« The Weeds

WTF is happening with USPS

2020-08-18

Jane, Dara, and Matt on the health and history of the postal service, the political games being played, and what it means for November's election. 

Resources:

"The Post Office Mess Is Meant to Exhaust You. Don’t Let It." by Charlie Warzel, New York Times

"On the Post Office 'sabotage'" by Jay Caruso, The Monday Notice

"Why We Should Love The Post Office" by Addison Del Mastro, The American Conservative

"USPS badly needs an overhaul, but not smack in the middle of the Trump-Biden campaign" by Paul Brandus, USA Today

"State officials rush to shore up confidence in Nov. 3 election as voters express new fears about mail voting" by Amy Gardner and Seung Min Kim, WaPo

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy Statement

White paper

Hosts:

Matt Yglesias (@mattyglesias), Senior Correspondent, Vox

Jane Coaston (@cjane87), Senior politics correspondent, Vox

Dara Lind (@DLind), Immigration reporter, ProPublica

Credits:

Jeff Geld, (@jeff_geld), Editor and Producer

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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booking a trip can feel dramatic. But with free cancellation. You can't go wrong with hotels, com terms, apply, see, site for details all right and we're doing some googling hello. Welcome to another episode of the weeds on the but media plus network. I met their places. He would Genk coasted for public. As dare lend add, the democratic convention is under way, but we are going to set that aside for a moment and talk about the postal service, which is in the news lately, but also at least is I understand it a lot of the things that We're talking about right now are actually sort of longer
standing postal issue is that have collided with some of the short term concerns. So one of the things people do with the postal service is male by male ballots, and one of the things that happen during the pandemic is that there has been a great Deal of increased interest in expanding. by mail options so that people don't need to go to polling places in person a little bit. Oddly, this kind of turned into a fairly sharply partisan dispute fire actually like good, cynical reasons, but that's the road like a good cynical reason would be that vote by male clearly helps Democrats, which I dont actually is that well established as a factual matter, but it seems to be what Trump thinks and so he's been discouraging vote by male republicans have been posing legislative efforts to expand. It ends
then, when Trump appointees to run the postal service, doing things that are raising the question of whether balance will be met. Out to people in time. Whether balance that are sent back in will be done, delivered in time and whether, in a more purely conspiratorial form will the vote somehow just like not be counted, and then travel but in his typical manner as people were starting to get stressed about. This did not Blake go on tv to say, like Northern, it's fine like even if mail, gets delivered a little bit slower as a result of these cost cutting measures. Every ballot that's properly postmarked will be counted instead. He he went on Fox business and was said like Democrats are trying to spend more money on the post office, if they do that, everybody will be voting by mail and will lose we really like took the
It's it's a jet fuel to the takes. Whenever Trump says the king apart loud or in this case, maybe just ass. I was not true, but it Everley kicked it up into a higher gear. That a a long, simmering medium term about postal postal service and a long, simmering medium term dispute about mill in voting became like this is the urgent crisis of our democracy. Today, right I mean I think that actually subdivide that a little further you have the that from strand of this, which is in our appears just be. The latest manner nation of Donald Trump loves talking about voter, fried and raising the spectre of voter, Fried and Donald from his decided that this is an new that allows him to talk a lot about voter fraud and, like that, has led some to a certain degree. Some strategy in the executive branch, like the Department of Justice, is currently suing
Nevada over a law that expands voting by male, because it argues is arguing voter fraud in Pennsylvania. It's on. You know these sight of a lawsuit trying to stop them from expanding vote by mail in that lawsuit. A proper pointed judge actually required, like demanded produce some evidence that voting by male expands voter fraud and no evidence has thus far been produced. So we're going to see how that works out, but, like generally, that has been developing separately from the postal Service management conversation, at least as far as we can see right like absent any smoking gun where Louis De Joy says to Congress Trump told me to stop people voting by male, like we are seeing the effects of postal service organization that have started not from the president as far as we can tell. But from this new postmaster general, who was appointed in June, has done a lot of like consolidating power at the top of the organization
has implemented a lot of things things. You could call cost cutting strategies or could call long term realignment, but that all in the short term appear to have the effect of delaying male, such as restricting overtime, instructing postal workers that at the end of their shift, they need to be back at the office. They can't be like trying to the rest of their rounds completed, such as the commission of lots of male sorting machines which are bulky and expensive, but also help sort mail, There is an argument that we can then we can get into, but its innovative. There have been a lot of changes in a short period of time, under the Joy administration and then dish into the thread of voting by male becoming a more appealing option during the pandemic. You have the basic fact that the postal service has been here, by an economic collapse like a law, of entities that take in The new on things like ads,
