Editorial: Rate Case: Return to Sender

Good for the Magazine Publishers of America, whose board of directors announced this week that it will spend $10 million to fight the 15-percent increase the U.S. Postal Service proposed for that mail category in its latest rate case. Somone needs to do something, and the vote of “no confidence” by the Direct Marketing Association’s board just isn’t going to be enough. Let’s hope some money spent in the right places can get the job done.

It’s ludicrous that the USPS’ board of governors called for increases in some categories of mail – particularly catalogers (up to 14 percent), nonprofit mailers (up to 16 percent) and magazines (the aforementioned 15 percent) yet First-Class rates would only go up an average of 3.6 percent. Should Standard-A mailers facing twice that amount – an average 7.7 percent increase – take this lying down, especially since the postal service has enjoyed five years of operating surpluses totaling $5.6 billion?

No, many should look to alternative delivery methods and the Internet to distribute their bills and correspondence, says Chris Little of Meredith Corp. Publishing Group. If the rate case goes through as is, it may end up hastening the decline in First-Class mail volume, which the General Accounting Office is predicting will happen in fiscal year 2002. It’s also odd that postal officials have asked for a 20-percent increase in their Priority Mail service, which they’ve been touting to e-commerce companies as a shipping alternative for books, CDs and other products under 10 pounds. Are they just hoping to slip in the increase while e-commerce is still in its infancy?

The rate case makes it clear that the postal service needs overhauled. Rep. John McHugh has a good plan with H.R. 22, which is stuck in a House committee. The last reform was 30 years ago. We’re now in the year 2000 – let’s act like it.

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