter-argument?

     

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  12.  
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    Zos (profile), Apr 27th, 2012 @ 8:56pm

    the trolls are going to be all over this article, you forgot your sarcmark. inb4 "masnick wants to kill all the old ppl"

     

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    Overcast (profile), Apr 27th, 2012 @ 9:23pm

    I don't want to live in a world where everything is private property.

    Too late. If an individual doesn't own it - either the government already does - or will claim to.

    And of course, if you don't pay whatever taxes - they'll take it anyway.

     

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  14.  
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    Torg (profile), Apr 27th, 2012 @ 9:25pm

    I don't get this "analog" business that all these old people are going on about. Just a couple months ago my grandfather told me that he'd sent me a "birthday card" in the "mail", but when I checked my inbox nothing of the sort was there. I asked him about it, and he said "mail" can't be accessed by a computer; it's found a physical storage unit called a "mailbox". So I went outside to check our mailbox, and when I didn't find anything he said that he'd sent it to my dorm. Apparently this mail stuff is also region-locked, and I can only get to it from one particular mailbox. Ridiculous, right? Then, when I told him as much and that it would never catch on, he just laughed like he thought I was joking! I don't know how old people handle this stuff; it's all very confusing.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 27th, 2012 @ 9:42pm

    The postal mail system:

    Its the easy way for people to force crap on you that you don't want, definitely never asked for or deserved. Although really damn convenient when you do have to mail something that someone actually wants.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 27th, 2012 @ 9:42pm

    I've given up on getting rid of junk mail. I DON'T WANT ANY!. Once you get off of 14 or 15 mailing lists, in 6 months you're back on them.

    I've finally decided the way to deal with it, is to take it straight from the mail box to the trash can. My main use of junk mail is now to keep the garbage man busy.

    Harry needs a serious increase in junk mail. Maybe then he can find out what the rest of the world REALLY feels about junk mail.

     

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  17.  
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    bjupton (profile), Apr 28th, 2012 @ 12:15am

    Re: FUD

    I'm glad someone made this point.

    This is a chance for the powers that be to raid that sweet, juicy pension.

    Disgusting.

     

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  18.  
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    bjupton (profile), Apr 28th, 2012 @ 12:18am

    Re:

    I do.

    My Dad's 71, a skilled mechanical engineer, and computers are something he will never understand.

    A democratic society, if we are to have one, requires at least a low bandwidth connection, even at high cost. Since the postal service operates at a profit, less these ridiculous pension funding schemes, this assault on the postal service is nothing less than an attack on democracy itself.

     

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  19.  
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    ZLD, Apr 28th, 2012 @ 12:46am

    I really some times have to question...

    Do you whiners really have such a strong hatred of junk mail? I mean really, you don't pay to receive it, its recyclable, its trashable; sometimes, you may even get a rare, decent coupon for a cheap Papa Johns pizza. How easy your lives must be if one of your main complaints is that you receive daily junk mail. Wah...

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2012 @ 12:49am

    Re: Privatization

    Privatization is also a way to make gains private and losses public. Where I live, USPS is much, much better than UPS or FedEx.

     

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    Rekrul, Apr 28th, 2012 @ 12:55am

    I had a package delivered by FedEX today. Rather than the traditional van, it was delivered by a woman driving a minivan. She said that she was helping out because they were too busy. It was a new computer (well, refurbished one) so the package was rather large and noticeable. Rather than put it inside my enclosed front porch, she left it on the outside steps. Since the doorbell is inside the porch, she didn't even ring it to alert anyone inside the house that a delivery was made.

    The only reason I knew it was there was that I happened to be going out as she pulled up.

    I don't live in a high-crime area, and the computer wasn't hugely expensive, but still, I'm not sure I would have wanted it to have been left sitting on the steps until I came home. Not to mention that it would have gotten soaked if it happened to rain.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2012 @ 12:57am

    Re:

    I have a good feeling Reid will be sorry he said that as there are probably a lot of people signing him up for every free coupon, sample, magazine and "for more information ..." clipping, thread, insert they see.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Mailer, Apr 28th, 2012 @ 2:19am

    Junk Mail Campaign

    A popular and fun way to deal with junk mail is to use the prepaid postage return envelope. Stuff everything inside that. Include perhaps some stray paper you have around the house. Taping 50 pennies between cardboard sheets is also a tactic, since the return postage rate the company has to pay is calculated by weight. Cheap tin sheets also add to the fun factor, as do leaves, cigarette butts, old candy from Halloween you discovered lost under your couch...

    It turns a minor-threshold irritation into an amusing thing to do while waiting for supper to be done or watching tv.

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2012 @ 3:28am

    Expect to see a proposal to tax all SMTP servers in the near future. The only question is will they go after the software, hardware or both.

