Tony Fratto’s Post Office Field Trip

Ex-Bush flack Tony Fratto set me off on a rant this morning when he tweeted this:

Over the past 10 yrs I might have visited a post office 10 times, total.

(FWIW, Ed Henry also doesn’t frequent post offices, he mused from the luxury of Martha’s Vineyard.) Maybe I was misunderstanding what Fratto meant by the tweet, but he seemed to suggest that the frequency someone like him–someone so successful he once worked at the White House–used post offices should have any bearing on policy regarding the postal service. When I suggested that was, “probably why you have little understanding oof [sic] ppl who do,” he responded, “? Is there a certain “kind” of person who visits post offices??”

I started listing the kinds of people who I see when I go to the post office.

  • Poorer people
  • People using a post office box (some who might have unstable housing)
  • Rural people who live outside of delivery areas and have to pick up their mail
  • E-bay type entrepreneurs fulfilling sales orders
  • Immigrants sending care packages to people from their country of origin
  • Non-profits sending newsletters

Now, that’s an unscientific sample–it’s just who I see using the post office when I go. But in spite of the fact that these people at least look like they’re using the post office because it offers a reliable, accessible service for a price they can afford, I suggested the elite had access to a bunch of different services–like FedEx or UPS–that might make it easier to avoid the post office.

To which Fratto replied,

The issue isn’t “elite” vs “poor”! Good grief. It’s that we mail 1/10 of what we used to! My goodness…

Getting rid of post offices, Fratto said, was not “not ‘tearing down a public good’. We’re emailing.”

Which I think proved my point. For someone who doesn’t frequent a post office to see people who simply can’t replace the postal service with the technologies Fratto described as having replaced the postal service–fax, email, and online payments–it’s easy to forget that those technologies are simply inaccessible to a big chunk of the country–a chunk that is predominantly poorer.

The map above shows the non-mobile broadband access available in the country as of June 2010. As the NYT noted in an article earlier this year, 28% of America doesn’t use the Toobz at all.

As the world embraces its digital age — two billion people now use the Internet regularly — the line delineating two Americas has become more broadly drawn. There are those who have reliable, fast access to the Internet, and those, like about half of the 27,867 people here in Clarke County, who do not.

In rural America, only 60 percent of households use broadband Internet service, according to a report released Thursday by the Department of Commerce. That is 10 percent less than urban households. Over all, 28 percent of Americans do not use the Internet at all.

And some of these people live in places that may lose their post offices. Many of these people live in places that can’t afford to be among the places that could lose some 220,000 postal jobs in upcoming years, on top of the 212,000 already lost.

Yet policy wonks who don’t even use the post office (and presumably have the mobility that affluence offers) argue,

I’m fully aware of people who need the post office, but we can’t have them on every corner. Always going to be a balance…

…& cost has to matter. At some point it’s just not economically practical.

Fratto got a lot quieter when I pointed out the postal service deficit–$238 billion over the next decade–was actually peanuts compared on what we spend dropping bombs in Afghanistan and other forever wars.

Elite pundits increasingly seem to be making the argument that we simply can’t afford to be a nation-state anymore–we can’t afford to offer the most basic federal services to our poor and rural citizens. Yet they rarely consider how easily we manage to come up with unbelievable sums to remain an empire.

Drone strike budgeting: ruining rural lives here and overseas for fun and profit!

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

107 replies
  1. rosalind says:

    i’ve been cheering your tweets all morning, ew. i have a p.o. box, and am at my bustling post office 2 – 3 times a week and am always intrigued by the variety of transactions that take place. one critical p.o. service i’d add to your list: money orders.

    so much real pain is inflicted by the ruling class who never have to back up their ridiculous “speaking on behalf of the people” claims. our backed up Court system is another prime example. the D.C. elites have no clue the real world consequences of the crisis in judicial nominations, with child custody issues, divorces, civil trials, parking tickets, all the every day critical legal happenings for We the People experiencing months-long to years-long delays.

    The D.C. elites just write a fat check to their hired guns and get them some fast-tracked justice.

  2. rg says:

    A pet peeve of mine is the volume of junk (bulk) mail that gets delivered at a discount rate. That’s who “uses” the post office, but you won’t see them lined up in the lobby.
    I once tried to get the PO to stop delivering such to me. I was told by the postmaster that he had an obligation to deliver the mail, and a contract with a publisher to deliver so many tons of it. If I wanted out from under my share of it, I should speak to the publisher. I did, and was told that he couldn’t do anything because he had a contract with the PO to send them a certain volume each week. My name could be deleted from the list when the new contract came up in about 4 months. That was several years ago, and the box gets stuffed every week.

  3. BeccaM says:

    These are the same wonks who prattle on and on about what the Founding Fathers intended for the country — and nothing could be further amiss than to suggest they didn’t feel a strong, reliable Postal Service was a necessary function of the then nascent American government.

    As ever, the mistake came when Nixon privatized the postal service in 1971, replacing a government-provided service with a for-profit quasi-independent corporation.

    Our government subsidizes commerce by building roads, bridges, and other infrastructure. Early last century, it was instrumental in bringing electricity to rural parts of America that would never have been hooked up if left to the private power companies of the time. Just as I’d argue there ought to be more of that for broadband access now, the transportation of mail and small packages also supports commerce. And indeed, in times of technological interruptions, the Postal Service is the last to break down and the first to be restored.

  4. emptywheel says:

    @BeccaM: I think I’m going to keep pushing this nation-state idea. It really crystallizes that that’s what we’re talking about.

