Saturday morning, I found myself one of about thirty people in line at an Oklahoma City Post Office. I had a large package in hand; a Christmas present for my out-of-state brother. I shuffled slowly through the line until I was only about eighteen people back. Anyone who has locked horns with the Post Office in December could probably guess what I saw next as the “customer service” counter came into view; only two of the six stations were actually manned by a Postal employee.
Five more minutes passed, and I wandered up about another three or four spots in line until I felt like I was half-way through. I had probably been in line about twenty minutes at this point. It was then that I eavesdropped a conversation between two women who were directly behind me in line. They were Baby Boomers, maybe late fifties or early sixties in age. I noticed the very autumnal shawls about their necks and, by that, instantly knew they were in a teacher’s union or otherwise part of the public education establishment. They didn’t even have to tell me.
I overheard that they were complaining about the results of Oklahoma’s recent gubernatorial race where Republican Mary Fallin defeated Democrat Jari Askins to become the first woman governor in state history. One of the two ladies mentioned she could not wait to see Fallin fail and then laugh at others and point out “hey, I didn’t vote for her.” The other replied: “yeah, I bet she’s already loading up the state government with a bunch of her fat-cat, capitalist buddies.” One of my favorite ways to pass time in these types of situations is to pick an argument, so I interjected: “look around at our situation right now. If, at this moment, you cannot see how the profit motive makes life better, then you will forever wander in darkness.”
Instead of a witty retort or debate I got a brief reaction of stunned confusion followed by them both turning their backs to me and ignoring me. Being passively misunderstood and then actively ignored was a response that led me to generalize about the large percentages of the American public who really don’t have that big of a problem with the Post Office’s status quo; the types of people who accept long government lines as the new norm. They are the types of people who could be virtually ambushed by a grossly inefficient bureaucracy lumbering into their lives and then finally looking around to protest why they’re waiting so much. But by then it’s too late.
It was reported last month that the Post Office lost approximately $8.5 billion dollars despite the cutting of over 100,000 jobs. The reports also include speculation that if the Post Office continues to lose money at its current rate, normal mail operations could cease by the end of 2011. Post Office spokesmen are quick to point out that they receive no direct funding from congress and are supported by their own revenue stream. What they are less quick to point out is that the Post Office has been surviving for several years on debt and that their ceilings on borrowing authority are quickly approaching (sound like any other DC-based entities you know?). Considering a typical congressman’s bodily functions go something like: cough, sneeze, blink, bailout; we all know what’s in store for the taxpayers at the end of this Postal route.
But what should have really hit my two new friends like a Mack truck was the realization that it takes 596,000 full-time government employees to deliver the nation’s magazines, utility bills, and the parcels not yet being transported by UPS, FedEx, or DHL. Those 596,000 people also want to stop doing that on Saturdays. How many government employees then would it take to deliver the totality of the nation’s health care when and if the Democrats’ not-so-covert dream of single-payer public health care is realized? This Christmas season, when you’re waiting in line at the Post Office, the DMV, or the Social Security office, imagine what your health care experience could be in five years if you fail to demand a total repeal of Obamacare from both the newly-elected and the incumbent Republican legislators.
What makes America’s health care system the best in the world is competition, profit, wealthy doctors, private health insurance companies, “Big Pharma”, and the freedom to innovate; all the things the ruling class have instructed us for so many years to despise. The lack of those market dynamics is what also makes the U.S. Postal Service (or any other government customer service office) such a giant chore and a giant failure. Government’s market participation as customer service entity might be good for a dismissive laugh when you’re stuck in a ridiculous line holding a heavy Christmas present, but when your son’s bleeding at the E.R. or your wife is in desperate need of fast cancer treatment, it’s a much more serious matter and it shouldn’t be the first time you contemplated engaging your representatives in Washington about state-run medicine.