So the administration is actually dealing with a lot of shortfalls in agencies that rely on fees, revenues from the out from sources other than Congress and many of those of creative come to conquer had enhancing look in order for us to continue operate then we're gonna need a lot of money and theirs, fundamental law
standing, dynamic whirling if Congress isn't used to giving you a lot of money to operate because its use to you getting your money from other sources, there's a higher barrier to entry. So the postal that the question of funding the postal service was already a part as an issue before Donald Trump decided to kick it up and not with the vote by male stuff, because there is just a resistance to giving money to agencies that you expect to be able to fund a note, if not find themselves at least be able to pick up more of the slack on their own. So this is especially worth discussing for a couple of reasons. Something that keeps happening throughout this administration is theirs existing stuff and then there's Trump sang stuff and those two entities have run into each other to create a giant cluster and so the United States postal service. There was a JO report that was filed earlier this year on audit. That stated that essentially, that United States postal Service, I'll quote from it,
current business model is not financially sustainable and they had about seventy eight billion dollars and losses. Since two thousand seven, it's worth noting that a lot of government agencies opera at a loss, including a lot of government agencies, that conservatives really like a lot of government agencies that liberals and Democrats seem to really like, but the challenge United States postal services face as the result of this audit, which began in October of two thousand and eighteen, their issues are related to several different areas of theirs, shrinking male volumes. Fewer people are sending letters. There is employed compensation and benefits the exits poster workers. There are many of them, and many of them are getting older, which means that a lot of those benefits that they paid into are now being paid out and increasing levels of unfunded liabilities, which gets into a lot of that specifically about the things that yes, its postal service has to do. But
earlier this year and a fiscal quarter report filed in June, the Bs States Postal Service said that it had quote sufficient liquidity to continue operating through at least August. Twenty one and earlier this year in July yeah it states postal service reach an agreement agreement with United United States Treasury, ten billion dollar alone, if it needed to be had at its interesting. Because so much of this there is the conversation about what? U S. Postal service has said is that there are financial condition, is not going to impact and their ability to process and deliver election and post political mail. The pope master, told the Postal Service Board of Governors that they were not slowing down election mail or any other male. Despite all the evidence of that taking place and the postal service warning, forty six states Andy the of mail and about the way, so it's worth keeping those two things in mind as well, and the arts, its postal services,
and the day before Trump decided to go on Fox business and say things saying that the United States, postal service is well prepared as Alice, to deliver deliver election because because they estimated that in ballots would count for less than two percent of male volume from MID September until election day and because the exits both service delivers a lot of people, male about four hundred thirty one million pieces of mail on a regular day- and they assume that even if every single registered voter cast the vote by male thou, be about a hundred fifty million people. They would be able to do so. But this is again raised, another issue that we've talked about before and we can get back to talking about the postal service and the specificity of the issues facing the postal service. Is that there's a lot of tendency that when Trump says some things it's very important? We should take it literally and when Trump says other things, we should ignore it and treat them as off the
remarks to quote national Review or as just kind of like. Well, he just says these things, and it's really not talking about, because you can just ignore this and he was confused. He confuse the tube lots of money that are involved with funding the United States Postal Service and how they will work during the election. And This is confusing and that you didn't mean it essentially so either his words matter or his words don't matter depending on whether or not you need his words to matter or not, and so it's a their interesting issue in which there was this existing thing that the United States postal Service have been received owing to its worth. Also noting that some of the criticism of the joy has come and he is expected to testify before the house to believe next week. He is also
as someone who has donated to the Trump campaign, which is a thing that he has done. But there's this existing thing with the United States. Postal service dealing with a downtick in mail there's been the long standing grudge has had that Trump has had against the United States Postal Service and against mail in general, specifically aimed at Amazon and whether or not how much they pay and it's all very confusing. But there are these existing issues and the trump wandered in May and ass, he did made everything confusing and worse. I want to talk about about postal history and how the the pre trump nature of the partisan dispute about the postal service was was going because I think it it sets the contact troubled, the Amazon thing and am some of that, the confusions about about voting by mail. So you don't want it
