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A better way

May 4, 2012 - By Steven R. Peck

Congress wants postal cutbacks delayed while it looks into a continuous problem

Fremont County consumers got interesting news over the past week when it was announced that legislation was moving through Congress that would delay the announced closures of hundreds of small post offices while also putting off a final decision on cuts in mail delivery and other post office services.

The House and Senate bills, which are quite different, arrive after the U.S. Postal Service already has postponed the planned cutbacks once. This week it was asked to slow down again to give Congress a chance to hammer out a compromise bill through the conference committee process.

In the eyes of the postal consumer -- and our newspaper is a big one -- it might be high time for Congress to get involved in the postal problem in a way other than simply scolding the Postal Service for not performing better financially.

Some will argue, no doubt, that involving Congress in a problem is exactly the wrong way to solve it. But the challenges to mail service are so great, and the consequences of failing to meet them so dire, that attention must be paid at the highest level.

The worry is that the office closures and service cuts, which probably would include the end of Saturday mail delivery, would do more than just inconvenience users of the mail, but would be accompanied by a price increase for the dwindling services that did remain.

A business model built on reducing access and cutting service while simultaneously charging more money will be difficult to sustain, to say the least.

Here's one reason for Congress to look into this in more detail: Any postmaster will tell you that the laws and administrative rules governing postal operations are among the most arcane and inexplicable on the federal books. (We might say the same for the postal regs governing newspaper delivery.) Many would say lasting solutions lie not in more cutbacks and price hikes at the postal window, but in regulatory reform at the federal level.

In any case, with traditional mail service staggered by technological and marketplace changes, there is consensus that the answer must lie somewhere other than the pattern of jacking up rates and cutting back service.

There's got to be a better way, and it's good that our nation's top legislators have become interested in finding it.

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