Mail-Order Dreams

By Marc Dion

April 17, 2020 4 min read

As a working-class man who shrewdly avoided work by becoming a writer, the United States Post Office means three things to me.

The first is that postal jobs are good jobs. Union. Seniority. Security. Benefits. Pension. Veterans' preference. All working-class people know those things.

The second is that the mail comes every day, no matter how good or bad your neighborhood.

The third is that the stuff I buy online or from a catalog comes to me by mail, and I love ordering things and dreaming of the day they will arrive. I'm waiting for a tweed sport coat right now. It's coming from England, and the whole world is coughing right now, so it may take a while.

But in some way, I don't understand, the dear, clunky old Post Office has offended the Republican Party and its punchline president, Donald J. Trump. The offense, no doubt, has something to do with that getting rid of the Postal Service will allow private "job creators" to take over mail delivery. This means no union, lousy benefits and, probably, no veterans' preference in hiring. There will be a lot of money in private postal delivery, particularly if it's run by abusive slobs who will provide the bare minimum of service for the highest possible price. It'll be like letting the cable company deliver the mail.

Any pretense of competition among the various new postal services will vanish, as it has with the cable company that enjoys a winked-at monopoly in many places.

It is possible to believe something so hard that no evidence can lead you to the truth.

A great number of American people have that kind of rock solid, stew-thick belief in either "privatization" or "deregulation," terms that are neither interchangeable nor synonyms.

As a solid, tax-paying donkey with a mortgage and a terrible tiredness at the end of the day, I can tell you that every service I have ever seen deregulated or privatized ended up as a big corporate disaster delivering high prices, worse service and less reliable jobs.

Still, what I've lived through, seen or paid for can be easily dismissed as "anecdotal evidence," by people who practice what I call "theoretical economics," which is the science of separating real consequences from the dreamy ideal of what the blessed "free market" will deliver in some hazy future when everyone's job is shaky and companies dispense their services like a king handing out small coins to the beggars running along beside his horse.

I come from a free market family. My grandparents worked in cotton mills for $1 a day, 16 hours, and a line at the factory gate composed of people who would take your job for half what you made. My grandmother, a tiny, fierce, non-English speaker, once complained to a boss that the drinking water in her work floor's communal bucket was covered with the floating corpses of dead cockroaches. He told her to shut up and go back to work. She hit him with the dipper used to drink the water, and he fired her on the spot. She got her next mill job under a different name because word had gotten around about her being "a troublemaker."

"It was easy," she told me. "The bosses couldn't tell us apart, so you just gave them any name you wanted."

Of course, things like that can't happen in the "new" free market America. They've fixed it so you can't just give them another name, and a camera records you hitting the boss. Progress never sleeps.

To find out more about Marc Munroe Dion and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com. Dion's latest book, "Devil's Elbow: Dancing in the Ashes of America," is a collection of his best columns, and is available in paperback from Amazon.com, and for Nook, Kindle, GooglePlay and iBooks.

Photo credit: ArtisticOperations at Pixabay

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