    It’s always pretty fascinating when I make my yearly trip through the Upper Peninsula, which is a quick way to see how rural areas are doing. To be fair, they’ve gotten MUCH better mobile phone access than they had a few years ago (then again, my mobile phone payment is about what a car payment is–it’s not exactly affordable).

    But they’re beginning to lose a lot of other things, like roads and downtowns and whatnot. It’s heavily reliant on tourism, btu unfortunately, not the kind of rich-person tourism that means Traverse City and Petosky are booming, and this recession is really hurting it.

  5. rosalind says:

    tangentially related: and that Drone Strike Budget is expanding far faster than our Public Debate. Next up – Armed Submarine Drones! to join the already in action or development:

    Aerial Drones
    Helicopter Drones
    Mine Sweeper Drones
    Bird Drones

    ‘”We in the Navy have reimagined our future,” (Admiral Gary) Roughead said.

    Unlike aerial drones, which rely on GPS data for guidance and location, submarines plummeting the depths of the ocean cannot receive satellite signals. For this reason, a robotic submarine needs to have complete autonomy and “smarts” to know where it is and where it is going.

    Roughead recently ordered Navy lawyers to examine the legal and ethical issues of unmanned systems in warfare.’

    Defense Expert Peter W. Singer, in his closing pitch, actually highlights the dangers: “The same benefits apply to underwater drones as they do to aerial drones: It saves lives and money,” he said. “Just like what happened in the air, it’s bound to happen beneath the sea.”,0,6138571.story

  6. Cregan says:

    You must be going to a different post office than me. I go once or twice a week, the line is usually long, and the people I see are usually;

    1. business people mailing or picking up something.
    2. Moms sending their kids somewhere a care package. Surprised how often I see this.
    3. Ebay people, as you say, seem to make up a big part of the line as usually 70% are sending a package of some sort.
    4. a PO box holder waiting with a notice in hand left in their box
    5. People sending express mail items.

    The only poor people I see are usually sitting in front of the post office. I don’t see any in line.

    Also, by the way, as a side note to last week’s discussion, Buffet’s idea is a total bust to solve the deficit. Raising the taxes as he proposes on the old saw of “millionaires and billionaires” would lower the deficit by, wait for it, 8 percent. Taxing the entire income of people making over $1 million dollars would lower the deficit, hmm, let me see…about 15 percent.

    Sadly, the magic bullet, Aladdin’s lamp, Democratic baloney point, fairy dust, pipe dream, etc. of “tax the rich” does almost nothing to solve the deficit.

    There is no way around it, no magic, easy answer–cutting spending is the only way to solve it.

    Now, if you wanted to say that some people don’t actually have any intention to solve it and really intend to see the whole kibooddle crash down in bankruptcy somewhere up the line, you might have a point, though I am sure it is only a very small percentage of people.

  7. Jim White says:

    @Cregan: “2. Moms sending their kids somewhere a care package. Surprised how often I see this.”

    You can put in Dads. I just sent one yesterday.

  8. bmaz says:


    And indeed, in times of technological interruptions, the Postal Service is the last to break down and the first to be restored.

    Bingo. The government, and the Beltway Boy Elites that move in and out of it like a revolving door, keep telling us how vulnerable the internet is and remove ever more privacy by the day. If there was to be a major attack or war, the communication and outreach capabilities through the postal system would be the closest thing to a fall back fail safe redundancy modality for communication possible. They would be the root distribution system that could still be used.

    • bmaz says:

      Tagging on to my previous comment, what about privacy as well? Nothing is secure or able to be presumed to not have been scooped up by the mass digital dragnet the government and their contractors run, but US Mail still has that.

      Another thing, I recently had to FedEx a four page letter from Phoenix to Columbia South Carolina. You know both huge hub cities for their respective states. $35.00. That is thirtyfive dollars. And that was not even for next morning, just regular overnight. 2-3 day Fed-Ex was available for the low low price of $19.95 or something close thereto. The 2-3 day “Priority Mail” from USPS which has almost always gotten there in 2 days for me, is only $5.

      If the Postal Service is axed, the elites will have a courier system worthy of the CIA and the biggest cartels; regular people will have nothing and no privacy

  9. Wapiti says:

    So this guy visits the post office 10 times in 10 years. Who sends out his holiday cards and gifts – his wife or his secretary? Or he orders everything online? Maybe he’s insulated just a bit.

  10. Cregan says:

    @Jim White:
    Yeah, I shouldn’t have over looked that, but usually it is moms with a college address on the package.

    I’d rather not see Post Offices shut down, but in my town, there are a few that could be without a big deal. They are hardly used. More like a one window drop off. Usually, no lines.

    • bmaz says:

      Okay, our filters just caught up a commenter using a sock puppet screen name in order to insult another commenter.

      This should go unsaid you would think, but let me be clear. Do NOT EVER do that. We do not roll here via sockpuppets and personal attacks bereft of even nominal tie ins to the subject matter. I know exactly who the person is that did this, and it will not be tolerated from that person or anyone else.

  11. Jim White says:

    @Cregan: The one I go to is huge and always has long lines. They actually are closing a downtown office here. That makes no sense to me. There are lots of students around the office I go to, but the downtown area is getting a huge influx of new student apartments as well, so I suspect they are shutting down an office based on old data when that office is due to get a spike in business.

  12. emptywheel says:

    @Cregan: Yeah, I probably do go to post offices frequented by poorer people than you. I live in a midwestern city, in an area very close to foreclosure sales that sell for $20,000. I see far fewer eBay people here than I did in Ann Arbor.

