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Guest column: The Postal Service’s lagging performance hurts rural America, even as urban areas get additional non-essential services

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In the heartland of America, including Kansas and Missouri, the U.S. Postal Service has been a steady fixture in every American’s life. From the Post Office on Main Street to the postal worker who has delivered mail to our houses for 25 years, the U.S. Postal Service has been a dependable entity in our daily lives.

Recently, a bipartisan group of senators including Kansas Republican Jerry Moran, met with the postmaster general, Megan Brennan, to discuss a long list of service complaints. At the top of the list was lagging delivery times that are continuing to get worse. As part of the evaluation process, Sen. Moran and the group maintain that declining postal standards and the consolidation of mail processing facilities is hurting rural communities across their states.

Now, we undoubtedly have different means for many types of information sharing through the Internet. While many may rely on email and other Internet based communications platforms, most still use the mail to send birthday cards or pay the mortgage and a myriad of other purposes. Additionally, rural America still lags behind more urban areas in Internet use, which only makes the Postal Service that much more important in many areas of the country.

Unfortunately, the Postal Service seems to be increasing service and product offerings in metropolitan centers such as San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and New York, while they are shutting down mail processing facilities and decreasing service in other areas.

In recent years the Postal Service has consolidated Kansas’ processing centers in Colby, Dodge City, Hays, Hutchinson, Liberal and Topeka, and the agency is also targeting the facility in Salina for the next round of closures. Under this plan only one sectional facility would remain in the state, further adding to the continued delivery problems that Kansas residents have been facing.

Because of these closures, mail sometimes travels 90 miles out of the way before it reaches its intended recipient on the other side of town. Many elected officials, including the group that met with the postmaster general last month, have questioned the strategy to close the processing facilities in light of the resulting decline in service standards.

In truth, Postal Service standards have steadily deteriorated over the last three years. An example is the elimination of overnight delivery for local first class mail that would arrive the very next day. Even worse, according to the Postal Service, first class mail, which is supposed to reach its recipient within 3 to 5 days, failed to meet this standard for over one-third of all mail delivered in the first seven weeks of 2015.

While service is languishing throughout most of the country, urban areas are seeing a bump in services. Recently they expanded a service called Metro Post to other cities even though it earned $1 for every $10 invested – a 90% financial loss. Add this to other new ventures such as grocery deliveries (an exclusive Amazon delivery deal) and a potential move into banking services, and it’s clear that the trend for the agency has been to cut back on standard mail service to move into other business ventures.

The U.S. Postal Service was created to provide letter mail delivery service to every American, no matter where they live, at a reasonable rate. It is questionable whether postal customers are truly getting the service they pay for. Considering the stamp price increases, it is difficult not to wonder how much of those increases fund money-losing ventures such as Metro Post in San Francisco.

Harking back to their clear core mission, as it is stated in the U.S. Constitution, mail delays should not be acceptable so that the U.S. Postal Service can deliver chocolates, flowers or teddy bears in San Francisco.

George Landrith is the president of Frontiers of Freedom, a think tank in Fairfax, Va.

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