that bike happened on Twitter was, like some conservative person said, like the postal service loses billions of dollars a year, any other business they did. This would be shut down. And then eight million liberals were like wait till she finds out about the pen gone ha ha and obviously, like government agencies, don't turn a profit routine. I mean a handful do based on licensing rules, but it's not like the normal function of a public service. In turn, a profit and if you look at the first one hundred and fifty years or so the postal service that was just how it went, it was a public service and in the nineteenth century it was a public service that was provided on an unequal Basis so in urban areas, where distributing the mail was relatively easy. Do you The mail but rural areas, you wouldn't, and if you want you get your mail, you had to go to town and go to the post office ends
Then there was a movement by by populists Tom Watson for from Georgia, who has a whole interesting career, but the key had rural free delivery bell. And so this was the idea that the government would deliver the mail to your house on a daily basis, regardless of where you lived, and it was a huge lobbying clusterfuck. Because, on the one hand, it cost a bunch of money at a time when the We do not think there was no big welfare state. Then there were civil war pensions, but this is gonna, be like the others the federal government did and then the other thing was that, like mom and pop shopkeepers did not like this idea, because they liked that people to come into town to get their male because the store was also in town, and they feared that everybody was gonna just order stuff from seers. You know if they could get male delivered to the house. The postmaster general when I think was, the Harrison administration was like some departments, poor guy. You know so there was
this whole thing right. It's like there's nothing new under the sun were like postal issues. It's never just about the male right, but Sudan twentieth three. Its governments are, as the government delivers Mary House every day, regardless and this loses a lot of money thence, starting in the mid twentieth century because of the internal combined engine and because of like bass, printers and stuff like that it starts to get way. Cheaper today The mail and people are mailing more and more shit so, like suddenly, the postal service is rolling in it, and postal workers want like, A piece of the pie are particularly in this sort of inflationary climate of the late. Sixty is theirs. Illegal strike of postal workers in New York City and it starts to spread elsewhere. So come Does this postal reform in nineteen seventy- and this is like the origin the modern postal service. So it's spun off as like
not a government agency anymore. Workers are allowed to form like regular labour unions and bargain collectively, which federal employees aren't otherwise, but the floor side is it. The postal service is supposed to finance itself out of its postal revenues so the idea was the postal workers can bargain for higher pay and Bobby Bob. Ah, but there's like a limit right, it's it's capped, but the actual financial value of the postal Services male monopoly. So that's great for, like twenty twenty five thirty years, then, eventually, the amount of male people set starts going down in the twenty first century. Right and this then raises the spectre of holy shit. The puzzle, service has these unions. They have this
very high overhead thing. Are you got a small town? America is little rinkitink post offices every place. The people get like good health benefits, good retirement benefits and Congress can for see that at some point in the distant future, this is going to fall apart. So they quietly pass this two thousand and six law. This is the postal service has to pre fund retirement benefits, which is not how companies normally, Two things- and you will often hear liberal, say the only reason the postal service loses money is because of this pre funding requirement, which, until this year, I think, was technically true, but the important thing is it like, regardless of how you handle the pre finding the thing where the postal service is getting less revenue over time? a real fact. People are just not mailing as much as they use
and so the question is then like. What are you gonna do about that and one idea is: you can go back to the pre nineteen, seventy dynamic and just say: fuck. It we're just gonna hey what it costs to deliver, mailed them by this House and Republic, have been resisting that in part, because they don't like spending money on stuff, but in part, because something the postal service has started to do is that since the got to drive a truck around to everybody's house, they can also put packages in the trucks and those packages compete with Fedex and ups, and it's highly effective it because it's costly to deliver parcels to every random rural address in America, but if you all running a truck to every address like that. Then it's cheap right, so Fedex, EMU, PS, don't die
like this. Just like the old mom and pop stores didn't want mail delivery to your house. Fedex emu PS dont, want mail delivery gap by this house's. So one lobbying push has been the poster service should respond to its fall in revenue by degrading service. So that's like stop Saturday delivery, but Congress won't. Let them do that. So de joy has found this other stuff that isn't prohibited by statute and it's basically like you, look at that postal motto about like neither rain whatever. Whatever you just draw that out- and you say everybody's going to work an eight hour work day? You deliver how much mail you can and if you can't deliver all the mail whatever like we got, what we've got right, it's not a competitive business, it's like delivering commodity male threatened.
