Editorial: Bring It On

It sounds like a presidential commission on postal reform could be announced any day now. The sooner the better.

The undertaking has been far too political for Congress to be able to get anything passed. Why? Think of those 26,000 post offices in small, faraway cities that the U.S. Postal Service would have to close because they lose money.

Not a popular subject to go out and tell your voting constituents just before an election. Also remember the millions of dollars United Parcel Service and FedEx contribute to political action committees to lobby against anything they see as a threat.

The USPS isn’t helping the situation. For one, it needs to get back to what it’s supposed to do — deliver the mail — and quit wasting time and money in areas it has no business being in … like sponsoring the U.S. Pro Cycling Team in the Tour de France and other races. Postal officials won’t say how much it costs, but the Dallas Morning News reported last year that the agency had committed $25 million for a three-year contract that expires in 2004. While thousands of Europeans may see cyclist Lance Armstrong sporting a USPS logo, they can’t even use the system. Even crazier is that the postal service keeps a running update on its Web site about the race and diary entries from U.S. race director Frankie Andreu. “What a finish,” he wrote one day last week. “Today had an uphill sprint and a winner that only the guy who finished first could have predicted.” The site also sells leftover Pro Cycling Team jerseys from 2000, fanny packs and socks. Again, what does this have to do with delivering the mail?

Meanwhile, postal officials say mail volume continues to plummet. It’s down 6 billion pieces so far this year. Standard mail is off the most –5.4 percent — 4 billion pieces below last year’s numbers. The June 30 rate increase certainly didn’t help the situation as the USPS said it now expects to lose $1.5 billion for the fiscal year, which ends in September. This is on top of a $1.7 billion loss in 2001 and a $200 million loss in 2000. What company could lose that much in three years and still stay in business? The only thing that will fix this mess is a complete overhaul. Rumors are circulating that President Bush will name a commission before Labor Day. Let’s hope his appointees will be braver in their recommendations than our lawmakers have been.

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