Editorial: Hey, USPS, Pull Your Head Out

It’s time someone at the U.S. Postal Service pulled his head out of the sand. The answer to the current crisis – which everyone readily admits is a crisis – is not to raise rates every time there’s a shortfall. It’s no wonder that Bush adviser Stephen Goldsmith is rumored to have taken his name out of contention to become postmaster general. Who would want that thankless job?

Last week’s unanimous decision by the USPS’ Board of Governors to overrule the recommendations by the Postal Rate Commission may solve part of this year’s financial troubles, but it:

• “… is absolutely the wrong time to raise rates,” says Jerry Cerasale, senior vice president of government affairs at the Direct Marketing Association.

• “… may have just launched the postal service into a death spiral,” says Neal Denton, executive director at the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers.

• “… is a knee-jerk reaction, not leadership,” says Ken Allen, executive vice president at the National Newspaper Association.

Call it what you will, but it’s not good news for mailers, who are seeing less money come in, thanks to the weakening economy. However, let’s address the real problem. Canceling a day of mail delivery won’t do it. Investing $500 million in automation equipment that doesn’t work properly won’t do it. Until the agency can reduce its work force (something it can’t do because of unions) and increase productivity (something it can’t do because of unions), there is no answer. Did you know that productivity has gone up only 11 percent in the past 30 years, according to last month’s report issued by the General Accounting Office?

The postal service’s problems can’t be fully addressed until postal reform is enacted to allow its officials to change the way they run their business. A year ago, no one cared about reform as a remedy languished in a House subcommittee. This year, the topic is on everyone’s mind, including a few in the White House. Though too drastic in their measures, postal officials have succeeded in getting their voices heard.

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