    Did you see Stewart, btw? If we tax the entire income of those who “aren’t paying any taxes,” we’d do as much for deficit reduction as we would just rolling back the Bush (now Obama) tax cuts on teh rich.

  13. prostratedragon says:

    Speaking of rural tourism, someone ran an article last week about the Appalachian Trail and how its hikers use the Post Offices on the way as supply depots. Trips might become unfeasible for some if current plans to close some of those offices are carried out.

  14. prostratedragon says:

    @prostratedragon: [rummage, rummage …] Here’s a story. I see that the first search results that come up on google include planners to inform hikers how to use Posts Offices on their trips, which ones handle hiker services best, and whatnot. So this is a well-established practice, one might even say custom.

  15. posaune says:

    What about the USPS certified mail service? What will happen to that? No, I don’t mean registered mail (proof of delivery) the green sticky form. I mean CERTIFIED mail, where the chain of custody is recorded and signed for from deposit to delivery. It is the official way to send valuables, irreplaceable documents, financial items like bearer bonds, etc. Isn’t postal service a congressional mandate? Seems like certified mail would be, too.

  16. posaune says:

    @posaune: Aargh! Of course, I just got it backwards. For above comment, switch Certified and REGISTERED. It’s REGISTERED that records the chain of custody for valuables. Certified mail is the one with proof of delivery (the green sticky form).

  17. emptywheel says:

    @posaune: Congress’ authority to “Establish Post Offices and postal roads” is enumerated just like the power to wage wars.

    Apparently, though, there’s an either/or clause in the Constitution I didn’t notice.

  18. P J Evans says:

    @Jim White: They want to close down two offices in downtown LA, which happen to be the only two within walking distance of my workplace. If I need to mail something on a weekday – which happens every few months – I’m going to be out of luck. And one of them was the nearest office with actual parcel and passport services.

    (The ‘let ’em close down’ side must get their passports by going to a State department office. They seem to be clueless about the rest of the universe.

  19. P J Evans says:

    I’m fully aware of people who need the post office, but we can’t have them on every corner. Always going to be a balance…

    I remember when mailboxes were set every few blocks, so you didn’t have to go to a post office to mail a letter. I guess the anti-USPS elite doesn’t ever notice that, either, probably because they have people who do it for them.

    If we don’t have USPS, then can we get Congress’s franking privilege revoked on the grounds that it’s now an irrelevant budget item?

  20. Mad Hemingway says:

    Why in the world would I pay any attention to anything Tony Fratto has to say? He’s been wrong more than Alan Greenspan and tv weathermen. Cripes, it’s like listening to Glenn Beck.

  21. Cregan says:


    That is probably a good idea since those who don’t pay taxes don’t have any money anyway, they won’t miss it.

    But, the point really is that even doing BOTH, you would only reduce the annual deficit by maybe 30%, or 35% at most.

    It really is like the person who is so used to using his or her credit cards to afford more things, that, when the cards reach their limit or can’t borrow anymore, there is a big adjustment–and accompanying sadness–when they’ve do all those nice things they could when the cards were active.

    Well, it is true that here in Beverly Hills, the post office traffic is different than in Michigan. Kidding. I go to the downtown office in my city, so, there’s all kinds of people there.

  22. Mary McCurnin says:

    Funny how the same people who are effected by losing postal services are also effected by not having the proper ID to cast a vote.

    Being poor equals disenfranchisement in more and more ways.

  23. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The principal issue regarding the postal service, a not-for-profit government sponsored enterprise is that it – rather, the people insist that it – maintain its mandate on universal, reasonably priced universal delivery, regardless of location, zip code, or wealth, not just the usual “neither rain, nor sleet, nor gloom of night” problems. The right to physical delivery of mail, to receive and send it, is akin to the right to vote. It is part of the rights of assembly and to petition the government to redress grievance. Without it, we are even more at the mercy of corporate America, which has shown itself less interested than Santana in showing mercy and less interested than Jack Sparrow in the pirates right to parler.

  24. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Politicians universally exaggerate the cost of program they want to trash – by abusing numbers, aggregating them with others, using extended time lines, using them without context or measures of benefit or the associated rights such costs protect or give meaning to. $24 billion a year might seem a lot, but what would it cost not to have the right to vote, to use the phone or internet, to assemble and petition, if we could do so only by leave of some government bureaucrat or White House gatekeeper?

  25. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Fratto’s lament reminds me of the many Wall Street partners who have documents delivered by helicopter to their weekend retreats in the Hamptons. That cost is born by someone, ultimately often including the taxpayer, never the one who demands it. As for the PO’s claimed “losses”, it would be useful to see their books. Govt and former govt agencies are not known for keeping or understanding normal accounting costs, especially when the point they want to make is a political one, not an economic one.

    • bmaz says:

      Yeah, that was kind of my point with the FedEx story and discussion. The rich, the corporate, the elite will always have their courier mechanisms; not so the poor, downtrodden and oppressed. Isolation of and removal of voice by the lower classes via denial of modalities for communication and dissent is the wet dream of the few.

  26. Kim Hanson says:

    Marcy I love ya but that map really seems quite similar to a map of population density, if the blue areas didn’t lose postal service and the other areas did what percentage of the population would be harmed? Perhaps the real problem is that the suggested cuts might well be aimed at a portion of the population who have access to the the least amount of alternatives, one can argue that without arguing that perhaps some services in some areas should be decreased.

    That said, “Make Snail Mail, Not War”.

