From misleading charts to plucking numbers out of thin air

Update: Uh oh! Looks like Kevin really doesn’t like it when someone points out his mistakes- after he had another little meltdown on twitter this afternoon, he’s blocked me.

kevin kosar

Time for some more fact-checking!

Last week we told you about the misleading charts posted by Kevin Kosar, the former Congressional Research Service analyst who now works for a right wing lobbying group. Kosar’s claim was that the USPS would still be in debt without the PAEA pre-funding requirement, but his own numbers showed that wasn’t the case.

Yesterday, in a conversation on twitter, Kosar made this claim:

Kosar’s numbers were way off, so we asked the obvious question:

In response, the former researcher was vague:

… which is about as specific as saying “it was in some books I found in the library”. So we asked if he could be a bit more precise:

The answer was no. There followed half a dozen tweets in which Kosar tossed around a few numbers, and came to this conclusion:

In Kevin’s World, apparently it’s an open question whether a jury summons is a form of “catalog” or “ad”. Notice, however, that he’s tried to change the subject. Since he can’t provide any evidence to support his original claim that 90% of the mail is catalogs and ads, he now wants to talk about “wanted” mail. I’m not sure why it would matter that I don’t especially “want” to receive a jury summons or utility bill, and Kosar doesn’t explain.

No, I use the same numbers you claimed to be using- the USPS Revenue Pieces and Weights reports. They tell a very different story.

So far this fiscal year, the USPS has handled over 114 billion pieces of “market dominant” mail. That includes first class, standard, and periodicals. There were also just over three billion pieces of “competitive” mail- mainly parcels and packages.

If you add up the first class, periodicals and packages, you get a grand total of 55.7 billion pieces of mail that are not catalogs or ads.

That leaves standard mail- so far this year, there have been 60.7 billion pieces of standard mail. (Standard mail is not all catalogs and ads, of course. The standard mail I’ve received recently includes a privacy notice from a bank, a recall notice for my car, and a notice from a delivery company about changes to its online services.) If you do the math, you find that standard mail accounts for just over 52% of total mail- nowhere near Kosar’s claim of 90%.

So would Kosar admit he was wrong?

Source?

  • http://www.kevinrkosar.com/ Kevin R. Kosar

    It is disappointing that PostalNews would take a Twitter conversation amongst a few folks interested in postal issues and turn it into a hit piece. I suppose I should have known better. Not long before this interchange, PostalNews showed its class by expressing its disagreement with my analysis by saying I was “lying.” Perhaps PostalNews should go to work doing communications for Donald Trump!

    It is telling that PostalNews utterly dodged the basic subject of the discussion: the nature of the mail mix. I asked, “Do you disagree that nearly all mail = broadcast?” I got no response. I also asked if PostalNews had its own take on what’s in the mail. No response. Perhaps it is because PostalNews does not like admitting the basic undeniable truth: most mail is mass mail. It is not correspondence between persons. Correspondence denotes two persons communicating.

    Letters from Aunt Sally, magazines, and parcels—the mail people want to get—makes up a small minority of the mail mix. Today the Postal Service is mostly a broadcast communications medium. The vast majority of what’s in the mail is sent by large mailers blasting out billions of pieces of mail that recipients do not ask to receive. Credit card offers, political groups soliciting donations, menus from restaurants, flyers from businesses trying to sell me new windows and groceries, Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes mailers, etc. (The average person, by the way, gets a jury summons at most once per year. Jury summons are important but are a tiny portion of the mail mix.)

    That’s what the mail is today, for better or worse, and as I noted some months back, the changing mail mix creates an existential problem for the USPS: http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/fixgov/posts/2015/03/30-postal-service-existential-problem-kosar

    Or, would PostalNews like to cling to the myth that USPS actually “bind[s] the Nation together through the personal, educational, literary, and business correspondence of the people”?

    Cheers,

    Kevin

  • postalnews

    Hi Kevin- nope, no myths and no “hit pieces”, whatever that means. Just verifiable numbers- try it sometime! By the way- you might want to go back and see what I actually wrote in the earlier piece- “He certainly isn’t lying– but his charts don’t always support his conclusions.”.

    My tweet simply pointed out the fact that you were using phony numbers to make your case. You claimed that 90% of the mail is catalogs and ads. I showed that you were dead wrong.

    As to your argument about mail as a broadcast medium, it could be an interesting discussion, but I have better things to do with my time than argue with people who make up numbers, and then have a bad case of hurt feelings when they’re called on it!

    Cheerio!