Slower is going to cause people to use the other commodity male company, because there isn't one right and that's the like policy question that we are facing is: should the quality of postal shrink down to what's what supported by ongoing postal revenue, or should we go back to the Pre World WAR Ii idea that, like this, is a costly but important, like service. Akin to you know, I don't, like national powers or like some roads and guess I'm not that akin to the army, really because that's thought up service, but this isn't like you, pay money to go to a national park, but the national parks. Make money right and if somebody was like out, what are you doing to knowledge like that? Just now? What is about so that's it. The high minded disagreement that I think from them
into that's, definitely a lot of it, but I do think there are also questions about rate and scope of change. Re like there have been questions about aging of the postal services infrastructure, Erin, Gordon Vice head and investigation that was published earlier the summer about how in a postal service vehicles, keep catching on fire. Much more often than you would expect trucks to do so. The really, and the kind of sorting machines question is, is a part of this right because sort machines were something that was an important part of postal infrastructure when most of what the postal service was dealing with was letters. But if you're dealing with packages as a bigger percentage of your flow sorting machines are taking up a lot of space, they can't help you with the things that you really need delivered so you know there is a policy question of okay does modernizing the postal service require decommissioning large numbers of these sorting machines. That's separate from the question of do you need to decommission the sorting machines at
exactly the same time as you're, reducing the possibility of overtime at the time? As you know, your concern you're, removing it physical mailboxes, that are less that you know that are less common. You can see those even ceased of those working in tandem like yes, obviously, if you're telling postal workers you shouldn't be doing over to make your rounds having fewer mailboxes out there, it probably are going to have any mail on them, but that they have to slip out there to check that makes a certain amount of sense, but doing at the same time. It's all these other things on. Part of someone who has only recently come into the position like this is something that may be in a more transparent administration. You know or at very least. You would see some kind of counter leaks right where, when everyone was freaking, about the removal of mailboxes. You could do and you can imagine a world where that a joint administration Inside the Eu S PS, strategically leaks, are met
that says that these mailboxes are at tons and tons of extra time had not actually being used in that you could administer the postal service more effectively. If you get rid of them. The fact that there isn't that information does there isn't that transparency and also the kind of rate of change raises, questions about. How much is this in service of an agenda? That's been thought through as to postal service efficiency verses Ah, some kind of blind cost cutting vat is being allowed by a bunch of political. When because they change the structure of the organization to minimize the role of the civil service right, and it's also worth noting that some of these plans took place or were launched before the joy took. First postmaster general for one of them be removed. Sorting machines that took place. That was both that was put in place before the door and also the letter that was sent warning, the ballot
that got a lot of attention from Thomas J Marshal was the General Council and executive vice president of the postal service, because post service is a different kind of government, organization that was plant again before the appointment of the joy. But this is another example. Outdoor was saying that all of this is happening well I'll drop, is perfectly happy for everyone to be very anxious about the pulse of service and to keep tweeting about how you we should save the postal service, but not save the bus service, and everything will be because done. Trump observes his own administration, as if he is watching it on television as Donald from Queen. Your next on the air there, our very many moments of this war. Another administration would yet no. This is happening. There would be some sort of address about. Here are the things that are happening and with this administration you might get that from someone who is not Donald Trump. I will when it shone out. You have a lot of very considered and thoughtful responses from conservatives and conservative writers on
actually going on, and actually this is not a conspiracy theory and you all need to understand how very sane and normal this all is, and then you have Donald from Queens who's, basically like. I think it would be awesome if everyone got very freaked out about the postal service, especially people who are likely to vote for me, because that makes absolutely no sense and I quote, doesn't USA today opinion peace on this were essential. It yes, the postal service needs to innovate may be that this is a they call it a quote bloated money pit, though that seems more opinion necessary, but essentially, if you wanted to handle this issue, if you wanted to appoint a trompe imposed Mr General, if you wanted to issue these reforms, why wouldn't you do three years ago, when Donald Trump had Republicans IP role of Congress. When there were ample time, to have the reforms of the postal service. That would make it more of an efficient business. If that's what they judge