  27. JohnT says:


    That is probably a good idea since those who don’t pay taxes don’t have any money anyway, they won’t miss it.

    Again, I don’t think you’re a troll

    But you made a similar comment at the old place before, and this is the same type of misinformation again.

    David Cay Johnston:

    Fact #1

    Poor Americans do pay taxes.

    Gretchen Carlson, the Fox News host, said last year, “47 percent of Americans don’t pay any taxes.” John McCain and Sarah Palin both said similar things during the 2008 campaign about the bottom half of Americans.

    Ari Fleischer, the former Bush White House spokesman, once said “50 percent of the country gets benefits without paying for them.”

    Actually, they pay lots of taxes—just not lots of federal income taxes.

    Data from the Tax Foundation show that in 2008, the average income for the bottom half of taxpayers was $15,300.

    This year, the first $9,350 of income is exempt from taxes for singles and $18,700 for married couples, just slightly more than in 2008. That means millions of the poor do not make enough to owe income taxes.

    But they still pay plenty of other taxes, including federal payroll taxes. Between gas taxes, sales taxes, utility taxes and other taxes, no one lives tax free in America.

    When it comes to state and local taxes, the poor bear a heavier burden than the rich in every state except Vermont, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy calculated from official data. In Alabama, for example, the burden on the poor is more than twice that of the top 1 percent. The one-fifth of Alabama families making less than $13,000 pay almost 11 percent of their income in state and local taxes, compared with less than 4 percent for those who make $229,000 or more.


  28. dustbunny44 says:

    >>Getting rid of post offices, Fratto said, was not “not ‘tearing down a public good’. We’re emailing.”

    There’s just too too much policy resulting from shooting from the hip, and too little from analysis and research: of course the poor (that’s at least 40% of all citizens, apparently by his standards) has markedly less access to the internet and computers that go with them and their need for services, like bus service that keeps evaporating, is an alien landscape to upper-middle-class wonks like this over-educated idiot. Thanks for calling someone on their contribution to reactionary politics.

  29. efgoldman says:

    @Mad Hemingway:

    Why in the world would I pay any attention to anything Tony Fratto has to say?

    And he’s wrong for ideological, rather than any kind of rational or empirical, reasons.

  30. Diane says:

    My local contract post office was recently closed. Now instead of driving 1/2 mile to mail things, I drive over 5 miles and stand in long lines. Add the cost of gas and depreciation to every letter or package I send and to every book of stamps I buy.

    Sad, what this country is becoming and the fools who are telling us to suck it up.

  31. melior says:

    The woman in front of me last week at the post office was buying a money order. Although there are certainly other places to do that, I imagine the USPS is (rightly) perceived by her as safer, in more than one respect.
    Me, I was mailing some collectible cards, which aren’t worth enough to justify the cost of commercial express delivery and I didn’t need the hurry.
    The most unpleasant part for me was that I had to endure listening to the yahoo grandpa teabaggers behind us in line complaining about the “overpaid” employees the entire wait.

  32. David Derbes says:

    I go to the post office easily three times a week. I mail magazines, dvd’s, newspapers and all sorts of small items (books, gizmos) to my friends and my daughter.

    It’s always a wait. The post office in my neighborhood does a booming business. It would really be terrible were it to close. The next nearest post office is about two miles away. Do we really want to use UPS or FedEx for mailing a small package to a rural area for fifteen bucks, when the post office will do it for a small fraction of that?

  33. pitbone says:

    There is undoubtedly a lobbying effort behind the scenes to hobble the Postal Service. The resulting market share (readthe underpriveleged) left with little or no alternative will be forced to use UPS,FedEx,etc. therby increasing profits. More hardship foisted upon those who can least afford it.
    Budget cutting is the perfect ruse for corporations to pressure legislators pick and choose what is funded and what is not.

  34. Eastvillager says:

    Personally I don’t mind screwing the rural poor – they vote Republican, the party that got us into this mess. They don’t have Internet? That probably means they’re getting their news from talk radio in the car and Fox news on TV. Maybe when the “small guvmint” things hits home they’ll decide to go out and actually learn something. And if this disproportionately affects the poor? Well, they can turn out and vote, then, which they don’t tend to do.

  35. Bart says:

    So people in rural areas vote for Republicans who run on “cut the flab” promises. Said Republicans then get elected, and they cut the flab, i.e. the services they don’t use, like local Post offices.

    Isn’t this a case of buyers’ remorse? Of being careful what you wish for?

    It’s also a case of Democrats being useless at pointing out the consequences of what their Republican opponents talk about.

    But in the end, voters are grown-ups, and they should experience the consequences of their decisions.

  36. joberly says:

    @melior: I see the same thing at my (Minneapolis)post office, people buying money orders. I also see a lot of people apply for passports at my P.O. branch.
    As to money orders, I agree that safety and lower fees are attractive to people without bank accounts; also to migrants. Speaking of migrants, the U.S. Post Office used to cater to their banking business: the Post Office began accepting savings deposits in 1911 and facilitated safe international money transfers of remittances. This was in contrast to private migrant bankers who often stole their depositors’ funds and then disappeared. The P.O. Savings Bank was even more popular in 1931-32 when so many commercial banks failed. It was the one place where the U.S. guaranteed deposits until FDIC and FSLIC came along in 1933-34 to do the same for commercial banks & savings & loans.

  37. janinsanfran says:

    Just want to throw in: if these elite dudes would look around while they are in Martha’s Vineyard covering the Prez, they’d see that the Post Office in Chilmark is the social and connective center of the town. No home delivery for many — folks stop in every day, despite the volume of junk mail.

