In 1947, more than 4 million Americans owned $3.4 billion in saving deposits held not by a bank or credit union, but by the U.S. Postal Service. It’s a largely forgotten part of American banking (and postal) history that the USPS ran the Postal Savings System for 56 years, from 1911 to 1967.
To this day, postal services around the world provide small-scale financial services, from check cashing to savings accounts to e-commerce solutions, such as allowing refunds for returned goods to be deposited directly into a consumer’s postal account.
These days, the idea of postal banking might feel a bit strange, especially as the USPS is increasing prices and delivery times to trim its nearly $4 billion deficit. But in September, the service took the first steps toward restoring its place in Americans’ financial lives: At four East Coast post offices, customers can now get paychecks or business checks worth up to $500 cashed for a flat fee of $5.95.
We shouldn’t let the USPS’ struggles and bureaucratic reputation turn us off from a potentially transformative innovation or, in this case, a return to tradition. A fifth of Americans are considered “unbanked” or “underbanked,” often relying on unscrupulous payday lenders. Postal banking could reorient the American financial landscape for the benefit the most vulnerable.
— The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The large domestic spending bills Democrats are hashing out touch on big questions of climate, education, infrastructure and more. It’s only natural that these complicated issues have been difficult to reach consensus on.
What is not a major shift, and in fact should be a rather straightforward matter, is the question of fully funding the Housing Choice Voucher program, better known as Section 8. While the Department of Housing and Urban Development is rightly studying alternatives including direct cash rental assistance, Section 8 has a decades-long track record of helping millions of people across the country to afford their homes.
Unlike entitlements like Social Security and Medicaid, vouchers for eligible people are not guaranteed. In fact, funding constraints have made it so only about a quarter of those who qualify actually receive them. The current framework of the reconciliation bill doesn’t go as far as establishing Section 8 as a new entitlement, but merely allocates $90 billion for rental assistance including vouchers.
Funding rental assistance for families who already qualify is not a pie-in-the-sky ask; it’s simply making good on a principle already written into federal law. Congress should step up.
— The New York Daily News
There are numerous industry guidelines in place to assure the safe use of real guns as props on the sets of TV and film shoots.
Firearms, even those modified not to accommodate real bullets, are checked and rechecked before they are handed off to actors, who should then check the weapons themselves. An armorer or someone with special training should always have custody of the guns and oversee their handling. No real bullets should ever be used on a set.
But those guidelines only work if they are followed meticulously. And there is evidence that they weren’t on the set of the movie “Rust,” where cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was tragically killed this month when actor Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun that he and others on the set believed held no live ammunition.
Since guns pose such a profound danger and post-production special effects can create the look and sound of a gunshot, it’s time for Hollywood to voluntarily stop using real guns — no matter how modified they may be.
The “Rust” tragedy raises a bigger issue. Weapons are often part of plot points, but do they need to be? TV and movie cops brandish and fire their weapons often, but in reality, a police officer rarely draws his or her gun (outside of a shooting range). Hollywood writers and directors need to take the wise step to stop using firearms to tell stories.
— Los Angeles Times
Weeks after President Joe Biden announced his decree that roughly 80 million workers would need to get the COVID-19 vaccine or weekly testing, many details of that order are still unknown. Business groups are rightly pushing back against an undefined, invasive mandate that could exacerbate an already tight labor market.
This new federal order that would impact businesses with 100 or more employees places an unnecessary burden on employers to force workers to comply — or face stiff fines. In addition, the logistics of the mandatory testing and the costs involved remain a mystery.
Several chambers of commerce recently asked Biden to rethink his vaccine rules, and let states determine the best way to handle vaccinations.
Better yet, the government should just let the private sector figure this out for itself.
Mandates in general seem to backfire. For instance, nearly all of the major airlines have instituted vaccine requirements for employees, following Biden’s September announcement. And it hasn’t gone well.
Biden’s vaccine mandate goes too far by interfering in private employers’ decisions, and it will likely only cement more opposition to the shots.