Assuming other postal user groups and the independent Postal Rate Commission agree not to contest the deal (a first class stamp would go to 37 cents from 34 cents) , the Postal Service will get a needed revenue boost after losing $1.7 billion in its fiscal year ended last Sept. 30.
There's no doubt about the pain in this. Mailers and publishers, mired in the advertising recession, hardly need yet another postal rate hike. Cognizant of that, industry association leaders were careful to point out that by paying more now they hope they have purchased rate stability through at least October 2003. Mailer consent to this plan also acknowledges that the Postal Service is staggering, not only from the recession but from the post-Sept. 11 anthrax terror mailings.
The willingness of direct mailers and publishers to bear this financial cost now is emphatically not a vote of confidence in the Postal Service status quo. It is just the opposite.
The Postal Service structure created by Congress in 1971 badly needs an overhaul. The changes to come will not be easy for postal users, postal management or postal labor. By agreeing to pay more now, when it hurts, direct mailers and publishers are claiming a place at the table when Washington comes to grips with setting the future direction for mail service in this country. And these businesses will have a stronger platform from which to argue on Capitol Hill that their views deserve a careful hearing. It's hard to put a price on that.