If you thought Round 1 of the U.S. Postal Services “network consolidations” caused problems in delivery services in Lima and most of Ohio the past few years, brace yourself.
Mail service to most parts of the country is likely to get worse, and the blame rests at the feet of Congress, which continues to balk at taking up legislation that could improve the delivery woes.
The Postal Service announced on June 30 that it is now targeting a broad list of mail processing plants for its second round of “network consolidation.” Though USPS is showing operating profits this year after several years of red ink, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe cited a $40 billion debt on the USPS balance sheet as the reason for the cuts. Most of the Postal Service debt is to the U.S. Treasury, which it owes for the accelerated prepayment of postal retiree health costs imposed by Congress in a 2006 postal law.
Many organizations, labor unions and concerned postal users have lobbied Congress vigorously for the past eight years to relax the punitive requirements, which have been set up for no other federal agency. However, legislative efforts to relieve financial pressure on the USPS continue to be ignored.
National Newspaper Association President Robert M. Williams Jr. is calling for postal reform legislation this year.
“We have looked for several years now for legislation that balances the needs of USPS, of the postal workforce and of mailers, particularly those in rural areas hard hit by the previous round of postal plant closings,” he said. “We recognize that the Postal Service is a powerful federal agency that influences our advertising marketplaces and therefore must be fairly regulated. But we object to Congress’s having tried repeatedly to use the postage-selling abilities of USPS as a cash cow. We are very hopeful that we will see legislation this year that strikes the right balance and that we can vigorously support it before these plant closings kick in.”
Like Williams, we don’t not understand how rising prices, slower service and further concentration of services into urban areas helps our nationwide mail service to survive Internet competition or any other threat.
Mail service to rural and small-town America is critical to local economies. We’d tell you to write your Congressman, but the chances of your letter getting delivered in a timely fashion may not be worth the cost of a stamp.