- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 19, 2003

The ‘stamp’ of approval

Of course the U.S. Postal Service can survive (“Can Postal Service survive?” Commentary, yesterday). In discussing the latest review of the Postal Service, James Gattuso commends the review’s efforts to reduce a bloated organization by creating another organization, a Postal Network Optimization Commission, a strange concept.

The real problem, as Mr. Gattuso points out, is monopoly, but it’s the Postal Service’s lack of a full monopoly. Private firms that skim off high-volume, high-profit package deliveries force the Postal Service to overprice first-class (letter) mail.

I think we could allow private firms to compete with the Postal Service, but only if they played by the same rules, i.e., going to every door, every rural delivery point and every apartment building mailroom in the country six days a week, and every business at least five days a week. Just as important, they should not be allowed to lose money, but also should not be allowed to make a profit, all the time charging the same rate for the same delivery no matter where in the country it goes. On top of that, members of Congress should be allowed to interfere in deciding where mailing facilities are located.

That would provide a level playing field. Then we could look into eliminating excess staff and restructuring management to reduce costs. The impact of e-mail on the basic mission of the Postal Service would be significantly reduced once the balance of its rightful business is returned to it.


Rockville, Md.

A ‘semi-squalid ghetto’ in D.C.

If you think Columbia Heights is sliding off the precipice of decency (“A daytime snapshot …,” editorial, Monday), take a look at Adams Morgan. Since February 2002, Columbia Road has gone from reasonably middle class to semi-squalid ghetto.

Trash litters the street from 16th Street to 18th Street. Filthy, foul-mouthed street people, often drunk or on drugs, loiter in front of Safeway, Burger King, McDonald’s, Popeye’s and Pizza Hut as though fast food is a panhandling incubator. They loudly spew filthy language in front of my children; carry on loud, dirty arguments with each other while passing around liquor in a paper bag; and periodically engage in physical altercations.

Safeway does nothing to enforce its “No Loitering” sign; the police only appear to clean up a shooting; bums urinate and defecate along all the public trees, bushes and corners up and down the street. The other week, I found a young man lying unconscious on the sidewalk at the sidewalk park near Columbia and 18th — no shirt, pants around his ankles, a big pile of excrement on the sidewalk next to him and vomit running out of his mouth. No cops were to be found up and down Columbia and 18th Street.

In 18 months, Columbia Road has degenerated into an unspoken clash between the timid middle-class folks who still live there, honest Hispanic immigrants and the low-class neighborhood trashers.

Ward 1 Council member Jim Graham appears to ignore the situation; the police have no concept of walking a beat; Police Chief Charles Ramsey is too busy angling for a pay raise; and the mayor probably doesn’t even know where Adams Morgan is, much less worry about it. It’s high time this city quit letting bums and criminals move into decent, respectable middle-class neighborhoods and trash them. Hotels do not tolerate guests trashing their rooms. Why should we tolerate non-taxpaying persons trashing our neighborhoods and making them unfit for our children to live in?

The city needs to aggressively prosecute these people and get them off the streets. The police need to walk beats in certain neighborhoods to discourage street and “quality of life” crimes. Illegal immigrants who are creating a lot of this crime need to be deported summarily. And the people paying the taxes in this town (and the city’s salaries) need to get some respect from those who claim to represent them. Are you listening, Mr. Mayor and Mr. Councilman?



Seeing red

Editor’s Note: The Web site for Operation Air Conditioner is www.operationac.com.

In yesterday’s editorial “Operation Red Tape,” The Washington Times did not indicate how to contact Frankie Mayo.

Please tell her to contact the Pentagon office that runs what we call the Denton Program, in honor of former Sen. Jeremiah Denton, Alabama Republican. The program allows private organizations to ship humanitarian relief supplies (the definition of which is very liberally interpreted) free of charge on U.S. military aircraft on a space-available basis. She would have to get the air conditioners to a military aerial port (the closest to her seems to be Dover Air Force Base in Delaware), but once there, the military takes over and gets the stuff moved usually within a day or two.

It is called space available, but the guys tend to “make” space available.


Shalimar, Fla.

Trading places

Daniel T. Griswold tells us in “The logic of trade” (Op-Ed, Monday) not to worry about cheap-labor nations such as China and India. He assures us that we are still the greatest economy in the world, and he cites statistics to prove his case.

One statistic that he mentioned, sort of casually, was Chinese imports that totaled $125 billion in 2002. What he doesn’t address, however, is the overall trade deficit we have been running with China in the first place. I doubt if the average American has a clue about the recent history of America’s trade deficit. But if you believe Mr. Griswold’s opinion, don’t worry, be happy.

Before you take that big sigh of relief, however, here are some other statistics you might want to consider. Our total trade deficit in 1992 was $38.1 billion; this year, it will near $500 billion, 13.1 times greater in a span of 11.5 years. Mr. Griswold is unconcerned; instead, he points to America’s robust exports and astonishing productivity.

Let’s look at growth in exports. In 1992, we exported $616.4 billion in goods and services. If exports grew at the same rate as the trade deficit, then $616.4 billion times 13.1 — well, that’s nearly $8.1 trillion dollars, right? Wrong. We only exported $496.5 billion in the first half of 2003, which, annualized, is $993 billion, or only 1.6 times greater.

So, in 2003, foreign customers are buying nearly $1 trillion dollars’ worth of American goods and services while Americans are buying nearly $1.5 trillion dollars’ worth of foreign goods and services. At this historical rate of exchange, Americans will be buying $19.6 trillion dollars in goods and services in 2014, while selling only $1.6 trillion. Of course, that’s absurd, because Americans won’t have $19.6 trillion dollars to spend, especially if they are unemployed.

So, should we be worried? Yes, we should. At wage rates of 80 cents per hour, China can beat just about any country in the world on any product you can name, and American productivity cannot overcome such an enormous disadvantage. It’s true that China is still behind in terms of infrastructure, but with a workforce of more than 600 million, it won’t take China very long to put entire American industries out of business. And, as the world beats a path to China’s door, more and more goods and services will originate there, leaving nations such as America scratching their heads, wondering what happened.

Put simply, “the logic of trade” is: “Whoever has the lowest price wins,” and folks, that’s not us.


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