  38. Seattle Snow says:

    I’m starting to wonder is this mostly post office union bots? There are toooooooo many post offices and people whom refuses to use the internets to get there postage done as for things like money orders and PO Boxes I think that is also going to have to move into the “gasp” free market and as for a person whom has to get a money order once in a blue moon its freaking $0.95 the going rate anywhere. For folks using the Post Office as a PO Box there other options to have an address thus please welcome to the 21 Century kicking and screaming

  39. Bob Schacht says:

    “Fratto got a lot quieter when I pointed out the postal service deficit–$238 billion over the next decade–was actually peanuts compared on what we spend dropping bombs in Afghanistan and other forever wars.”

    And yet, I’m hearing ads from the Postal Service claiming that the Postal Service is run as a business and doesn’t cost the taxpayers a cent. What’s going on here?

    Bob in AZ

  40. KWinIA says:

    @rosalind: I saw in the Des Moines Regiter this morning that drone farm equipment is on the way. Why you’d want to farm without farmers, I don’t know. It’s not they’ve got people shooting at them.

  41. bmaz says:

    @Seattle Snow: Whatta ya know, a Frattonizer has appeared to stick up for killing the USPS. And with an elitist tone just dripping with contempt for the less fortunate. How refreshing.

  42. pseudonymous in nc says:

    I receive lots of UPS/FedEx packages. I think I’ve sent a package through UPS/FedEx (when I didn’t have a pre-paid label) about twice in a decade.

    Over the same period, I’m probably into triple-figures with the USPS, to many many parts of the world, and every time I send something, it’s an insight into the human ties of the nation. The idea that a business courier service can take its place is just absurd.

  43. P J Evans says:

    They probably don’t have Internet because they have to use dial-up – cable doesn’t go out there, and they’re too far out for DSL.
    It doesn’t have anything to do with their politics. You apparently don’t know anyone who lives more than a mile outside the city, or you’d be aware of this.

    (In fact, farmers are usually very tech-savvy.)

  44. P J Evans says:

    One of the towns near me in West Texas had a post office, but no local delivery. Every address in town had a box number, instead, and people picked their mail up.

  45. P J Evans says:

    @Seattle Snow: Try getting a money order from a bank. A dollar fee is cheap. PayPal will send money, but it’s even more expensive.

    Don’t knock the post office because you can afford the corporate prices. Someday you, too, will be looking for cheap and reliable delivery.

  46. Bill Hicks says:

    Re “screwing the rural poor,” it is not true that there is a monolithic GOP rural poor voting base. My guess would be the rural poor don’t vote at all, and new i.d. laws will make voting even harder for them. Eastvillager has possibly lived too long in the East Village, a world unto itself, where everything is a few blocks walk away. In rural America the closest post office can be twenty or more miles away at present, before further planned office closings. There is no bus services either, and poor folks often have undependable transportation. What’s happening is, rural poor people are becoming more and more invisible to policy makers–unless a few of their cohort steal a few central airconditioners for the scrap metal, for example. Then the policy makers leap to action, with new laws that crank down the screws a few more turns.

  47. Mary says:

    Here’s one to add EW – individuals and organizations sending care packages to soldiers.

    @7 – your numbers are off. You should cite the studies you are relying upon, but in any event, your numbers are off. There’s no justice that can be done to any of the concepts without delving pretty deep into what you are defining as income (earned? dividend? cap gains? depletionin excess of basis? stock options? funded health insurance with platinum plans? 401K matches? etc.) Indeed, one of the areas that not just Buffet but many others think needs to be addressed is one where the monies earned are not treated as earned income at all, but instead as cap gains, and bc of the hedge fund trader loopholes built into the system. And you basically ignore one of the other and much bigger broad brush areas as well – it’s how those at the top earned income end also have both actual and constructive control over corporate income. Which is where the real issues, especially on the military and banking/finance ends comes into play.

    Anyway – you should know better than to think that Buffet or anyone with any kind of real financial background lives in the talking point world where numbers without background and basis get tossed around like you did in your post here and in an earlier one that I remember. If you want to have a battle of the soundbite instead of an examination of how to really dig in and figure out what is going on, there’s a guy named Bernie who used to rub his hands together in glle when he found guys with a similar attitude. But don’t worry – you’re likely to win the rhetorical day as it is. Good for you. Bad as hell for the country, but good for you. OTOH, you guys and your cats paws like Schumer and Obama willingly put the country where it is and revel when you can avoid education and hard facts and reality with a nifty talking point. So booyah – you have a what you want. A talking point to take to bed.

  48. emptywheel says:

    @joberly: The branch of the bank I banked at in Holland, MI, which served a fair number of Latinos (and probably Laotians) had gift cards on site, including a bunch in Spanish. I’ve been wondering if gift cards are a new way to send cash.

  49. emptywheel says:

    @janinsanfran: I love post offices like that. I’ve had friends in such town who speak of “picking up their mail” like urban folks speak of going to Starbucks as a social ritual.

  50. emptywheel says:

    @Bob Schacht: By law it has to support itself.

    The point is, should it? Is it important enough to have all the rural and poor areas of this country incorporated into the federal network such that we’ll subsidize it? Or should we just start naming all the white spaces on that map above “territories,” without federal services or taxes or law?

  51. emptywheel says:

    @KWinIA: Cause if the farmers actually have to farm it makes the pesticides lethal. Drones don’t die of cancer or parkinsons.


    Or you could farm WITHOUT pesticides and WITH farmers.

    You choose!

