The United States Postal Service and the Cruise Ship Industry
Full disclosure, my husband works for the United States Postal Service.
In somewhat of a baffling fashion we are seeing what are the priorities of the Republican Party. It is not about the economy, but to finish a project they started under George W Bush, if not earlier. Destroying the United States Postal Service. This is not accidental, because they believe that the private sector will do this job better and cheaper. That alone is a good joke, since the companies that would take over, are exactly the same companies that refuse to participate in the rural space, for example. More on this bellow.
The USPS is in the Constitution. It is one of the few departments mentioned by name in the foundational document. There are good historical reasons for this. They include the control of the postal roads by the crown, which prevented the distribution of letters, pamphlets and ideas.
There were essential for the men of the Enlightenment who led the American revolution. Letters were commonly exchanged both before and after independence, and they were the internet of their age. It was essential not just for the young nation to develop during the early republic but were part of the scientific revolution.
The postal service is an essential service. People have found this out as they wait for packages at home. Ordering things on Amazon is convenient. The delivery is mostly done through the service. Yes, Amazon has some capacity, used for Prime, but it is hardly enough.
The USPS serves both rural and urban spaces. Principally, it serves the rural routes that are nowhere near profitable. These are more critical for people in isolated places because they get not just letters and bills.
The USPS delivers a lot of medicine to the elderly in this country. For people in rural areas, this is critical to stay healthy.
Right now it is helping to keep people at home. The packages you order through Amazon and other retailers, are coming to you through the hard work of mail handlers and letter carriers. They are working ten and twelve-hour shifts to keep it moving. Partly, they have less staff than they had even ten years ago.
In short, as the founders envisioned, it is essential for the transmission of information, packages, and data
Why do Republicans want to get rid of it?
It is the largest public unionized force in the United States. For Republicans, unions have always been a problem. Never mind that the United Parcel Service is also a unionized workforce. However, you can expect a privatized postal service not to be.
The USPS is the largest employer of veterans. It also employs minorities in extremely large numbers. This is a problem for many white politicians in certain areas of the country.
Republicans (and some Democrats) wrongly think that the private sector will do the job better. Well, for starters those same companies rely on the service for what is called Last Mile delivery. Neither UPS or FedEx have extensive rural delivery networks, because as I wrote above, they are not profitable. Who would take over rural routes? What will happen after rural residents cannot get their medicine through the mail?
Then there is this thing about voting by mail. In the midst of a pandemic, this will be needed. Republicans are opposed to this. So if the service crashes before the elections, the problem is instantly solved.
And then we enter into the upside-down world of republican thinking. They intend to bail out the cruise ship industry. You’d think the postal service is essential, but apparently not essential enough. While an industry that is all but essential (or mostly American based) is deemed essential.
Most vessels sailing the seven seas are not US Flagged. Liberia and Panama have huge ghost fleets, which are flags of convenience. They are used to avoid paying US taxes and also avoid some labor regulations. They also employ a few Americans.
If you have taken a cruise anytime in the last twenty-five years you will notice that the hotel side is mostly staffed by cheap labor from the Philippines and other low-income countries. They work hard, but their pay is lower than it would have to be if they were Americans.
On the operations side, most staff is not American either. Yes, the ships do benefit some local economies, for example, South Florida, where a lot of the ships are based during the Caribbean season. So this is not about the ships themselves. It is about Republican politics.
Let’s be clear. A cruise is a nice relaxing vacation, and we have gone on them it turns out every ten years. But they are mostly enjoyed by mostly white middle and upper-class Americans, and other middle and upper-class people from other countries.
Bailing the cruise ship industry makes little sense, given how little loyalty they have to the United States. It’s not like we can use those ships to transport troops, as it once was done. Nor do they have a commercial function. However, they will be bailed out, while Republicans look for ways to destroy an institution that takes no federal money, since 1973, and which they have set for failure with legislation that forces them to refund retirement for seventy-five years, which is crazy.
It is about the November election. In the pandemic, many of us will vote by mail. What happens if there is no service to carry those ballots to be counted? Never let a crisis go to waste, I suppose. And I guess 600,000 more Americans without a job are just dandy, after all, they are Union.