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2012 @ 4:05am

    Don't Dump the USPS

    I live in Australia and get some computer parts from the US. I had no choice but to have some sent by FedEx which cost me $110, another parcel (heavier and bulkier) I had sent via USPS at a cost of $20.45! FedEx took 5 days and USPS took 6 days.

    What is the reason for USPS having to pre-pay for retirement benefits for those not even borne yet - I mean is there another reason other than to hand over the American people to yet another group of corporate interests for profit?

     

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  26.  
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    Sandman619 (profile), Apr 28th, 2012 @ 4:43am

    USPS

    Scale back the USPS. If the volume isn't there now, it will never come back in a meaningful way, that's how new tech takes over. Happens every time. Kill Saturday delivery, no one will notice. Then buildout community mailboxes at the head of each block, so it takes the staff less time to deliver it & they become more efficient. It's time to begin scaling back the USPS while the changes will be smaller & easier to manage. Then raise the postal rate to $1, that's still a deal really

    Cheers !

     

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  27.  
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    Joe, Apr 28th, 2012 @ 5:06am

    Jobs

    What about all the jobs that would be lost if the Postal Office were to go under? And if this service became privatized/corpratized I think prices would raise because they would need to make a profit...As it is, yes government run, the service is excellent. Let them change and provide other services to compete and be viable..In 2006 a lame duck republican congress required the Post office to garner enough money to cover retirement/healthcare for the next 75 years amounting to somewhere near 10billion a year. There is no other company private or public that needs to do so. The real agenda by the GOP is to ruin the Postal Service so it can be privatized...There is a mispreception that Gov employees are lazy and unmotivated. You can find such employees in any work setting...Most of the employees are working to survive and make a fair living and provide a good service..

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2012 @ 5:06am

    Re: Don't Dump the USPS

    UPS and FedEx have friends in high places. Greedy friends who would not like to see a competitor prosper. So USPS gets ridiculous financial burdens put on it. Its competitors are not subjected to any similar burden. If USPS was just treated fairly, then it would be fine.

    Fat chance of that happening. This story should be classified under "anti-competitive restraint of trade" or maybe "legislative capture".

     

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  29.  
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    Joe, Apr 28th, 2012 @ 5:08am

    Jobs

    What about all the jobs that would be lost if the Postal Office were to go under? And if this service became privatized/corpratized I think prices would raise because they would need to make a profit...As it is, yes government run, the service is excellent. Let them change and provide other services to compete and be viable..In 2006 a lame duck republican congress required the Post office to garner enough money to cover retirement/healthcare for the next 75 years amounting to somewhere near 10billion a year. There is no other company private or public that needs to do so. The real agenda by the GOP is to ruin the Postal Service so it can be privatized...There is a mispreception that Gov employees are lazy and unmotivated. You can find such employees in any work setting...Most of the employees are working to survive and make a fair living and provide a good service..

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2012 @ 6:12am

    Re: The Postal Service must be saved because it beats the alternative

    And yet my experience with the USPS is the exact opposite. I have found mail to other people in my ditch on more than on occasion. Weekly periodicals delivered a month or more late, if at all. Receiving mail mail intended for another person and wondering what happened to mine. And after complaining all the way up to my congresscritter, being told nothing is wrong with their service and that the congressman is taking the USPS word for it.

    The USPS is broken in many places. You may be lucky to live in in a place where it is not. But for many, using the USPS is a crap-shoot.

     

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  31.  
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    abc gum, Apr 28th, 2012 @ 6:30am

    Reid is not the person to look to for analysis of the USPS merits/costs. The USPS at the moment, looks like a political football.

     

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    illmunkeys, Apr 28th, 2012 @ 7:04am

    Sigh.

    Again you misread the entire point: for a govt run entity, it has a net operating loss of .1 billion of billions and billions. Thats pretty damn good for the service they provide: mail to everywhere in the US, a feat unmatched by any private entity. The major loss isthe pre-funding of the retirement accounts for people not even born yet.

     

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    abc gum, Apr 28th, 2012 @ 7:25am

    Re: Privatization

    "Privatization is not a solution"

    A good example of this is prisons.

     

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  34.  
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    abc gum, Apr 28th, 2012 @ 7:37am

    Re: Re: The Postal Service must be saved because it beats the alternative

    There are under performing employees everywhere - the obvious solution is to shutdown everything. You might reply that one should not extrapolate a such small sample, but that is exactly what you have done - no?

    Not every postal employee is a Neuman.

     

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    abc gum, Apr 28th, 2012 @ 7:43am

    Re: So everyone gets an assured free internet connection

    "So everyone gets an assured free internet connection and a device on which to access it?"

    This might work, theoretically - however it becomes broken the moment one is kicked off the internet because of accusations. Perhaps this is the end game?