to be necessary and that when there is eleven weeks to go until the election, but let us say the brake and talk about that yeah. Let's talk more about the election process, because. We feel that you don't rush hours in the day to get everything done. It might be because you're missing out on three of them. Where does hours ago. They probably fall into a deep dark abyss that opens up when we switch between work. Apps, add those three hours to all the productive time. We miss out, thanks to add home distractions, disorganization fatigue. It's no wonder the days feel too short. Work should work and with click up it does cook up is a flexible productivity platform that brings all your work into one place, that's all your chats, apps docs and tasks in one centralized place kind of like mission control companies like uber and Google use click up to make their days more productive, manage projects, people and goals more effectively. For
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mentioned that we had mentioned in passing before, because I think that that has been the catalyst for obviously like Donald Trump say, the quiet part loud or just ripping. I has focused a lot of attention, but the the postal services, warning has also, I think, crystallized a lot of these concerns that the postal service is, at the very least, not doing as much as it could to make sure that an election where people are less inclined to go to the polls in person can be administered in not just like a complete and fair fashion, but in a timely fashion. Because the thing about absentee balance. Is there not always counted it before? You know they're, not that you, you haven't finish counting absentee ballots by the end of election night and so the prospect that we won't, thoroughly know who the winner of the election is after election night has done, seem very real. This is: what's happened in several primary races in New York, where there
dinner winner fur Ino several weeks, because it's taken so long to count the not in person ballots and so in that car the letter that the administration sent where they were warning in something like that overwhelming majority of states, forty six states that the deadlines that they had set for ballot requesting and for ballot submission were not going to result in the postal service, being able to get them everything they needed to get in time- and this is something a don't want to a principal agent problem, but it's definitely a federalism problem right where there was a big push during middle and late spring. As the scope of the corona virus crisis became clear by progressives two x, Push states to expand mail in voting, which was the com, which is a continuation of existing democratic efforts like expand the franchise by
Any feasible means the problem is that states can set? You know, states can say: oh yes, to expand the franchise, we're going to say that you can request an absentee ballot anytime to three days before the election and you can postmark your ballot as late as eight p m on election, and we guarantee will still count it like states can say that, but states cannot guarantee that ballots that are requested three days before the election are sent back to them and like in their costs. In time they can't necessarily guarantee that stuff, it's postmarked, eight p m on election night is going to arrive bored of elections early the next morning, and so in that context the postal Services letter is like a Hey states maybe you should be more realistic and what your promising your voters can happen. There is also in extent to which, again, this is like an ongoing problem that, like the postal service, has been warning states
for a while that these are unrealistic. They, the Washington Post, which has had some really excellent coverage of this, quoted the owl. The Secretary of State thing yeah, you know the postal service has been getting less functional for a while and they ve been warning us for awhile, which raises the question of why state officials haven't regarded that as a reason to change their schedules. But it is something where again, if you assume destined genes on everyone's part. You could imagine a world where this is happening as they like: hey, you have a limited window of time to change these deadlines so that you can, guarantee that as many ballots as possible are at polling places are at Boe offices. The end of election night, but the Trump administration for A variety of reasons has died. That does not have the presumption of good, faith among a large swathes of Amerika I wonder why that might be. I think there is kind of
Joe Ball swindle happening on this issue on both sides right. So the main thing is that postal service was headed in the long term for financial insolvency came the pandemic, which was so He had with a huge extra fall in male value like like a step, wise decline and some extra costs, the union's for posted workers have been trying for years to get liberals interested in this topic, because as a mechanical subject, just switch it back to being a government agency. Is a totally viable option, but it's hard to pass laws in America like you, gotta get people fired up right and people keep not being fired, Donald Trump is trying to steal. The election is some in that
both the sort of upscale resistance liberals and the more like downscale working class people of Color Democrats are like both crime to believe. So, if you can connect your issue, which is like it's been clear for the past ten years that the postal service is going to need. A large injection of money from Congress to Donald Trump is trying to steal the election. You've got a winner right there's a a real in it. So if these are unrelated topics but like they're, not identical topics and they are being isn't it as identical. We need to see the postal service, which is to say, bring it back on the government budget, in order to save our democracy, right, which is just like
