Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Time for Postal Competition

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Time for Postal Competition

Article excerpt

The Postal Service is losing money again. Despite a major restructuring in which 24,000 jobs were cut, the agency is projected to lose $2.4 million this year. During a recent grilling of the Postal Service's governing board, House Post Office Committee chairman William L. Clay, D.-Mo., predicted that a 3-cent increase in first class postage proposed for Jan. 1 would not be nearly enough. "It's clear you need higher rates," Clay said.

The committee's oversight hearing came on the heels of a winter survey of first-class mail service, which showed the rate of on-time delivery in major cities dropping significantly from last year's levels. Nationwide, the rate of on-time delivery within one-day service areas fell to 79 percent from 83 percent. St. Louis had a decline in service to 75 percent from 80.

It was the first such drop since 1990, when postal officials sharply reduced one-day delivery standards, from a 100-150 mile radius to only about 60 miles. Clearly, this is a service in need of competition. Unfortunately, the one thing the U.S. Postal Service is adept at is protecting its turf.

In December, postal inspectors swooped down on the Atlanta offices of Equifax Inc., and socked the company with a $30,000 fine. The crime? Violation of the 1872 Private Express Statutes prohibiting delivery of first-class mail by anyone but the U.S. Postal Service. After an extensive audit of the company's mailing practices, it was determined that Equifax was using private express carriers to deliver "non-urgent" letters and financial statements. The fine was reportedly equal to what the Postal Service would have collected had all such correspondence been mailed first class.

This was not an isolated incident. Over the past three years, the Postal Service has collected $542,000 from 21 miscreants after similar audits. The most common violation is "bundling," or shipping many letters to the same address in one package. In addition, anyone who makes a business of delivering first-class mail can face a $500 fine or six months in jail.

All of which begs a question: Why is it a federal offense to compete with the Post Office?

The privacy of U.S. …

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