     

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    Prashanth (profile), Apr 28th, 2012 @ 7:44am

    Re: Re: Re: The Postal Service must be saved because it beats the alternative

    +1 for a Seinfeld reference! (By the way, the spelling is "Newman", for the record.)
    Anyway, I agree that the postal service should not be privatized. It should be allowed to compete with private services, for sure, but the only way for remote locations to be served is through a government postal services, because private companies wouldn't find it profitable enough to be worth their time. And it would be a travesty if remote locations got cut off from mail deliveries.

     

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  37.  
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    Fox, Apr 28th, 2012 @ 7:53am

    I agree with other commenters that the mail is a place where universal access is more important than profit (and as much as First Class letters have gone up, I don't think you can get UPS for Fedex to send something that cheap), and thus I'm distrustful of privatization, but speaking of being distrustful.... The Pirate Party and others speak of wanting the same rights in cyber-communications that our parents had and we have with regard to *the mail* --- you decide what you put inside the envelope, what you put on the outside of the envelope, and no one looks inside it, they just deliver it. Am I the only one who finds it suspicious that even as those rights are trampled in cyberspace, the place where they do exist is on the chopping block?

     

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  38.  
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    DC, Apr 28th, 2012 @ 7:55am

    Re: So everyone gets an assured free internet connection

    Well, I think part of Tim's point is that Reid is making a fantastically stupid argument, which would certainly reflect poorly on Reid.

    I agree that the question of how to organize and pay for postal service is a good bit more complex than some people perceive.

     

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    DC, Apr 28th, 2012 @ 7:59am

    Re: Re:

    If I recall correctly, Spamford Wallace was attacked this way, except it was mail order catalogs. Sort of the nuclear option in a junk mail war.

     

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    MisterHux (profile), Apr 28th, 2012 @ 8:00am

    Re: USPS

    Saturday Delivery is awesome. As a small business owner I actually need it, since it effects when I send out invoices and such (some companies require ACTUAL mailed invoices before they will pay, ludites)

     

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    DC, Apr 28th, 2012 @ 8:08am

    Re: I really some times have to question...

    Do you really hate blog posts this much? I mean you voluntarily visit the site and read the posts. This seems like a much bigger hissy fit than the OP, whose headline you could have read and skipped the article.

    Junk mail is both an annoyance, and useless. In some ways it is worse than spam, because I can't just hit delete repeatedly.

    In fact, because it contains personally identifying information, my roommate shreds it all, hence it has a cost in money (buying the shredder), and time (even more than me who just puts it in the recycling).

    Yes, I really do hate things that are annoying and useless that much, and I don't feel bad about it.

    Oh, and a little perspective for you. Just because someone writes a blog post about something useless and annoying that they hate, does not mean it is one of the main complaints they have about life and the world in which we live.

     

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    Jesse Townley (profile), Apr 28th, 2012 @ 8:11am

    Re: I really some times have to question...

    This. Our recycling bin's literally right under the mailbox for a reason.

     

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  43.  
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    DC, Apr 28th, 2012 @ 8:11am

    Re: Re: USPS

    I tagged both insightful since the dialog really elucidates the complexity of the problem.

    Essential service whose "business" model is being subjected to a radical change in the "business" environment.

     

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    Old Guy, Apr 28th, 2012 @ 8:14am

    Get off my Intertubes!

    Now that they won't have a third rejection letter from Publishers Clearing House to look forward to, perhaps they'll go more gracefully into that good night, thus reducing the strain on the already-overmatched Social Security fund.


    Back when I was your age, a person had to have experience to get a platform like TechDirt which could reach dozens of readers. You should get out in the sunlight once in a while and perhaps meet some neighbors who have lived three times longer than you, raised better kids than you, own real estate, and understand how hard life is after you finally move out of your parent's basement.

     

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    Jesse Townley (profile), Apr 28th, 2012 @ 8:19am

    Up the USPS!

    I'm so glad that so many people here, ACs & registered alike, pointed out the insanity & uniqueness of the pre-paid benefits requirement, as well as the equality of access for rural areas and the price differences between USPS and all private carriers.

    I'll add one more thought: like health care & public transit, a postal service should be run for the public benefit, NOT run like a business.

    While efficiencies are important, a public service shouldn't have to show a profit to survive. Trying to make something that's inherently not cost-effective break even means skyrocketing fees & less service. (see: public transit's decline in the US in these most recent decades when we really need it) (or the post office- delivering a single sack of mail to Bumfuck, Alaska is truly inefficient)

    That's what taxes on the super-rich & large corporations are for- to fund public services.

     

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    The Devil's Coachman (profile), Apr 28th, 2012 @ 8:27am

    Re:

    In the apartment complex I live in, they conveniently have a trash can in the mail room. I use it a lot.

