The United States Postal Service is one of the biggest wastes of taxpayer dollars. It also shows how terrible it is when government’s have monopolies over services that should be left to the free market.
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Here’s a transcript of our conversation:
Emma: Hi, Brittany.
Brittany: Hi, Emma.
Emma: Today I want to talk about a cause very near and dear to my heart, and that is why the USPS is awful. It is horrible. I know.
Brittany: They’re terrible.
Emma: We really don’t like the postal service here at the Tuttle Twins Podcast.
Brittany: You like the band, the postal service for the record.
Emma: I do like that band. That is a great band. But they picked an unfortunate name. They did. Now they will forever be, tied together with lost packages and late mail, and horrible customer service. So you might be wondering what is there to dislike about the postal service if you haven’t really interacted with it very much. I totally understand. When I was a kid, I thought it was just, you know, the nice mailman who gives my dog a treat and brings me my holiday packages and my magazines and my letters from friends and stuff. But in reality, the USPS is very bad at its job. And you might recall that last Christmas, you may have had some packages that didn’t come until like February. There was a crazy backlog for multiple months where thousands and thousands of packages just went missing or were delayed until way after the holidays were over. It’s practically spring by that point. And the head of the government agency, who is in charge of the USPS because it’s a federal agency, Or is it technically an agency? Brittany, you know, I think is.
Brittany: They might have like government, what’s it called? Like, I can’t think, I don’t know that it’s an agency, but it definitely has like the blessing. It is an extension of Yes. In fact, the Constitution technically lays out, it’s like roads.
Emma: Yeah, exactly. So it’s.
Brittany: It’s a public good. I believe.
Emma: It’s a part of the infrastructure. Maybe it’s considered like a public utility. I’m not totally sure.
Brittany: Yeah, yeah.
Emma: But it’s run by the federal government and it, it’s all of its offices, it’s main offices. The postmaster is the name of the guy that or the title of the guy that runs it. And it’s all based in DC. So, fast forward to this year and the USPS has actually raised its prices. This was recent. This was, I believe October 1st. They kicked in, raised its prices and get this intentionally slowed down delivery times for a few different kinds of mail. And one of them is periodicals. So if you are not aware, the Tuttle Twins recently launched a magazine. It’s been super fun. That’s been sort of my main project.
Brittany: Which is a periodical just to back up a little, cause that word is like silly, meaning like a period comes out a certain period. Yeah.
Emma: Yes. The good clarification. A periodical is just like a magazine or a newspaper or something like that that comes out every month or every season or something like that. So they slowed down intentionally the delivery of periodicals, including magazines. So we had people waiting, you know, the first month when we did our magazine, everything got there within about a week. Now it’s taking two to three weeks for people to receive their magazines, which is just crazy. And on top of that too, they’re raising prices. And Louis DeJoy, who is the postmaster, which to me is such a funny title, he said that this was necessary to help keep the agency afloat. And that to me is the hilarious thing, is that you know, they literally have the market cornered. It’s sort of like a government monopoly Oh, yeah. On carrying mail. And they still, they have guaranteed customers guaranteed money. They still cannot find a way to keep it running and keep it afloat. And that is just like crazy to me.
Brittany: You know? And part of the reason this happens is because they’re unionized. I don’t know if you wanna talk about that later, but Oh, yeah. To, add a little tidbit is we’ve talked about teachers unions before and how they’re bad postal service is the same way. I mean, there’s like an ongoing joke that postal workers are lazy because they’re allowed to be. And the whole motto is like, through rain or shine or all these days, like, well, you know, tread through the snow and it’s like, no, you won’t.
Emma: Yeah, so not at all.
Brittany: Not even a little bit. So the thing that really gets me too, and this happens in all government entities, is when you have a private business, like let’s say UPS or FedEx, that they have a package if their packages were delayed like this, they would have to at least appease, meaning they would have to give a reason or offer a solution to their customers because they would be scared of losing business, right? Yeah. But you can’t send certain things through, UPS or FedEx, which is crazy to me. Like, you can’t send, I think it’s like letters or certified letters. Like you can only send parcels, which means packages, which is so silly. But we also see this with utility companies, meaning the companies that give your house’s electricity and Oh, gas, and water.
Emma: Don’t get me started.
