Costly Bailout

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The U.S. Postal Service's predicament grows more troubling each day. The agency is awash in bad PR in light of postal worker Thomas Morris Jr.'s 911 call. Mix that in with mounting security costs and an already bleak financial situation.

What will it take to fix all this? Plenty, says postmaster general John E. Potter.

The postal service is bleeding. That's clear. Total mail volume dropped 6.6 percent in the four weeks after Sept. 11; Standard Mail fell 11 percent. Officials caution that October's numbers will be down even more. Meanwhile, equipment to sanitize potentially anthrax-exposed mail will cost billions of dollars.

Congress will certainly recognize the need to secure the nation's mail, but compensation for lost revenue may be harder to get across. The result? "We could see the costs of postage go through the roof," Robert E. McLean, executive director of the Mailers Council, warned last week. It's certainly wise to put off talk of any early rate case settlement right now, especially if postal officials are eyeing a chance to implement higher rates sooner rather than later.

Tarnished Red Cross

Congress hammered the American Red Cross last week as questions continued to arise over how it is distributing the $564 million donated since Sept. 11. The Red Cross said it would be fiscally irresponsible to simply divide the total by the number of victims and send each family a check. Yet, to date, only $154 million has been distributed, not even one-third of the total. Another $264 million may be set aside for future terrorist attacks. On top of that, another chunk may be diverted to areas unrelated to Sept. 11 entirely. Sad, sad, sad.

The Red Cross justified its actions by turning to the fine print in its advertising: "for this tragedy and the emerging needs of this event." That simply won't do, and it will only hurt the organization's fundraising ability in the years to come. The American people opened their hearts -- and wallets -- to the tune of $1.2 billion so far, and we know exactly what their intent was. It's shameful not to follow that intent immediately and completely.


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