     

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  47.  
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    George, Apr 28th, 2012 @ 8:54am

    Re: Privatization

    The reason private companies can "do a better job" is because they don't have to guarantee access to everyone. Have private companies done a better job of providing high-speed internet either via phone-line, cable, cell towers to EVERYONE. No, they've done a good job of providing it to some people - if they live in a densely populated area. There's a reason UPS or FEDEX drops packages off at the post office to be delivered that final mile - because it's not as profitable for them to provide service to everyone. And, you think the post office is always getting more expensive - try sending something small via UPS, it's much more expensive than the post office.

     

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  48.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2012 @ 8:57am

    Re:

    That isn't fedex's fault. That is how it was paid to be shipped. For an additional fee you can have it require a signature but many companies do have that as an option when purchasing something. It is also the same with UPS.

     

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  49.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2012 @ 9:57am

    Re: Re: Privatization

    "There's a reason UPS or FEDEX drops packages off at the post office to be delivered that final mile - because it's not as profitable for them to provide service to everyone."

    But the USPS also benefits from economies of scale due to their government established mailbox delivery monopolies. It's more cost effective to deliver mail and packages to your mailbox when you are also delivering mail to all of the neighboring mailboxes as well than it is to take a special trip just to deliver mail only to your mailbox.

     

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  50.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2012 @ 9:58am

    Re: Re: Re: Privatization

    (but the UPS isn't allowed to deliver mail to mailboxes, and so they lose economies of scale).

     

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    gorehound (profile), Apr 28th, 2012 @ 10:30am

    Re: The Postal Service must be saved because it beats the alternative

    +1
    USPS has always delivered my Mail.
    UPS has not and because they lost an important package and fought me to pay out what they owed me I have not used them for shipping in years and never will again.Only receiving when buying online and I am guaranteed my money thru the Retailer.

     

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  52.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2012 @ 10:36am

    Re:

    red, not black

     

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    btr1701 (profile), Apr 28th, 2012 @ 10:51am

    Unbelievable

    It really does bring home why we're $14 trillion in debt, when glorified idiots like Harry Reid think that it's worth spending $30 billion taxpayer dollars just to make some senior citizen feel 'connected' when they get a Safeway coupon in the mail. Someone seriously needs to pound that guy back into reality.

     

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  54.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Apr 28th, 2012 @ 10:54am

    Re: Re: Privatization

    > but I've personally had elderly people do that, so it IS real.

    No one's saying the experience isn't real. We're just saying it's not worth BILLIONS of tax dollars to provide.

     

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  55.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Apr 28th, 2012 @ 11:02am

    Re: FUD

    > the USPS must now PRE-pay the health care benefits of every
    > employee it has. And of every employee who will retire any time
    > in the next 75 years.

    If they're going to offer these ridiculous pension and health care benefits in the first place, it only makes sense that they fund the system ahead of time to ensure the money is there when it comes time to pay out.

    Otherwise, you end up with California, which promised all the state employee union workers (teachers, prison guards, etc.) fantastic pensions, but didn't fund them from the outset, assuming yearly revenues would be enough to cover it. Now that the bill is coming due, the state has no money to pay even a fraction of those costs and Jerry Brown is running around the state begging the voters to allow him to raise our taxes (yet again) to pay for it. Of course he isn't saying "I need to raise your taxes to pay for teachers' pensions". He's trying to trick people into it by saying, "I need to raise your taxes so we can fund education," hoping they won't realize that by 'education' he means pensions, not schools, books, and facilities for the kids.

     

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    Tom Teshima, Apr 28th, 2012 @ 11:08am

    Privatizing is a straw man arguement. The private sector is only willing to cherry pick the most populated areas to serve. One reason the USPS is losing money is that they are not allowed to cut back on post offices and must serve EVERYONE in the country. UPS or FedEx is not willing to do that. It's a case of apples and oranges. People want post offices. They contribute to the overall spirit of a community. That's a significant contribution that the USPS makes to communities. That's also a reason that it has to remain a publicly run service. Imagine the problems if a company like Comcast ran the mail. Do you really think people would be happier with that?

     

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  57.  
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    Tom Teshima, Apr 28th, 2012 @ 11:08am

    Privatizing is a straw man arguement. The private sector is only willing to cherry pick the most populated areas to serve. One reason the USPS is losing money is that they are not allowed to cut back on post offices and must serve EVERYONE in the country. UPS or FedEx is not willing to do that. It's a case of apples and oranges. People want post offices. They contribute to the overall spirit of a community. That's a significant contribution that the USPS makes to communities. That's also a reason that it has to remain a publicly run service. Imagine the problems if a company like Comcast ran the mail. Do you really think people would be happier with that?

     

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    btr1701 (profile), Apr 28th, 2012 @ 11:08am

    Re:

    > I don't live in a high-crime area, and the computer wasn't
    > hugely expensive, but still, I'm not sure I would have wanted
    > it to have been left sitting on the steps until I came home. Not
    > to mention that it would have gotten soaked if it happened to rain.

