Why I would like to see the U.S. Postal Service privatized

  • I could pay to have junk mail thrown in the trash at the source
  • The USPS often gets used for corruption
  • Being government employees, bad apples last forever

No more junk mail

The number one reason I would love to have the USPS privatized is that it would become possible for me to pay a fee (to whomever takes their place) to trash any junk mail that gets put in the queue to be sent to me.

At work, we spend a rather large amount of dollars to combat email spam. Everyone’s life is better for it*. But that’s not an option with physical snail mail. Why the heck not? Because the USPS is a government agency. They are very specifically not allowed to “censor” mail by just throwing it in the trash.

If they tried, they would get sued, because if you’re a scumbag with a lawyer, you want to sue the really big organization with the large checking account.

But with a private company, I could buy in to a Friend of the Environment subscription plan, where I pay the delivery company a small monthly fee, and they chuck the junk mail into the recycling bin. They don’t want to spend the money on fuel to transport it. They would have a financial incentive to do the right thing early on in the process.

Indeed, it would take almost no time for the people who pay for snail mail spam to ask the privatized company “How many of these should we print? How many are actually going to get delivered?” The end result would be less trash generated; less trash to be wrangled. It’s a win-win-lose for me, the mail carrier, and then the spammer, er advertiser.

One problem of course, would be predatory advertisers implementing junk delivery, as a protection racket (to collect the fee to not deliver it). They’d hire an Uber or Lyft driver to put trash in your mailbox, along with a flyer that suggests you pay them for no more trash.

I’m going to have to puzzle out what antidotes there might be to a pristine mailbox protection racket. If you have any ideas, please feel free to make a SQRL identity, and login and post.

USPS as a political corruption tool

This is not the USPS fault. But, because they are a government agency, they are the tail on the dog that is Congress and their buddies. Congresscritters love to commission a new post office building to line the pockets of their buddy who has some land for sale. Whether that buddy then kicks back some of the overpriced payment back to the critter is an exercise for the reader.

Back during the Reagan and (first) Bush era, every post office building had a Novell NetWare server in it. When Bill Clinton got elected, every one of those NetWare servers were replaced with Microsoft Windows servers. It was a gift to Microsoft, at the expense of Novell.

Because email started replacing some snail mail, the overall volume dropped. Suddenly we didn’t need so many post office buildings. And magically, Senator Dianne Feinstein’s husband’s company was awarded the contract to broker the sales of 60 USPS facilities (one report says 600 were on the list to be considered for sale).

The problem is, that as a Federal agency, if there is corruption there, there is no incentive to get rid of it as long as it doesn’t become embarrassing. Did the CIO of USPS get a kickback from Microsoft? Nobody has incentive to rat the guy out, and, they do have incentive to keep their jobs by keeping their mouths shut. Did someone at USPS get a kickback from Richard Blum (Feinstein’s husband)? Nobody has incentive to rat the guy out, and, they do have incentive to avoid retaliatory employment decisions.

My local postmaster

So, my dad was a member of the California Young Republicans back in the 1960’s and 70’s. I would learn that the postmaster in town was on the Democratic Central Committee. I remember my dad suddenly going in to a rage one day; I had followed him out to the mailbox. “Do you see this‽ Do you see this‽”

The post office was reading our mail.

Of course, in school I was educated that one’s mail was sacrosanct, and the Post Office never read one’s mail. That turned out to be total bullshit.

What my dad was shaking in front of me was an envelope with a return address stamp of CYR California Young Republicans. The top of the envelope had been sliced open (all the way across the top, and not gently, either), and then lots of cellophane tape had been used to close it again. There was a rubber stamp on it: Damaged During Handling.

My dad would later go to the post office and speak with the postmaster, telling him that someone in the post office was reading his mail. The postmaster feigned an apology, but the mail reading did not stop. It was the postmaster himself who had ordered that all the CYR mail get routed to his desk first.

When I was younger, pretty much the very beginning of mass-shootings in America was in Post Offices. A new term entered the vernacular: “Going Postal”. What was happening was that guys were in line for promotion in every post office, and (some of) their bosses were real assholes. They would torment an underling for decades, and the underling couldn’t do anything about it, because his hopes for advancement would then be destroyed. 20 years later, it’s finally time to get the promotion to Postmaster of the Office, and the outgoing asshole gives the promotion to a junior bootlicker. The next day, the spurned postal worker would come in and shoot up the place. Institutional assholism works in government, because one cannot go to other bosses and say “This asshole is losing us money”. It’s a government agency. It’s not supposed to make money. If it’s making money, then it’s competing with the private sector who could probably do the job more efficiently anyway.

In my dad’s case of systematic invasion of privacy for political gain, there was nothing to do but to hide. The mail from CYR started using a fake return address. It was some sort of charity / orphanage, if I recall correctly.

That doesn’t mean that the California Young Republicans never sent another envelope with the old CYR rubber stamp. Indeed, one went out with “Remember that the big all-state dinner meeting will be held at the Black Oak Restaurant in Paso Robles at 7:00 PM on (whatever date)”. Our copy was opened and read and taped shut and rubber stamped with fuck-you-we’re-reading-your-mail as per usual. In the envelope with the charity return address, the letter said the meeting was still in Paso Robles, but it had been moved to a different restaurant. Someone from CYR did go hang out in the lobby at the Black Oak, and sure enough a total stranger walked up to the hostess and asked to be seated with the California Young Republicans group. Confusion ensued for the hostess and spy, although the CYR member got the chuckle he was expecting.

My bigger point is that management assholes exist in larger organizations, but, when that organization is private sector, the organization suffers enough for it that there is financial incentive to change (not always, due to monopoly power). But in public sector organizations, it is almost impossible to remove bad apples. There is no real incentive to change. The person who reports is asking for a target on their back and henceforth will never get another promotion, ever.

If Congress couldn’t manipulate USPS (because now they are UPS or Fedex or whatever), that would be a good thing. If bad apples didn’t have the career public sector employment worth suing over (for wrongful termination), that would be a good thing. And if I could pay to auto-trash junk mail, I would love that, and it would be the best thing.

*I would even argue that the spammer’s life is better for it: if you are a spammer, you are a loser who thinks there is a easy / low effort / low quality way to get rich. The quicker we clobber your delusion, the better for you.