  52. emptywheel says:

    @erichwwk: Yup, I did a post on it here.

    I think that DC’s economic strength, supported by 10 straight years of massive GWOT stimulus, is a key source of the disjunct between DC politicians and their constituents. They world they see on a daily basis is booming.

  53. esther clark says:

    I’m upper middle class and urban and I rely on my post office. I visit it frequently to buy stamps, pick up packages that I wasn’t home to receive, return packages from on line merchants. The nearest Parcel service is miles away, post office is much more convenient.

    Shutting down post offices would decrease even further the lucrative package business and send even more of it to the parcel services that don’t deliver our letters.

    Plus at the Post Office I get to deal with competent long term employees, not mouth breathing short term temps like you do at the little mail box annex places or other places you can find to mail packages.

    When was the last time our armed forces made a profit. I should say that though or they’ll be privatizing that even further to Blackwater.

  54. Mary says:

    @37 – I’ve tried some of that here
    but it hasn’t seemed to make a dent. The response was that the poor who are paying much more in “taxes” on a percentage basis than the rich still shouldn’t have any say on income taxes because they “don’t pay” any. Without ever really getting into how much they pay in other taxes BECAUSE the rich aren’t paying more in income taxes (I sure remember when payroll taxes were a lot less and let’s face it – no one escrows or really protects payroll tax funds so they de facto, if not de jure, go to the same pot). Nothing to acknowledge, either, the fact that they are being assessed income tax, but they are making behavorial options with things like family size, IRA contributions HSA elecions, home purchases for interest deductions, etc. that are encouraged by the tax code to offset those taxes through additional deductions or credits.

    I don’t think C is a troll either, but I do think he/she doesn’t want to do the homework and grapple with the real issues and hard facts that don’t allow you to just toss a few talking points or rename something the “death tax” and then walk away from the real issues and impacts.

  55. scribe says:

    @prostratedragon: If you’ge going to do the through hike on the AT, it’s really the only way to go about it. When you get to the 200 plus miles of mountain wilderness that is the Maine section, or traverse the hundreds of miles of Virginia, those rural post offices (and the people next door who do a land-office business selling pie), are often the only connection to civilization or supply the hiker has.

  56. KWinIA says:

    @emptywheel: There is a lot of farmers with Parkinsons here. One of the local neurosurgeons who ran for Congress a few years ago said that Iowa has 1/3 of the nerosurgeon needed because Iowa doesn’t get subsidized like some of the other states do and specialists have a hard time paying off their school debts. At the same time, there are so many patients with Parkinsons and similar diseases, he has had to see them in groups. His partners were ambivalent about his running because they didn’t know how they would replace him if he won. He lost. My fil died November before last of a “Parkinson like” disease. He spent the last three years of his lfe in the Veterans Home here where they took very good care of him.

  57. EH says:

    Why even call it a deficit of the Post Office? Just call it a budget and have it be something that we as a country simply pay for. Make it an agency or something.

  58. emptywheel says:

    @KWinIA: I hadn’t thought about accessibility to Parkinsons care–thanks for pointing that out.

    As you may or may not know, my mom has Parkinsons. Oddly for a gal who spent her life around computers, she also probably got it from pesticides: her dad was an Ag scientist and she spent a couple of her teenage summers hanging out with him in his experimental fields.

    But it has made me acutely conscious of the fact that Parkinsons is one of the things that never gets considered when people compare the “safety” of organics v. conventional (they always focus on the safety to the consumer, not the farmer).

  59. scribe says:

    @bmaz: Can’t be a true Republican without a well-developed and honed sneer at the less-well-off.

    You should know better, BMAz.

  60. scribe says:

    @emptywheel: Back in the days when we used to prosecute Wall Street crime and criminals, there was a series of SDNY and EDNY cases where they were prosecuting stockbrokers who were making untaxed millions through offshore trading and accounts, then getting access to them in NY (so they could buy their coke and hookers locally) by having the money put into offshore accounts which could be accessed from ATMs stateside. They’d walk up to the ATM, pull a thousand or two (ATMs in NYC have higher settings than elsewhere – a lot, you can’t get less than $50 or $100) and party on. Of course, it did fall afoul of the money laundering laws since it was untaxed and now in the US where it should have been taxed.

    I can certainly see traffic like that, but in reverse, going on through gift cards instead of remittances.

    I also recall there was a bit of a scandal involving the campaign of some pol or another where large amounts in gift cards came out of the campaign funds.

  61. Citizen92 says:

    Tony Fratto has said a lot of irrelevant things in his day, particularly about Bush WH emails Not missing, in his opinion.

    As with any issue like this, there is always a lot of self denial. I doubt anyone would dispute that Karl Rove became rich thanks to the USPS.

    And what’s this site all about?

  62. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Post office workers “propaganda” or unimaginative Beltwaybotulism? Reductionism is the enemy of logic, good policy, and effective government. That is, if by effective government one means doing anything but shoveling as many taxpayer dollars as possible to corporate privatizers under the slogan that they are “job creators” instead of doing the greatest good for the greatest number.

    Whether the PO is “effective” depends rather much on its job description. If one defines it as costing nothing and competing with high-price corporate package delivery services, it’s probably not very effective. Neither are public libraries if their goal is to be more borderish than Borders.

    If the PO’s job is to offer a universal mail and small package delivery service at reasonable cost to taxpayers, while acting as an exemplar of good management and workplace practices in the manner of the original Tennessee Valley Authority, then it’s doing OK but has a ways to go. It is losing its way in the manner of NPR and Mr. Obama, trying to be too many things, but only to the most conservative members of Congress.