it's not literally true, but it's it's become a big theme and adjust its the plausible policy agenda. But it's like one that people had not been agitated about during dinner. The twenty sixteen campaigning for side, the republican idea of driving the postal service into bankruptcy, so that the versus service obligation gets lifted and the agency becomes privatized. Why? It's not like that, the end of America, like that's how postal service works in Europe. Mail is just more expensive. It's okay, you know just like covering the costs would be ok, wrecking the post. Service would also be okay, but the postal service is not a popular idea. So, by the same token, if republicans like, when they trade Congress. They could have tried to The bill private houses in the postal service, like nobody was stopping them, is that he would
hideously unpopular right. Oh, you need some kind of parties reason. Two, right, the postal service into a state of bankruptcy, This idea that Democrats only want to give the postal service money, so they could do voter fried like that, as an AIDS, with the rank and file conservatives in a way that, like an abstract, appealed to the virtues of the free market, but because this specific thing here is that the free market would tell you to stop, subsidizing old people in rural areas desire to get paper male, like that's, not a good, particularly over the Trump era, configuration the GNP. Like that's a terrible message like you could write Add four Cato or like a reason, article or something like that, but like that's, never gonna go whereas, like Democrats are still, The election with voter fraud is something conservatives believe just like Donald Trump.
Stealing the election with his political point. Cheese is something liberals believe so, having this like more boring debate about postal policy as like opera see about everybody's anxieties, about election theft and if you took to what they were saying, if you did want to just like narrowly focused like, how can we administer the twenty twenty, like shared in a fair minded way like it's, a very solvable problem? It just like not not really in any by his interests to solve the problem when they think they can win the site male war that driving everything, including President Trump's. Only actual personal interest in postal issues appears to be that he wants to raise. The rates on Amazon package is because he's mad, the japanese essence, the Washington Post to join up,
is to be enough of an area like that. He is like not actually done that, but that's really too contrary. There are reports, out of, for example, mean that they have been instructed to priority Amazon packages over in? U s p s priority mail, which is, to my mind, lake, if you were looking for evidence that Donald Trump is not personally matting meddling in the affairs of the Post office that It seems like the private parcel industry sold trump on their privatization agenda by telling him that this would stick it to Amazon, but it's not clear that it does. Stick it to Amazon and Trump is often has not. I think, like super well versed the details of this issue and simply responds in a I mean everything we talked about. You guys talk last week about the economic situation.
And we talk that the week before it seems like trumps best path. Out of this would be to just cite, spend some money on some stuff and solve people's problems, but he is guns spun around like bullfight, his own, we're narratives in these Larger policy agenda is by conservative actors who, like actually do care about the future they didn't want him by getting this welfare mail as they see it. It's an interesting issue. All because you mentioned that kind of you can read about privatizing the postal service in reason our Cato. But if you want to view trump as the populist response to free market access is of libertarian fusion ism, went against the postal Post Office, which poles really well with Democrats and Republicans, and also is the single large
civilian employer other than the federal government and Walmart in the United States, with thirty thousand locations that people really like. I think that seems like a poor way to do it better You see kind of the libertarian, leaning folks, cattle cheerleading, the privatisation of the postal service. In saying I, why can't I just basically be FED acts and new p s, but with a different name, but a lot of people really The way it is there very much is kind of the wells. Fargo wagon approach of you don't know, what's going to come today, what could it be and for a lot of older people, especially in rural areas, if you're Fedex or You PS, there's no way you're going to go to a town of fifteen people to deliver one person there diabetes medication, but the United States postal Service will do so, and so I think that its there's a quote from a piece in actually the american conservative, which does definite more populous, linen conservative publication. That argues that, though, the policy
It ironic that the politicians claiming the mantle of quota quote forgotten. The Americans and rural living are the same people who are saying like our rural postal, our post offices, fuck, em, Jane, I'm extremely upset at this completely gratuitous music man reference that you slipped in there. You know, it could be something for someone who has no relation or it could be. It could be something for you We keep our keep threatening to do. I do it to a musical America musical comedy weeds. If the new stop Skinner we should. We should get back on its true that you made a reference to the kind of long standing interest of the Postal Workers Union to get Democrats interested in this, and it really has been the case that a lot of the stuff tat we ve been hearing like many of these policy changes have not been acknowledged by like post the post offices, office of public affairs. A lot of these things are coming out because employees or union leadership have been leaking formation and like grip,