    Not just FedEx and other private delivery services. The USPS does the same thing in my town. I've actually had a few packages ruined because they were left out in the open on the front porch by the mailman while I was at work and it rained.

     

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  59.  
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    Tom Teshima, Apr 28th, 2012 @ 11:13am

    Re: Jobs

    Exactly. The reason that the legislation took so long it the republicans were trying to include measures to destroy the postal unions. That is thier real goal. Look at what they've done in Indiana and Wisconsin and Ohio to see what the real agenda is.

     

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  60.  
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    Andrew D. Todd, Apr 28th, 2012 @ 12:19pm

    The Post Office Can Do Whatever is Too Important to be Left to Fed Ex.

    The post office is going to have to adapt, to carry different things. In 1982, the travel writer Paul Theroux, as he reported in _The Kingdom By the Sea_ (1983), rode in a "postbus" in rural Northern Scotland (The Highlands), from the end of the railroad near Inverness to Cape Wrath. The bus carried passengers, mail, newspapers, and groceries (including fresh fish in plastic bags). Theroux assumed that this bus was an anachronism, but I'm not so sure. Amazon is expanding rapidly, and moving into groceries, and obviously, there is money to be made in carrying its parcels. It may be that a mail/express truck will have to have refrigerator and freezer compartments. Possibly, the truck will carry fresh fish as well.

    A small vignette: one day, when the mail carrier arrived, the South American woman in the next apartment sent her six-year old daughter downstairs to the entryway to collect their mail. Little Miriam was extremely shy, not at all like an Anglo (*), and what impressed me was the sheer and unconscious graciousness, gentleness, and kindness of the female mail carrier in dealing with her. I somehow cannot imagine that in a Fed Ex driver. You get what you pay for. If we have to pay for the Post Office with an outright government subvention, then so be it.

    (*) In large parts of the world, people who are wealthy enough to send their adult children to America for graduate study are also wealthy enough to keep Purdah or the equivalent. If one employs household servants, they form a kind of buffer between family life and the outside world. For example, when servant labor is cheap, a small apartment building is likely to have a concierge, a "viaja abuelita," who collects the mail for the whole building, receives grocery deliveries, calls taxicabs, etc. The result is that when people of this elevated social class come to America, the women and girls are likely to get a double dose of culture shock. Read Santha Rama Rau, Home to India (1945), to get a feel for what that kind of culture shock is like.

     

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  61.  
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    Andrew D. Todd, Apr 28th, 2012 @ 12:30pm

    Re: The Post Office Can Do Whatever is Too Important to be Left to Fed Ex.

    Correction: "vieja abuelita," "old auntie."

     

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    Walt, Apr 28th, 2012 @ 2:34pm

    Re: USPS

    I'm 43, my mom is almost 70.

    I could be perfectly happy with 3-day-a-week mail delivery. Do Tue/Thu/Sat in residential areas, Mon/Wed/Fri in business districts.

    Made the mistake of saying that to my mom and she was aghast. (She had brought the subject up in the context of cancelling Saturday delivery.)

    Keep in mind that until 1950 residential mail delivery was twice a day. Anyone over 70 remembers that clearly, so going to only a few times a week is a shock and disgrace.

     

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  63.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2012 @ 2:34pm

    I love junk mai!
    Is the most plentiful source of cellulose that I use to do engineering projects.

    I make lots of prototype gears with those, although I still have to buy the Elmer's glue.

    Papel mache wouldn't be the same without junk mail.

     

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    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Apr 28th, 2012 @ 4:13pm

    Re: Privatization

    Privatization is not a solution: If a private company can run the US Postal Service at a profit then so can the US Government so long as the necessarily policies are put in place. Private companies are free to do a better job, if that's what you want, but don't delude yourself into thinking privatization is some sort of panacea that will magically cure any government organization's problems.

    I don't seriously think privatization is the solution. (Hence the framing language I used, along with links to UPS/FedEx doing bad things.) I think some streamlining is in order, but turning the whole works over to private companies is not only impossible at this point, but inadvisable.

    FedEx and UPS seem to be more than willing to just toss your packages on the curb, balcony, back yard, deck, sidewalk, etc. and speed on without a care in the world. Ask me 10 or 15 years ago and I would have felt differently. Both companies have done some incredible stuff in terms of logistics and efficiency, but it seems like customer service has been left by the wayside over the past several years.

     

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    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Apr 28th, 2012 @ 4:30pm

    Re: So everyone gets an assured free internet connection

    Reid's crap argument only reflects on Reid, not the USPS, which of course has problems. So Cushing's argument is what, exactly? Or is this a humourous Poe counter-argument?

    I would say it's the second thing: a humourous counter-argument. However, in reading the comments, I'm almost convinced it's the first thing (a "crap argument") despite the fact that I live inside my own head and was aiming for the first thing.

