The blurb on the front page of the Puffington Host
was intriguing (as blurbs, of course, are meant to be):
"Elizabeth Warren Seeks To Reinvent The Post Office".
Could it be something interesting? One of those blue-moon events where
a left-wing politician actually has a good, innovative idea? Senator
Warren, after all, has the seat previously occupied by Teddy Kennedy,
championed airline deregulation in the 1970s.
So could Senator Warren be possibly proposing a market-friendly reinvention
of the United States Postal Service? It would be a fine idea.
The USPS loses
billions every year; even its weak
revenue stream depends on a government-enforced
monopoly; it is hidebound by Congressional micromanagement,
a bloated unionized workforce,
and its own anticompetitive culture.
And a market-friendly reform wouldn't even be that revolutionary.
The United Kingdom turned its Royal Mail
into a private for-profit
corporation last year.
(of all places) allowed private competition with its state-owned postal service
20 years ago.
The people who keep track of such things classify
the United States as having one of the least competitive, least-free
market postal systems in the world.
So could ex-Harvard prof Elizabeth Warren actually have come up
with even a half-good idea in this area?
You may have guessed the answer from the title on this post: no.
Instead, Senator Warren proposes to make the already too-socialist
USPS — more socialistic! The bright idea is for the USPS
to start offering "basic banking
services" (identified in the article as "bill paying, check cashing,
small loans"). The excuse is the (alleged) 68 million Americans
"underserved" by the current banking industry.
This is the "progressive" answer to government-engineered failure: let's
keep doing that, and add on more things to fail at.
This isn't difficult to understand.
If banks, credit unions, or other denizens of the financial system
could make money serving the "underserved", they would do so.
In a relative heartbeat.
The Rube Goldberg
process is pretty well understood. Percived problems
are (a) politically "solved" by over-regulation; this causes
(b) traditional operators to abandon services that can no longer
(c) The gap is filled, often
less satisfactorily with less traditional
firms. (In this case: payday lenders, pawnshops, check-cashers
that take a significant cut off the top.) These firms are
then (d) vilified as "predatory" and "greedy" by the same pols
whose actions brought them into being. Which (e) causes
more "solutions" to be proposed, and we're back to (a) again.
Is the USPS equipped with any sort of magic wand to do a better job?
Almost certainly not. The only reason this isn't a flat "no":
they could benefit from a government-mandated unlevel playing
field, getting exemptions from regulations that private
firms are forced to follow.
More likely, though: this scheme would just add another
operation to USPS's current business. Congresscritters
love to micromanage USPS now; the appeal of extending
such fiddling-power into any new services would be near-impossible for
politicians to resist.
Senator Warren references this
article from The New Republic, which is shot through with the
same socialistic fallacies. But in addition, the article muses that
this is one area where Obama might follow through on his promise to
issue diktats without legislative action. Fascinating that old rag should
be so enthusiastic about the executive wielding power
unencumbered by Constitutional