Let's Put 'Service' Back in Postal Service

WHEN I read that the management of the United States Postal Service had just awarded itself $20 million in bonuses for the past three years, I did a double take.Wasn't this the Postal Service that had just lost $1.4 billion during the same period? Wasn't this the Postal Service that had become the topic of more constituent outrage than any issue I can remember in recent years? In July, I introduced a resolution that would create a bipartisan commission to study the postal system. It's been 20 years since the old post office became a quasi-independent agency. It seemed like a good time to take a fresh look at what Congress had done and do some fine-tuning - or even a major overhaul if necessary. Within days, 125 members of Congress had signed onto the bill as cosponsors. They told stories of the same constituent outrage that I had been hearing. I soon discovered, however, that to some in Congress the Postal Service has become not just a sacred cow, but an entirely sacrosanct herd. It sits on a reservation with "off limits" signs posted all over it. The House's Post Office and Civil Service Committee has refused to entertain any thought of a commission and has put postal union lobbyists up to roving the halls of Congress and reining in any members who signed onto the resolution. The biggest canard these lobbyists have been airing is that the resolution calls for privatizing the Postal Service. That's simply not true. The resolution doesn't even suggest privatization. What is the Postal Committee afraid of? It's probably concerned that a truly independent commission will discover what any American citizen could have told the committee a long time ago: At the Postal Service, service is becoming a thing of the past. At a time when more and more businesses remain open on weekends, when it is getting harder and harder for two-earner families to get all the family chores done during the work week, the Postal Service is closing some of its offices on Saturdays, reducing window hours at other post offices, and removing collection boxes from convenient locations. The removal of collection boxes is an especially sore point. They were put on street corners for a reason: the convenience of the elderly man or woman who no longer has the stamina to walk blocks through rain, sleet, or snow to mail a letter. Too many of those mailboxes are vanishing. It's not the local vandals who are ripping them out of the sidewalks. It's the management of the US Postal Service. Moreover, at a time when the population is growing, and people are forming new neighborhoods, it is getting harder and harder to get the Postal Service to open new offices that can serve these growing areas. And at a time when the pace of the economy is moving faster and faster, the Postal Service is implementing slower and slower standards for the delivery of first-class mail. The Postal Service can get away with poor service as no other corporation can. It is a monopoly protected by federal statute. Generally speaking, no one else in America is allowed to carry letter mail. The Postal Service has been spared the rigorous oversight necessary to provide good service at reasonable prices. The real loser is the American consumer. It's time to take a fresh and impartial look at the system and see whether the American people are getting their money's worth. There's no better way to accomplish that than with a bipartisan, blue ribbon commission.

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