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The Post Office Banks on the Poor - NYTimes.com
"PEOPLE like to complain about banks popping up like Starbucks on every corner these days. But in poor neighborhoods, the phenomenon is quite the opposite: Over the past couple of decades, the banks have pulled out.

Approximately 88 million people in the United States, or 28 percent of the population, have no bank account at all, or do have a bank account, but primarily rely on check-cashing storefronts, payday lenders, title lenders, or even pawnshops to meet their financial needs. And these lenders charge much more for their services than traditional banks. The average annual income for an “unbanked” family is $25,500, and about 10 percent of that income, or $2,412, goes to fees and interest for gaining access to credit or other financial services.

But a possible solution has appeared, in the unlikely guise of the United States Postal Service. The unwieldy institution, which has essentially been self-funded since 1971, and has maxed out its $15 billion line of credit from the federal government, is in financial straits itself. But what it does have is infrastructure, with a post office in most ZIP codes, and a relationship with residents in every kind of neighborhood, from richest to poorest.

Last week, the office of the U.S.P.S. inspector general released a white paper noting the “huge market” represented by the population that is underserved by traditional banks, and proposing that the post office get into the business of providing financial services to “those whose needs are not being met.” (I wrote a paper years ago suggesting just such an idea.) Postal banking has a powerful advocate in Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, who has publicly supported the plan.

The U.S.P.S. — which already handles money orders for customers — envisions offering reloadable prepaid debit cards, mobile transactions, domestic and international money transfers, a Bitcoin exchange, and most significantly, small loans. It could offer credit at lower rates than fringe lenders do by taking advantage of economies of scale.

The post office has branches in many low-income neighborhoods that have long been deserted by commercial banks. And people at every level of society have a certain familiarity and comfort in the post office that they do not have in more formal banking institutions — a problem that, as a 2011 study by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation demonstrated, can keep the poor from using even the banks that are willing to offer them services.

Many will oppose the idea of a governmental agency providing financial services. Camden R. Fine, chief executive of the Independent Community Bankers of America, has already called the post office proposal “the worst idea since the Ford Edsel.” But the federal government already provides interest-free “financial services” to the largest banks (not to mention the recent bailout funds). And this is done under an implicit social contract: The state supports and insures the banking system, and in return, banks are to provide the general population with access to credit, loans and savings. But in reality, too many are left out."
via:caseygollan  banks  banking  poverty  access  us  usps  postoffices  money  publicbanking  government  finance 
february 2014 by robertogreco
Twitter by Post - The Morning News
"…if you get the chance to look at some old letters—properly old, from the first half of the 20th century, or older—you’ll see that they weren’t always long screeds. In fact they were often kept short and to the point.

A bit like social media updates, actually.

A letter back then might simply ask one question. The reply would answer it. Just that. A letter might describe a single event, or pass on a single piece of news. I’m pregnant. Your father is dying. I was sent on patrol last night, and I survived. I love you. I still love you. I no longer love you.

Simple, short messages. That’s what the post was for. That’s why postal services were so frequent, and why there were so many deliveries.

The post mattered. People love updates."
communication  gilesturnbull  2011  shortform  mail  letters  updates  socialmedia  postcards  usps  twitter 
december 2011 by robertogreco
Going Postal: The Imminent Death of the U.S. Postal Service? - Georg Jensen - The American Interest Magazine
"Just as General Motors has in effect subsidized Big Oil by continuing to build gas-guzzlers in recent years, so has the USPS continued to subsidize Big Mail by shaping its operations to encourage what it now calls, revealingly, "standard mail" -- that is, advertising junk mail. Most American citizens are blissfully unaware of the degree to which USPS subsidizes U.S. businesses by means of the fees it collects from ordinary postal customers. For example, if you wish to mail someone a large envelope weighing three ounces, you'll pay $1.17 in postage. A business can bulk-mail a three-ounce catalog of the same size for as little as $0.14."
usps  government  sustainability  economics  advertising  politics  policy  mail  costs  marketing  consumer  postalservice 
april 2009 by robertogreco
TrackThis: Track FedEx/UPS/USPS/DHL Packages using Twitter (or Email, IM or SMS)
"Just send a quick direct message to trackthis and we'll send you a direct message any time your package location changes."
twitter  spimes  ubicomp  tracking  ups  fedex  usps  dhl  shipping  shopping  microblogging 
may 2008 by robertogreco

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