The alarm about this is going to harm our operations that something that is that has been I've. Inner I've seen this with both unions. That were stated with. Obama is approached immigration, and now you know the asylum officers you has been very vocal in opposing trump. That can be a very strong resource for public knowledge. It also indicates a certain but down in the internal labour management relations, because once you ve gone to the press in its clear that you ve gone to the present once your filing in federal. Court against your management made it a lot harder for management too. You know it are not like. I don't mean to like blame I don't mean to victim blame here, but like it's. That indicates that it's not as likely leave that labour and management are working behind the scenes, unkind of bread and butter stuff too eager to smooth easy problem. So I think it's worth being aware.
This trend as informed citizens and and news consumers, and also worth bearing in mind that public sector workers are authorities on their doing their jobs and what's different vit, they know probably have some degree of expertise, and this is not You make it possible for us to function in the way were accustomed to functioning. They may not always have the most insight into motivations because they may not have not have any information about why things are being done. That is an already public. They may be fitting the same though they may be fitting. There're assumptions onto the same available facts that you have gas is a time is a time to white paper. Yeah, that's. Why is it presents a doozy? Take a break. If the last year's harvest anything it's that we don't What will happen next, but there's one thing, we can all be sure of the only future one. We can all share and leading the charge.
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and on the weeds by using Swedish administrative data which, for those of US If you who are not regular reads, consumers is uniquely useful in social science because it so complete because there So many data sets that are well integrated, that it allows for really long term, lands that isn't possible. With most other countries, data sets- and so in this case there using it to examine the question of, can we figure out anything about the likely socio economic attainment or class attainment of children based not just on where their parents are, but where there parents are. Is there anything about weary about your grandparents status? Vit predicts where you're going, and up independent of where your parents have ended up. There are kind of logical explanation you could offer for why. This might be the
is the actual literature. Is mixed. Vey, basically conclude that if you have robust enough data about your pair about parents attainment that it captures a lot of the things that might not otherwise go included in just basic. How much money are you making data that the effect of grandparents pretty much goes away so, to the extent that there's more to wealth and status transmission. And then just you know how much do your parents make and how it educated are they? Those are other things that your parents are giving to you that are easily captured in the data, Not the your grandparents are separately a source of social value are worth that can be totally divorced from what they already done in parenting your parents right. It's a fascinating to me
we're thinking about different elements. I love the inspection of personal traits in the middle generation, which is, and they reference the Father's cognitive ability. So essentially, they themselves have had challenges, trying to figure out the impact of grandparents because of the obvious issue that, even when you control for the parents for that middle generation. Use still have what they refer to is omitted, variable bias, and so it is a fascinating paper about how they are trying to think about, not just whether grandparents influence the grandchildren but to how interesting very specific questions about it. It happens. The other problem with the literature I think, is worth bringing up because it's a good example of how something that you can think of is a core question. That's motivating science will actually get totally ignored by the way that you ultimately construct the data. If what you're looking for
in the grandparent question is what are the benefits of kind of in a Morpheus dimension of class right, like things that are clearly a status that we would associate with class, but that aren't captured in hard metrics of socio economic attainment like income or for that matter, like household wealth or even to a certain extent level of education level professional prestige like what are the less tangible benefits of class. That's in a reasonable way to construct the grandparent question by the way that the literature is gone. Looking at the grand her question has been going grandfather to Father to child which isn't how class, x I mean it's also not how you know twentieth or twenty percent or economies work, but the absent
of the mother, much less, the grandmother in this literature is made it very difficult to actually assess whether what's going on here is something about the transmission of economic wealth or whether what's going on here is the transmission of economic plus. Other kind of compounding benefits that allow a child. Do ok, even if their parents are kind of out and out downwardly mobile yeah I'm. So I was not very familiar with the the sociology literature that this is engaging. What I found a paper little bed down a little bit confusing lately. You know it's it's hard. Whenever