  63. P J Evans says:

    I’m wondering what the ‘drone’ farm equipment is. I know that there’s a fair amount that can be done remotely or by computer controls, if you have the money for them and the ground will allow it, but I think most farmers would prefer to see for themselves.
    I can see drones for keeping an eye on livestock, especially if they’re not close to the barns or the farmhouses. Coyotes, or, more likely, dogs running loose can do a lot of damage in a fairly short time.

  64. P J Evans says:

    I don’t think the PO was ever intended to serve primarily the rich. Otherwise they wouldn’t have had POs in general stores (or people’s houses) in areas where the population density was low. Communication was important back then, too, and sending letters was the main way people did it. (We have, in my family, a two sentence quotation, from a letter written in 1811. It’s family news being passed on, a week after it was received.)

  65. earlofhuntingdon says:

    @P J Evans: I would be wary of any “normalization” or “domestication” of feral technology such as military/intel drones. It could be useful, but the domestication seems doubtful. Even a 1/16th wolf is still a wolf.

  66. earlofhuntingdon says:

    @P J Evans: That’s true. The PO was intended as a building block of citizenship, society and open government, a fundamental universal service open to all. The technology may change. The key is anonymous, unmonitored free access at reasonable cost. I would say that physical mail delivery and its add-ons are under attack on all those fronts.

  67. Tony C says:

    The focus should simply be on efficient service. Our regional post office is scheduled for closing. If it is efficient, let it remain open. If not, close it. Postal Service management should make the call.
    Rural PO’s should remain open to serve the public.
    Let’s stop analyzing problems through Bush-colored glasses. He’s history. To coin a phrase, move on.

  68. andy says:

    Your argument for post offices is like saying walmart should sell record players – because, dammit, people without disposable income can’t go out and replace their music collection with mp3s.

    Your nostalgia is insisting on the public to continue to fund a dying technology. It’s poor reasoning.

    My solution: keep all post offices open temporarily, but immediately trim delivery of mail to ONE day a week (Mondays?). Then asssess the need of post offices in 2-3 years. High use offices remain publicly funded, low use post offices are closed and allow for private companies to fill the void.

    If you need an item delivered on a day other than Monday, call UPS, FedEx, or DHL.

  69. emptywheel says:

    @andy: Well, I offered this solution to Fratto: End two or three wars and dump the money we save into broadband and THEN close the post offices.

    That said, what call “nostalgia” is defending a view of the nation-state that’s enumerated in the Constitution. Is that dying too?

  70. P J Evans says:

    And pay four or five times as much. Right.

    You might want to take a look at the people around you, and notice how many of them are rich, and how many buy day-old bakery and on-sale perishable foods. Those are the people who depend on the post office, and their number is large and growing.

    (If UPS is so great and wonderful, why are they paying the USPS to deliver for them?)

  71. andy says:

    @emptywheel – you can get the same affect by reducing the delivery to one day per week.

    I don’t buy the idea that USPS and broadband are dependently linked (neither are war funds for that matter). If ppl don’t use email now, giving them publicly funded broadband is not a solution, it’s just a waste of money.

    Broadband is important, but not as solution for supplementing the demand for USPS.

    Publicly funded 6 day delivery USPS is not needed in this era. Lower the # of delivery days and the USPS saves costs, consumer habits will adapt, and private companies will rise to fill voids.

  72. andy says:

    @PJ – I didn’t say the USPS should be eliminated. I’m only suggesting that their delivery days be reduced. All your mail will still get delivered, just once a week.

    Consumer and corporate behavior will adjust.

  73. emptywheel says:

    @andy: No, you couldn’t. Because your solution would equate to a disinvestment of huge swaths of this country that currently rely on mail. They can do business in those places now, will not be able to after you cut their mail by 84%.

    And I happen to think 1) that violates the intent behind the enumerated authority of congress to establish a post offie, and 2) it badly undermines the nation-state.

  74. P J Evans says:

    Still crap.

    Good luck with your Netflix subscription if you don’t have broadband (which is most of the country). Good luck getting your bills on time, if, like most of us, you don’t trust on-line billing. Good luck getting things that you’ve ordered, even online – once a week deliveries means once a week for EVERYTHING. You’ll get to stand in line a lot longer for your mail.
    And then you’ll blame it all on the mean liberals.

  75. P J Evans says:

    He must live in a big city. Otherwise he’d know how important the USPS is. (The carrier on the route I lived on in West Texas retired last year. He’d been delivering mail for 30 years, on a route that was more than 120 miles long, with 165 boxes. 900,000 miles and one accident.)

  76. Bob Schacht says:

    “@Bob Schacht: By law it has to support itself.

    The point is, should it? Is it important enough to have all the rural and poor areas of this country incorporated into the federal network such that we’ll subsidize it? Or should we just start naming all the white spaces on that map above “territories,” without federal services or taxes or law? ”

    Right. I regard mail as part of our critical infrastructure. But other parts of our communications infrastructure– telephone lines, cable, electricity, even satellite, are privately owned, aren’t they?

    You’re right that *in general,* the rural poor get left out. Cell phones help out, but there are lots of blind spots all over the country.

    Bob in AZ

  77. emptywheel says:

    @Bob Schacht: Yes, but most are run more or less like utilities. FedEx and UPS aren’t. And while the phone companies like to pretend they’re not federalized, if we’re going to spend as much on wiretapping w/them as we do, we ought ot just nationalize them and save everyone the $$.

