Speaking of Out of Touch

Senator Bernie Sanders (I, VT) demonstrated the depth of his condition of out of touchness in a Tuesday op-ed in The Wall Street Journal.  Although Sanders’ out of touchness is amply demonstrated by his full-throated defense of the dinosaur that is the United States Postal Service, I want to look at a couple of other things he said in his piece.

First, there’s this:

There are very powerful and wealthy special interests who want to privatize or dismember virtually every function that government now performs, whether it is Social Security, Medicare, public education or the Postal Service.  They see an opportunity for Wall Street and corporate America to make billions in profits out of these services….

He says this in all seriousness, as if shrinking government and returning the bulk of its functions to the private sector where they belong is somehow a bad thing.  And that there would be profit in that private sector (and not only for “Wall Street and corporate America,” but also for medium-sized and small businesses and the Americans these would employ) is something only an avowed Democratic Socialist like Sanders would decry.  Moreover, it’s not only the powerful and special interests who want this shrinking of government and a divestment of its present array of “functions.”  Apparently he’s missed the Tea Party revolution that’s been going on these last five years.

He also had this (with some overlap with the quote above):

They see an opportunity for Wall Street and corporate America to make billions in profits out of these services, and couldn’t care less how privatization or a degradation of services affects ordinary Americans.

This is a false dichotomy.  Privatization doesn’t at all degrade services—it improves those extant and leads to vast expansion of new services, and at lower prices than before.  This is the example of the breakup of Ma Bell, effective at the start of 1984.  Under Ma Bell, we had a very good land line telephone system.  After the breakup, we got an even better land line system of competing companies (until their effective remerger); a cell phone system of competing companies; a cable system of more-or-less competing companies, which also compete for telephone business; and all of them competing for Internet business—including telephony communications.

A further example is the USPS, which prior to the divestment of package delivery and mail service other than first class, did a very good job of delivery.  Now we have competing package and special delivery service companies that are cheaper, faster, and even more reliable, and they have a broader range of special delivery services that the USPS is scrambling to match.  Additionally, all those communications services above are functionally competing for first class mail delivery, too, even though only the USPS can handle formal first class.  That’s what email, texting, Skype, AIM Chat, Twitter, and on and on—even that other dinosaur, faxing—are doing.

Apparently, Rip van Sanders has been sleeping through the end of the 20th century and this beginning of the 21st.

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