Postal Reform: Doubtful; Rate Increase: Definitely

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Before I get into today's topics - postal reform and rate increases - I have a question. With the destruction and loss of life wrought by Hurricane Katrina, it's hard to imagine what type of person would seek to take advantage of others, but it has happened ... again. The FBI said the first online frauds began appearing within hours of Katrina's passing. Hundreds, probably thousands, more have popped up in the days since, not to mention the phony telemarketing and other fraudulent schemes. Sad. Disasters let the good in so many people shine through. Why do they have to bring out the bad, too?


With that said, let me predict that postal reform won't happen again this year, despite what hopeful postal observers tell us. Even though the House passed its reform bill July 26, the Senate won't have time to pick up its legislation, what with all this finger-pointing over fallout from Katrina and two nominees to approve for the Supreme Court. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine will be too busy dealing with her hurricane headaches as head of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, which also oversees the U.S. Postal Service.


It's interesting that mailers and mail associations still want this reform bill passed despite comments made by Richard Strasser, executive vice president and chief financial officer at the USPS, at last month's Mailers Technical Advisory Committee meeting. Strasser called both postal bills disastrous because they give too much power to a renamed Postal Regulatory Commission. My question: Why did Strasser take so long to make his personal opposition known? It's not like he didn't have time, since these same basic bills have been debated for the past few years. Instead of reform, perhaps Congress could repeal that provision in the Postal Civil Service Retirement System Funding Reform Act of 2003 dealing with the escrow account. But that's wishful thinking, too.


One thing is certain: Postage rates will rise as expected next year - sooner rather than later - because of the damage and loss of revenue caused by Katrina. Though the USPS hasn't announced a date, signs point toward Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Destroyed postal facilities, which in all likelihood will have to be paid for by the USPS, not the federal government, will need to be rebuilt. After all, it is an independent agency that the president and Congress want to be self-sufficient. With threats of increases coming on an annual basis, the steady rates of the past few years will become just a pleasant memory.


Tad Clarke is editor in chief of DM News. His editorial appears Mondays on www.dmnews.com and in our e-mail newsletter. You can subscribe to our e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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