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Tales from the Public Sector

Once upon a time conservatives agitated to privatize the U.S. Postal Service.  But hardly anyone on the right cares about the Post Office any more for the simple reason that technology has enabled us to go right around it: we use faxes and emails to transmit documents, pay our bills online, and send packages by UPS or FedEx.  (By the way, when the fax machine was first being brought to the market about 30 years ago, the Post Office petitioned the FCC to require that fax machines could only be placed and used in post offices, on the perfectly consistent bureaucratic rationale that since fax machines could transmit letters, the post office’s legal monopoly on first class mail swept the devices under their authority.  Fortunately the FCC was not persuaded.)

What happened to the Post Office is starting to happen to public education; in a few more years conservatives may stop agitating for school choice and gnashing their teeth about teachers unions, for the simple reason that fewer and fewer people will be sending their kids to public schools.  I saw Rupert Murdoch hold up an iPad at a meeting last year, and declare, “This is what is going to defeat the teachers union.”)

Anyway, today I see that the Post Office is poised to default on a $5.5 billion payment due this week to the U.S. Treasury for—wait for it—retiree health benefits.  Gee that sounds increasingly familiar.  And guess who is nowadays in favor of privatizing the Post Office: liberals, such as former Obama OMB director Peter Orszag.  Congrats, Peter—you’ve caught up to where conservatives were 40 years ago.  Maybe you’ll discover the merits of low taxes about the time you start to collect Social Security.  If there still is Social Security by then. . .

Meanwhile, Solyndra—remember them? the company Joe Biden promised was producing “good, permanent jobs”?—has released its Chapter 11 bankruptcy plan.  Of the $527 million Solyndra received from taxpayers, they’ll repay . . . $24 million.  I’m sure the Obama Administration will take small bills.  Easier to use as walking around money on election day in November.

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