your finding and you don't know the like. The other things that that the authors have read like like what is this about, but people I have read about intergenerational social mobility in Sweden is by Gregory Clark and he does an interesting thing. Where he's trying to look at a much longer term, then a Ministry of Data will give you. And so what he does is. He looks at people's last names, and basically, his claim is that some swedish people have fancy last names associated with aristocratic houses. Some swedish people have not quite as fancy last names with their like latin words. Some people have lower middle at last names, with their named after an occupation like the swedish equivalent of being Cooper or something like that in English and then low class weeds have last names that are sun it's like you were just like a random peasant scenario,
ok, you're, Johnson and so shows that surnames were fixed in the eighteenth century. Obviously people can change their names, but, but that was when they adopted, like them in practice the? U inherit your dad surname into today. People with sudden names in Sweden are half as likely to be lawyers, as you would think, based on their overall presence of the population they're about a quarter likely to be doctors, a few other things like that right and so he's being much cruder than this paper he's only looking at strict patrimonial descend, he's only looking at very vague sense of social privilege, like lawyers and doctors are high prestige people, but what he is finding is like a really high level of stickiness. This you could expect
as like, chained father, father to son of stuff. But his interest in it is that Sweden compared to other to be united say, has much more fun. Just son mobility, and so he says, look what's up Here is that? Because Sweden doesn't have that much inequality. There's a lot of short term indigent snow mobility because, like that, the distance between the rungs on the latter is not that, but over the long ride like relatively elite, swedish families are still entrenched in fairly elite occupied, Sharon's with, maybe some you know, college professors are poets or nonprofit. Attorneys are very things you can do what you don't make that much money, but you like a high status person and that those high status families have have propagated for, like literally hundreds of years and in his tone,
and so I guess it's an interesting, then like much more detailed and much more definitive supplement to his fine this does not seem to be because the extended family, like per se, does something for you. Right: it's either chaining or like actual hereditary characteristics that are kind of propagating and Jimmy clear like it. It has declined like over. Four hundred years, just like less than you might think and when VOX was new, I wrote about a similar paper from Florence in ITALY, where they have pretty good records going to the renaissance and they showed that, like families that we're rich seven hundred years ago in Florence, are like still in disproportionately in the Florentine elite. So I now this like this. This a lot going on his history is, is very sticky, yes des at it's interesting, also
we are unintentionally, had a conversation yesterday about on the old internets about the subject concept of the idea of being working class, at which I think we should, an entire separate episode on, because apparently it means eighty seven separate things depending on your political motivations. But thinking about the sticky s m of history and thinking about the sticky units of generational wealth gets into a lot of issues we're having a conversation about right now, talking about inequality, racial inequality and rational and equity, where You have the concept of duration, all well that for some Americans could have started developing in the seventeen these seventy nine days? If you wanted think about Boston Brown, more than I actually do. An for many Americans could have started in o nineteen sixty seven
roughly if we're giving a little bit of a buffer after immigration, reform of nineteen sixty five and the Civil Rights ACT. So I think that that stickiness is something that we see here, but also, I think, America, had does not have the same kind of centuries old duration, a wealth of european countries for entirely understandable reasons. But I do think that there are some interesting cross over here that we can think about in other areas. I mean yes, I do think that's true
It's interesting of just like one of the things this this. This paper is really getting at is like trying to understand like. Why is the source of inherited intergenerational advantage, which I think is a lot less clear than its existence, and you, you were saying about about like how to define sofa classic its accounting. Were people show up with a different predispositions, and then they look at this fact about that that the sticky nests of social classes of higher and often it will feel court import obvious to them like what the answer is. But when researchers look into it right, like the point him of this paper, is that like even though, obviously it has happened, that somebody's
parents have given them help with something in life, because they're famous important people that, like in the statistical aggregate that is not what's going on here, I did an internship at a company. My grandfather, founded so like it has happened. In the course of human history, but like a in the aggregate, that's not the reason why families at least swedish families seem to have this this long, tenured kind of stuff. But you know does that generalise outside of Sweden? Does that general eyes to a further exe? your family. It's really hard to say I mean I love Sweden, administrative data, but particularly on a question like how much to people care about their cousins like I'm, not sure you should assume that information from one country transposed to another? Yes, every
unequal country, equal countries are all alike, every unequal country is illegal in its own way. Searcher socio I, and with that, lets, let's wrap it up. I don't even put me so I had prepared a one million Americans, amazing and thanks to our sponsors, thanks to Jane and dare thanks as always to our producers, every girl It will be back on Friday.
Transcript generated on 2021-05-18.