The United States Postal Service Board of Governors meets in Kansas City today to debate what to do next with the nations troubled mail delivery service. USPS has posted $20 billion in net losses in the past two years and the root of its troubles is no secret. First-class mail has moved rapidly to the Internet and USPSs large network and cost structure hasnt adapted quickly enough to the change.
By ROBERT M. WILLIAMS JR
Special to The Star
Add in the fact Congress, in 2006, imposed rigorous advance funding requirements for future retiree health benefits that no other government agency has to meet. Then add the fact people who buy postage are also paying twice by funding Medicare for USPS employees.
It isnt hard to see the plight the governors face. Failing Congressional action, the Postmaster General is looking for more money from postage-paying customers.
That would be a big mistake.
There are two kinds of mailers in todays world. Some, including smaller newspapers like mine, have to use the mail to reach readers.Also dependent on the mail are people in rural areas who lack effective broadband coverage, Americas poor who cannot afford that broadband service, plus many seniors and others who justifiably do not trust the Internet for bill payments and presentments.
The other kind is the optional mailer. That might include someone who wants to send one of Kansas Citys cherished Hallmark Cards, but may opt for an electronic greeting instead. It might include a large bank that pressures customers into going paperless to avoid rising postage. It might include a catalog company gambling on more electronic mail to reach consumers because postage has been rising faster than any other cost in the world of printing.
Increasing postage beyond inflation levels, as the USPS Governors are considering this week, is unfair to the first group. Their income is not rising beyond inflation.
For the second group, the increases are simply folly. The Internet will look cheaper and cheaper to them. The net result is more lost revenue for the Postal Service and an ever-accelerating spiral of decline.
I represent Americas community newspapers. We have worked with the postal administrations of this country since Benjamin Franklin. We believe America needs a viable, universal mail service. America will need that service even as the digital age matures. People love to get mail. They love their local newspapers in the mail, as well, because we cover the people-news that makes communities hang together. I fear the impact on our industry if postage rates begin to skyrocket again.
Equally, I fear the impact on Americas rural communities and on the Postal Services dedicated workforce. Service has already declined for our newspaper delivery across the country. Higher rates and poorer service means fewer jobs in USPS as well as in all of the $1 trillion industry that collectively uses the mail. That includes community newspapers.
There is a better way. Congress has to get moving on a sensible plan to save the Postal Service.
Robert M. Williams Jr. is publisher of the Blackshear Times in Blackshear, Ga.