Magazine article Editor & Publisher

The USPS Goes Postal

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

The USPS Goes Postal

Article excerpt

The U.S. Postal Service hopes scare tactics will sell its version of 'reform.' What it really needs is a checkup from the neck up.

After three decades when it managed to squander billions through almost willfully feckless management, nearly nonexistent cost controls, and a haphazard automation program that installed as many white elephants as mechanical improvements, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has hit on a new lobbying tool: its own failures.

There's an almost triumphant tone in the way USPS officials are telling Congress the agency stands to lose between $2 billion and $3 billion this year. They know that this news convinced the postal service's board of governors to approve an unprecedented second rate increase in seven months -- and they hope this ginned-up crisis atmosphere will stampede Congress into approving a disastrous version of "postal reform."

USPS officials are threatening members of Congress with the politically frightening specter of hundreds of small-town post offices shuttered, thousands of carriers fired, and Saturday mail delivery halted. There's an easy solution, they quickly add: Give us the "flexibility" to set our own rates. Free us from the bureaucratic burden of justifying our prices to the Postal Rate Commission (PRC). Let us, in short, be like a private business.

Newspapers instinctively check for their wallets when they hear that kind of talk. Over the years, they've discovered that the postal service's idea of business behavior is charging sweetheart rates to junk mailers while sticking second-class mailers with stiff rates and slow service. …

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