    In my defense, I'll say this: when I (or writers like me [of which there probably aren't many]{and for good reason, it seems}) lead off with an argument that basically states that the USPS should get out of the junk mail delivery business in order to hasten seniors' deaths (thus easing the Social Security burden), it's probably safe to assume that the writer is fighting absurdity with absurdity (as it were) OR is completely batshit crazy and should be kept away from communication devices. (As should Reid, I might add, or at least be strongly urged not to stray from his prepared remarks.)[At this point, I'd like to remind everyone that my profile contains links to other posts of mine, many of which would appear to have been written by a sane person. YMMV.]

    In any event, this (gestures to indicate sprawl of angry comments) is where we are now. Nothing to do now but dodge torches and pitchforks.

     

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  66.  
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    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Apr 28th, 2012 @ 4:33pm

    Re:

    Yes. I see that. I don't think it's actually trolls, per se, but it's probably too late to repost as "UPDATED: NOW CONTAINS 100% MORE /S !!!!"

     

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  67.  
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    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Apr 28th, 2012 @ 4:40pm

    Re: Junk Mail Campaign

    A popular and fun way to deal with junk mail is to use the prepaid postage return envelope.

    I've noticed that those prepaid envelopes are becoming more and more rare. I'm sure this form of "non-violent protest" has something to do with that...

     

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  68.  
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    A Guy (profile), Apr 28th, 2012 @ 4:41pm

    Re: Re: FUD

    You're assuming that when these pensions come due the funds will still be there. More likely, the funds will be spent on pork and the pension will be funded with IOUs.

     

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  69.  
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    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Apr 28th, 2012 @ 4:44pm

    Re: I really some times have to question...

    How easy your lives must be if one of your main complaints is that you receive daily junk mail. Wah...

    My life is so easy it's the ONLY thing I have to complain about. Well, that and the constant downhill motion of living without friction. It's so easy I get bedsores while standing up.

     

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  70.  
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    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Apr 28th, 2012 @ 4:48pm

    Re: Sigh.

    Speaking of overmatched retirement funds, most the USPS's massive losses stem from having to prefund retiree health benefits, an issue that could be negated with another "two birds one stone" solution.

    Is this where I misread the point? I only ask because a lot of the discussion in the comment thread seems to indicate that the ridiculous pre-funded retirement/health plans was never mentioned in the original post. (Not only mentioned, but linked as well.)

     

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  71.  
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    Andrew F (profile), Apr 28th, 2012 @ 5:01pm

    Re: Re: Privatization

    Agreed. I'd pay money for the mail equivalent of Google Voice -- i.e. some website where I can add a list of blocked senders, or tell the Post Office not to send messages addressed to a previous resident.

     

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  72.  
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    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Apr 28th, 2012 @ 5:07pm

    Re: Get off my Intertubes!

    Back when I was your age, a person had to have experience to get a platform like TechDirt which could reach dozens of readers. You should get out in the sunlight once in a while and perhaps meet some neighbors who have lived three times longer than you, raised better kids than you, own real estate, and understand how hard life is after you finally move out of your parent's basement.

    1. Assuming you're right about me (more in a minute), what's Reid's excuse? Obviously he's older, owns property, has raised kids, etc. You're fine with his portrayal of seniors as fans of junk mail? Especially a portrayal delivered from a much bigger "platform" than this?

    2. Back when you were 37?

    3. What kind of experience? (And please tell me it's not just "aging" being misrepresented as "experience." As in, a 40-year-old is automatically smarter than a 20-year-old, all else being equal.

    4. I work two jobs. Plenty of sunlight, or at least, getting out of the house.

    5. I've met my neighbors, thanks. But none of them are pushing the outer limits of the actuarial tables (at a healthy 111 or so) or frequently consulting the "Longest Living" section of the Guinness Book of World Records.

    6. I'm raising three kids. (Again, thanks for "asking.") I'm not sure if they're better than other kids other older people have raised or better than me [also raised by older people], but they're mine and I'm raising them. They'll probably turn out better or worse than whoever it is they're sort of being compared to.

    7. I own a house. (Well, to be completely honest, the bank still owns quite a bit of it, but I'm in the process of owning a house. And the land underneath it as well as the land in close proximity of it.)

    8. You go ahead and tell me how hard life is. I mentioned the two jobs. I've had maybe 30 days off total in the last 2 years. I work seven days a week, week after week. You know that phrase, "I can't wait until this week is over."? For me, the week being "over" most likely means Memorial Day, when one of my two jobs will be closed.

    Three kids. A mortgage. A wife going to school and working a job of her own. Thousands of dollars of debt. Knowing that I can't slow down, much less stop, any time soon without slipping past the point of "making ends nearly meet" and into insolvency. Expensive medical issues in the recent past which took my wife out of the workforce for more than two years, timed "perfectly" to coincide with the purchase of a house and another vehicle. And the medical issues aren't over, just stabilized for the time being. Any time you want to jump in and tell me how "hard" life is, feel free.