  78. mzchief says:

    From my perspective emptywheel and rosalind are spot on. I touched the project for USPS to be transitioned to “business units” back in the late 1990s which in a really short time I figured out was an incremental privatization (read flagrant lying and theft opeartion) and union busting scheme I wanted no part of. Postal Buddy was also yet another privatization/union busting scheme but it went nowhere supposedly because of really angry USPS workers who destroyed the live test demos. Another consultant picked up the “business units” ball re USPS and moved it forward a lot, I realized, when I later crossed paths with that person and heard about the projects which were such a hit that there were a lot of limo rides with the Postal General { face of disapproval }. Of course the Tel-Sat-Cos were lying their @sses off promising the communications revolution would be ruralized ala the Rural Electric Cooperatives. Verizon even belched out “fiber in the last mile.” But they’re Tel-Sat-Cos– they lied and only the corporate class/bankstas/rich were getting the better, high speed services plus those kewl stock exchange network upgrades. Everybody else was to keep whatever service they had but pay the consolidated toll booth owners an arm and a leg for it with the added bennie of the super duper spying. W00T!

    Meanwhile, FedEx and UPS got much more mechanized and really ground down their employees thanks to the efforts of the other consultant who took the limo rides with the Postal General. Shrubya gets into office, the Anthrax scare is used as an excuse to open everyone’s mail before delivery further making everyone even more paranoid in DC. Then the PATRIOT Act whizzes into place. Now no one trusts anyone or anything. There are murmurings that the phones are tapped, the CIA is running FedEx, the FBI is running UPS and the CIA is probably running USPS too.

    I think about how the Keystone XL pipeline might sectionalize the country further as it could deliver all the right of ways for the TTC-35 to implemented anyway.

  79. mzchief says:

    @mzchief: Last month I saw how stripped a major Rockville, MD PO was. The employees were really grumpy/stressed and hours reduced. There was no product on the walls as display was one of the prides of the business center design for the Postal’s offices. Looks to me the efforts are intended to shut it down as fast as the Super Congress can cut SS, Medicare and Medicaid.

  80. Karin says:

    I’m in the post office several times a week. Usually mailing books because I belong to, or sending certified mail for my job(law office). A lot of legal papers require proof of delivery, and certified is still a lot cheaper than Fed Ex. The other people I see in line are usually mailing packages or getting money orders.

  81. andy says:

    @emptywheel & @PJ – both your arguments neglect to realize that consumer behavior will adapt, and private companies will fill the gaps.

    I’m not saying the need isn’t there. I’m only saying that it’s unsustainable to artificially keep USPS prices low by pumping it with public dollars.

    If you want to progress the nation and keep the USPS in tact, you must allow for it to evolve to fit the nation’s needs.

    New, better, and probably more enjoyable services will rise. You will still use the USPS, but most likely for a specified correspondence type.

  82. emptywheel says:

    @andy: You’re making a value judgment about who is included in “the nation” whose needs you claim to know. One I don’t agree with.

    You may be happy to relegate much of the country to second-class status. I’m not. That’s what being a nation-state is about.

  83. emptywheel says:

    Incidentally, as joberly pointed out to me on this post, Pew polling last year showed that the Postal Service is one of the two or three most trusted government agencies, with 83% favorable ratings and 70% rating it as “good or excellent.” The other popular agencies is DOD, w/lower favorable ratings but higher “good or excellent” ratings.

  84. mzchief says:

    @emptywheel: The MOTU are too chitzy and greedy to countenance a nation-state. Such a project would take visionary leadership, compassion, wisdom and an expansive heart– none of which the MOTU possess.

  85. Cregan says:


    This thread is likely dead at this point, but here’s an answer.

    The point was they don’t pay federal income taxes. No one said they don’t pay sales taxes, parking tickets, etc.

    And, the line you quote from my post was clearly a joke.

    It is interesting how this point stirs up such dander. You would think someone was saying that 47% of the population doesn’t pay any federal income tax. One of those numerical facts that must be whispered and not mentioned, along with the many other subjects we must not mention.

  86. Sparky says:

    What is consistently missed in discussions about the post office and its budget problems is that due to friendly lobbying by FedEx/UPS etc., the USPS, unlike ANY other business, is required to fund its pension and health obligations 75 YEARS IN ADVANCE. They’re forced to pay now for the retirements of postal carriers who haven’t even been born yet. This is nuts. The fact the USPS is broke is not an accident; it was an intentionally created situation to benefit the private sector. Indirect welfare.

  87. John says:

    The post office is always crowded every time I go in. The reason is they laid off a lot of postal workers. Now, if you have business to do at the post office, you have to schedule at least a half hour of waiting in line.
    Where do these guys get their passports?

  88. JohnT says:


    The point was they don’t pay federal income taxes. No one said they don’t pay sales taxes, parking tickets, etc

    Um, ok, I guess this proves I can’t read your mind.

    And, the line you quote from my post was clearly a joke.

    Ok, you don’t seem the joking type, but, cest la vie. FWIW most people when making a joke use a snark tag /s, or a smiley face :-), or *g*

    It is interesting how this point stirs up such dander. You would think someone was saying that 47% of the population doesn’t pay any federal income tax. One of those numerical facts that must be whispered and not mentioned, along with the many other subjects we must not mention.


  89. harpie says:

    Way late-butjust had to say:


    I use the Post Office regularly for this very reason.

    I want to support them, because they provide an indispensible service to the general public. And I like seeing people there and just saying a neighborly “good morning”.

    And, I really like writing and receiving actual letters.

    E-mail is not the same.

Comments are closed.