Brittany: Right. And we don’t have, an option. We don’t have a market choice. So instead of that, we’re forced to use companies that are horrible. And we literally have no say, the only option we have is go live off the grid. Yeah. You know, even solar panels are, they’re very expensive. So it’s harder for people to do that. So again, private businesses find a way to innovate, but the government just relies on basically they don’t have to rely on, they rely on government money and subsidies too to say. Yeah.
Emma: Yeah. And they don’t even have to serve customers too. You know, because you brought this up, I’m gonna tell a quick story about public utilities. I am at my wit’s end right now because we recently moved and we, at our old house, I had, I live in Nashville and the company that runs the electricity, the only one that supplies electricity here is owned by the federal government. And then it’s contracted out to our city. And first of all, they raised the prices really high. It was, we got like a $300 utility bill one winter. It was during this crazy winter storm. And we were in a super, small house and people were just getting these crazy charges. There’s no accountability for how much they charge. They don’t have to provide any kind of reasoning, and they’ll shut your power off if you don’t pay it. Which is you know, that’s a normal part of an electricity business. But there’s zero accountability because there’s no competition, there’s no one for them to compete with. So they can charge whatever they want, but get this, I moved, and in December, my husband and I called the company. I got proof of a letter. We were moving, the service was to transfer on this day. And a couple of weeks ago, I’m sitting in our new place and the power shuts off in the middle of the day. And I have had autopay set up for three months. I’ve been paying the bill, it’s been coming automatically out of my checking account. And, I called the power company and I was like, what the heck happened? Why, did you shut off my power? And they were like, well, you’re three months past due, you know, you haven’t paid blah, blah, blah. And I go, well then what have you guys been charging me before? Here’s the receipts. They go, oh, well you’re still paying for your former address. And I had all of the proof that I needed to prove that we transferred it over. But for some reason, someone on their end didn’t transfer it over. They didn’t file the paperwork the right way or something. I sat on hold for multiple hours. This, was during the workday, mind you, so I’m trying to figure out, I’m using like the hotspot on my phone. And I called so many times trying to get through to different people. They kept saying, well, I need a manager to help you with this. I need so-and-so to help you. And they kept promising they were gonna call me back. They were gonna file a ticket. I ended up having to pay the bill even though I had already been paying for someone else’s house at that point. So I’m rambling there.
Brittany: Like that person’s just like, oh, great. No, getting free power.
Emma: Exactly. Yeah. It was our house that we had sold. So I’ve been paying the bill for someone else. Oh goodness. Yeah. It never applied to us and get this I still haven’t heard back from them. I keep calling and they’re like, well, we don’t, we don’t see your ticket, blah, blah, blah. We’ll get back to you. We have long wait times, of course, and blaming COVID too. So that’s my little rant about public utilities and how they are a total scam. I always make the joke. They’re like, thank you for being a customer. And I’m like, I’m not a customer. I’m a prisoner, you’re holding me hostage with this electricity. But this is, it kind of reminds me of Atlas Shrugged, which it’s a really long book. it’s honestly, it’s more suitable for adults. But we have a kid version of Atlas Shrugged, the Tuttle Twins and the search for Atlas. And this story talks about when the government takes over successful businesses and then they start to not work, they fail, they slow down. there’s some really epic train wrecks that happen in Atlas Shrugged because of government malfeasance and people not being able to do their job. And that is exactly what we’re seeing with the postal service, where it’s, there is a failure to be accountable to customers and people. You know, when there’s no competition, your business is not going to get better and your prices, why would they lower prices if there’s no competition? So that’s pretty crazy. But then on the other hand, there was this scandal, Brittany, I don’t know if you wanna talk about the USPS and how it was actually spying on people. This came out earlier this year.