    Go ahead and tell me how I have it easy. Tell me how "my generation" (which is probably half my age and not even mine) doesn't have to earn anything.

    If you want to take an obviously facetious statement as an attack on "your generation," knock yourself out. But don't try to paint me as some sort of basement-dwelling slacker with a smart mouth and not a care in the world.

     

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  73.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2012 @ 5:10pm

    Please don't insult senior citizens. I do not appreciate that. I do agree that the USPS has a host of problems and they need solving. Some of those problems could be solved by privatization, though I would feel more secure if those private companies were subject to government oversight.

     

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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Apr 28th, 2012 @ 5:12pm

    "Elderly Americans rely on the United States Postal Service... I'll come home to my home here in Washington and there will be some mail there. A lot of it is what some people refer to as junk mail. But for the people that are sending that mail, it's very important. And, talking about seniors - Seniors LOVE to get junk mail. It's sometimes their only way of communicating or feeling they're part of the real world."

    So someone making decisions about the country and the laws thereof, is a junk mail junkie. It is his only way of communicating and feeling like part of the real world. No wonder the crap he proposes is so disconnected from reality.
    Lesson 1 - Communication is meant to be 2 way, not getting a sale flyer showing to much skin and then grumbling at the sky about them damn harlots sexing up the Walmart flyer.

     

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    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Apr 28th, 2012 @ 5:13pm

    Re: Up the USPS!

    I'm so glad that so many people here, ACs & registered alike, pointed out the insanity & uniqueness of the pre-paid benefits requirement, as well as the equality of access for rural areas and the price differences between USPS and all private carriers.

    That's the issue right there. Pre-funding and an arbitrary "debt ceiling" hanging overhead. To be completely fair to Sen. Reid, he does go on to speak briefly about the importance of rural post offices. (Something I mentioned not at all...)

     

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  76.  
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    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Apr 28th, 2012 @ 5:16pm

    Re: Re: So everyone gets an assured free internet connection

    I would say it's the second thing: a humourous counter-argument. However, in reading the comments, I'm almost convinced it's the first thing (a "crap argument") despite the fact that I live inside my own head and was aiming for the first thing.

    Well, that's embarrassing.

    Let's fix that sentence:

    However, in reading the comments, I'm almost convinced it's the first thing (a "crap argument") despite the fact that I live inside my own head and was aiming for the second thing.

     

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  77.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2012 @ 7:01pm

    The US post office regularly opens my letters in hopes they can get something of value, you complain and they do nothing... At least with a company you can sue them or something... So I won't really miss the US post office...

     

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  78.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2012 @ 9:22pm

    Re:

    Of course they have to serve EVERYONE. Are people in the middle of nowhere supposed to be barred from ordering stuff online and whatnot just because of where they live?

     

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  79.  
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    anonymous coward, Apr 28th, 2012 @ 10:04pm

    The Postal Service having to fund employee pension obligations so far in advance is such a waste. However, it will literally take an act of Congress to change it, and that won't happen any time soon.

    Flat rate priority mail is one of the best deals around- put everything you want to send someone into a box you get free at the post office, print the postage on a label you get at the post office, write the address on the label, stick it on the box and drop it in the mail. The only time it's really work is if you have to send something overseas, then you do a customs form and there are weight restrictions.

    UPS stinks, they have lost one too many of the parcels I have sent. If someone really ticked me off, I would send them to hell COD by UPS ground.

     

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  80.  
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    Paul Stout, Apr 29th, 2012 @ 2:55am

    Being that I'm one of those senior citizens of which he speaks, I can definitely state that Senator Reid is speaking only for himself!!!

    Lord, what an absolutely idiotic statement!!!

    After hearing that one could end up thinking that Senator Reid was elected one times too many, or that possibly a senility check-up is in order...

     

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  81.  
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    fed-up ex user, Apr 29th, 2012 @ 7:17am

    Re:

    I will never use fedex if at possible. If ca company only offers FedEx I go elsewhere.

     

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  82.  
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    dopamine5ht, Apr 29th, 2012 @ 7:58am

    Idiots, It helps the economy

    Yes we are technological nuts. However to get our fancy gadgets they have to be shipped. FedEX and UPS is insane for small things. I can can get an adapter and cable shipped to me for less than 3 bucks via bubbled envelope. Certain areas are not served by UPS. I am lucky I got a ups within one mile wehn I do use it

    Here is the thing our gadgets will cost more if it costs more to ship.

    Low shipping costs help commerce. Commerce helps economy.
    Its more than just junk mail.. gawd.

