The Postal Blues
It’s hard to read a newspaper or watch the news these days without hearing about the supposed dire situation at the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Although, like much information being disseminated by the powers that be in federal government, there is much to be skeptical about with the numbers and warnings being broadcast.
There is indeed a fiscal problem with the USPS. They’ve taken quite a hit the last few years, mostly with the advent of e-mail and our ability to send and pay bills online. The USPS supports itself primarily by the sale of stamps. Taxpayer dollars do not subsidize it. But, even with the decline of revenue the USPS, by implementing cost-cutting measures; downsizing its workforce and gaining concessions from its unions, still manages to break even. How many federal governmental agencies can claim that?
It was in 1775 that a guy named Benjamin Franklin was appointed as the first postmaster general during the Second Continental Congress. His operation was transformed into a cabinet-level Post Office Department in 1792. It currently employs about 574,000.
In 1970 the Postal Reorganization Act, signed by then President Nixon, created the PRC or Postal Rate Commission, to oversee rates for different classes of mail. It also had additional oversight consisting of public hearings regarding service changes and other proposals made by the postal Governors.
This changed in 2006 when President George W. Bush signed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA), which gave the PRC greater authority over the USPS. The Act also created so-called “trust fund payments” which remove about $5 billion a year from the USPS budget to actually help service the deficit rather than pre-fund future retiree health benefits as is the claim.
There is now talk of closing four processing centers in Colorado – in Alamosa, Durango, Colorado Springs and Salida. This would shift mail sorting from actual humans at those locations to machines in Denver. What does this mean for subscribers to Colorado Central? Well, mostly it will affect readers in Chaffee County, as the magazine will get shipped to Denver for sorting and sent back here for distribution. That doesn’t seem very efficient to us. As one of the largest postal customers in Salida (along with the city and the National Rifle Association), we take all new regulations and proposals by the USPS very seriously. Despite our rack and retail sales, we are at the mercy of this agency to continue to operate. Web-based subscriptions have yet to prove marketable in this industry, and besides, folks still like a tangible product in their hands and we want to continue to provide one. Let’s hope the politicians, rather than their usual grandstanding, actually find a real solution to the problems facing this 236-year-old institution. – Mike Rosso