Brittany: I don’t know a whole bunch about this, but I’m gonna tell you what I do know. And that is that you know, there is a this cracks me up. There is a law enforcement arm of the USPS. So it’s like, it reminds me, there’s an old show Seinfeld, where there’s a library cop who’s enforcing late library signs. And this always reminds me of that. And people didn’t even know. In fact, I think Connor and I told a story earlier on, but people didn’t even know like I didn’t know there was a post office police, but it was tasked by the federal government to moderate or monitor, sorry, people’s social media posts for extremist content and like what does that even mean? Right. But, one personal experience actually I have with this, not with the post office brigade or police, but I wrote an article once on, I think I called it, it’s Time to Privatize the Post Office. And you know, this was just an article I published for Foundation for Economic Education. My article usually did well, but I didn’t receive backlash. Well, I get on Facebook one day and I’ve noticed that like, like 50 new people have followed me. They haven’t added me as friends, they’ve followed me. So somebody in some postal worker group posted my piece and people, and my post used to be public. I had to stop making them public for a while because I was getting bombarded with oh boy Posto people who were monitoring my Facebook and coming to tell me that post. I didn’t realize how bad people had it. And not that your grammar makes you know, there were intelligent you who can’t spell. Having said that, there was a lot of just spelling. It was, really actually kind of scary. Like I didn’t love it. Yeah. Cause I’m like, these people know who I am. So even the non-police are monitoring, you know, my page.
Emma: Oh yeah. It’s, that’s a crazy story. It’s funny because the only mailman that I personally know, the only male carrier, I should say it’s a gender-neutral term. My best friend’s dad from high school, his name’s Jeff and I won’t out his last name cuz he’s kind of my undercover guy in the coastal service. But he always talks about how if it was privatized, his job would be so much better. He’s like, I would be paid better because I care about doing my job Well, I get my routes done. He’s like, I work on holidays, all this stuff. He’s like, there is so much bureaucracy, which is like, overregulation, I should say. There’s so much bureaucracy in the postal service that the people who are good at their jobs and who take pride in doing a good job are not even really rewarded for it. They’re treated exactly the same as all the people who don’t care, who lose packages, who lose stuff and don’t finish their routes, and all of that. So that’s like, we’re not even being anti, you know, male carrier, anti postal worker. We’re just anti-bureaucracy. We’re anti-government running something that should be a business and should be competitive. So, you know, to kind of get us more towards wrapping up here, it’s not like we think anyone who works for the post office is bad. It’s that, you know, when the government takes control of a business, it never works out. And it’s not like the government just took control of the USPS if it was private. I’m not super versed on the history of the postal service, but there was one guy who tried to launch a free market alternative and he’s someone that we love, was Liz Andrew Spooner. Brittany, do you wanna just to give a little quick rundown on sort of his venture?
Brittany: Yes. He is the coolest guy ever. And we did a previous episode on him, but so not only is he awesome for the story I’m about to tell, but he was also one of the earliest abolitionists, meaning he was very against slavery. So all around Cool dude. So he decides to start, I think it was called like the American Postal Company. I might have that wrong.
Emma: American Letter mail company.
Brittany: Yes. I love that. American Letter Mail Company. So he starts his own post office and is like, no, the post office is terrible. I’m gonna start a competing company. Obviously, the government didn’t like this. I think eventually he just couldn’t keep up with they’re you know, getting money from the government and all that. But he started his own private company because he was saying no like there needs to be market competition, there needs to be, you know, a competitor because otherwise the post office has no incentive, which you’ve talked about before. To serve its customers. And I say customers and air quotes cuz we have no.
Brittany: Over that. I love the IRS always calls me their customer tomb. Like, no, I could not choose to do this. but so he starts his own and I think that’s a great act of courage because some of the best heroes throughout history have been the ones to stand up and say, here’s another option for something. Yeah. So he was stifled, meaning his plan was stopped by the government. But he’s a pretty cool dude.
Emma: Yeah, he is. And I actually, I have my notes pulled up here cause I was researching him a bit before the show and it turns out that, Congress actually forced him congress all the way up to Congress forced him to cease his operations in 1851 by legislating a US monopoly. So they hated him so much that they actually said the government is going to create a monopoly and shut down this competitor to the postal service. So all I have to say in closing is that maybe if they hadn’t shut down the American Letter Mail Company, your guy’s Tuttle Twins magazines would actually be coming on time and they wouldn’t be getting all mangled in the mail and someone would actually care about keeping our business. But that’s just me ranting about my frustrations with USPS. So now you guys know, not as innocuous, not as friendly as they seem always. So we will wrap it up there. Guys. Thank you so much for listening and check out the show notes for the episode on Liz Andrew Spooner, cuz he’s a super cool guy that you should learn more about.
Emma: Talk to you guys later.
Brittany: Talk to you soon.
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