Whether the forum is a USPS rulemaking proceeding, as the Coalition for the Relaxation of the Private Express Statutes has requested, a Congressional committee or a blue-ribbon task force of citizens and experts, the issue should be aired out fully.
We say this knowing the obvious self-interest involved in the businesses behind the coalition-advertising mailers who want lower rates and alternate delivery companies who make no bones about wanting a crack at Postal Service business that's now off limits to them.
Mailers send about $500 million of business through alternative delivery companies, even though such companies are allowed by present law to deliver only address-specific mail of 24 pages or more, such as magazines and catalogs, and ride-along material, or non-address-specific saturation mailings. That's just a drop compared to the $10.5 billion in third-class mail delivered through the Postal Service last year.
"We need more volume," admitted coalition member Mike Trost, president of Marietta, Ga.-based Publishers Express. Many mailers, meanwhile, are fed up with postal rate hikes that saddle them with higher percentage increases than first-class mailers get.
Neither mail advertisers nor alternate delivery companies are going to loosen the monopoly if their chief rationale is naked self-interest, however. How many members of Congress will rush to improve the lot of "junk mailers" if breaking the monopoly means higher first-class stamps for their constituents back home? If changes are to be made-and senior USPS executives concede change may be needed-it should come after a thorough inspection of who wins, who loses and why there is a net benefit to the economy and the citizenry.
That's a big task. Let's get started.