The Washington Post

Harry Reid fights for junk mail

Aw yeah, junk mail! (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

“Seniors love getting junk mail,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Wednesday. “It’s sometimes their only way of communicating or feeling like they’re part of the real world.”


Act now! If you don’t, seniors will stop getting junk mail, the only thing that makes them feel human.

After all, telephones do not exist. There is no television. And no one over 60 is capable of using the Internet.

Some people send birthday cards. Other people telephone their grandparents. I just fill out company mailer forms in their names.

Nothing says, “You are a part of the real world” like bulk coupons from Red Lobster. There’s no feeling like that feeling when you open your mailbox and get that glossy mailer addressed to Occupant or Current Resident. A phone call pales in comparison.

Are you kidding me? This is part of the case for the USPS? That without it, no one would send junk mail to seniors? And seniors love junk mail? And a world where seniors do not receive large quantities of junk mail is a world too horrible to imagine? Is this a real argument?

The best case against allowing the Postal Service to fester unreformed might be the arguments of those who want to do just that.

Nothing inspires inane remarks like the USPS, that hamstrung, lumbering institution desperately trying to cut costs as the world switches to digital forms of communication and it hemorrhages money. Remember when Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) suggested a marketing campaign to promote letter-writing?

Mail hasn’t been the most cutting-edge form of communication since the telegraph came into vogue. Yet it lingers. And the Postal Service’s boosters, time and time again, mistake any effort to cut costs, rethink workforce size and benefits, or reduce the number of post offices for a Devious Existential Threat that will Kill the Postal Service. If such steps will kill it, it’s only because it’s on life support now, artificially preserved long after it ceased to be viable as a private business.

In March, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) complained: “Is it futile to move ahead on postal reform legislation?  If the Postmaster General chases away his customer base with price hikes and service cuts before we can enact legislation, will our bill be effective in saving the Postal Service?”

Another way of referring to price hikes and service cuts, when the Postal Service is charging too little for extremely expensive and labor-intensive services that fewer and fewer people are willing to pay for? Saving the Postal Service.

But never mind that. There’s junk mail to protect.

“I’ll come home tonight here to my home in Washington and there’ll be some mail there. A lot of it is what some people refer to as junk mail, but for the people who are sending that mail, it's very important,” Reid noted.

That’s certainly one way to look at it.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day. She is the author of "A Field Guide to Awkward Silences".


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