     

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  83.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 29th, 2012 @ 8:42am

    Re: Privatization

    I agree - and my reason for not wanting to live in that kind of world is that it is a return to feudalism, with the Corporate CEO taking over the part of the Feudal Baron (or whatever such title the person at the top of the heap held).

    The reason for much of the misery in the world today is the return to serfdom of much of the working class.

     

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    Urban Cowboy (profile), Apr 29th, 2012 @ 9:20am

    Re: Analog mail

    Your analog mail may have wound up lost the USPS lost mail cloud.

     

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  85.  
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    Urban Cowboy (profile), Apr 29th, 2012 @ 9:20am

    Re: Analog mail

    Your analog mail may have wound up lost the USPS lost mail cloud.

     

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  86.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 29th, 2012 @ 9:38am

    Harry Reid

    After helping my parents for the last two years get finances in line, I can assure you reducing the junk mail that preys on seniors is my biggest goal. Harry again proves he is an idiot.

     

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  87.  
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    Janet Hood, Apr 29th, 2012 @ 10:29am

    Junk Mail & Seniors

    I am a senior. I HATE junk mail. Junk mail is just more trash that needs disposed.

     

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  88.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 29th, 2012 @ 10:38am

    what absolute dribble he is coming out with! can someone please explain to me how these freakin nincompoops get the jobs they do? is this country and us citizens so desperate that we cant find anyone better to vote for? God help us if that's the case!

     

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  89.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 30th, 2012 @ 6:19am

    Result of highest bidder capitalism.

     

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  90.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 30th, 2012 @ 6:21am

    Does anyone understand? The United States is broke, they cannot ever pay off what is already owed. No country can exist where their entire GDP is dwarfed by their debt. So go ahead an figure out what you are going to do with the borrowed dollars but only 2 scenarios can result. Either an end to ALL services while the younger generations pay off the spending the of the older generation without ever enjoying any of the same benefits themselves (look up social security debt) OR the loans stop coming in resulting in a loss of all the benefits the previous generations enjoyed. Either way young folks are all screwed so go vote for the guy who is going to give you the most and the very best you can hope for is that your grand kids will get an opportunity to pay it off for you. Post office- dead, social security-finished, free healthcare for all- not going to happen, you will be lucky to get clean water and electricity 4 hours out of a day. This is what happens to nations that do this and there is nothing 'exceptional' about the USA as they sit back and try to figure out how to spend borrowed money for votes.

     

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  91.  
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    matt, Apr 30th, 2012 @ 7:30am

    A few points to address a terrible article

    --The accounting red ink is largely related to the USPS being forced to fund for generations' worth of benefits in advance

    --Junk mail pays the bills, so I don't mind receiving some, and often times the 'junk' includes money saving coupons to local businesses that I do use. In fact I have discovered many new local businesses via 'junk mail', and this is still a key method of advertising for places like local restaurants, contractors and retailers.

    --I and millions of American still use the mail every day for myriad purposes

    TL;DR -- End Saturday service, perhaps close a few extra/surplus offices, but make sure USPS is adequately funded. We can somehow afford to borrow billions and billions for secret spy centers in Utah, the biggest and most expensive military in world history (plus all the crazy good pension and retirement benefits that go with it), 'wars' on things like personal consumption, and we still have enough left over in our credit line to jail far more of our people than any other country in the world-- so many that we can guarantee the publicly traded companies taking these borrowed dollars 90+% occupancy rates for 20+ year contracts.

    But oh yeah the Post Office is bankrupting the country. Yeah. Right.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  92.  
    identicon
    MrWilson, Apr 30th, 2012 @ 12:06pm

    Re: Re:

    Which is why we need more public funding of low cost internet access and a guarantee that getting cut off from the internet will be treated as the restriction of free speech rights that it is.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  93.  
    icon
    Toot Rue (profile), May 1st, 2012 @ 9:24am

    Re: Re: The Postal Service must be saved because it beats the alternative

    The USPS has often lost letters and filled my mailbox full of garbage that I need to sort through on the off chance there may be something I need. Because of that, I refuse to use them.

    Oh, wait...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  94.  
    identicon
    Rekrul, May 4th, 2012 @ 1:13am

    Re: Re:

    She could have put it inside the porch. If you look through the nice, big window in the storm door, you can clearly see the inner door, the mailbox and the doorbell. It shouldn't take a genius to figure out that you need to enter the porch to ring the bell, or for regular mail to be delivered, so maybe you should put packages inside as well.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  95.  
    identicon
    Rekrul, May 4th, 2012 @ 1:14am

    Re: Re:

    We once had UPS leave a small package on the back steps, in the snow!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  96.  
    identicon
    John, May 8th, 2012 @ 4:13pm

    Re: FUD

    What roght wing?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  97.  
    identicon
    John, May 8th, 2012 @ 4:14pm

    Re: Privatization

    Why not?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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