WHAT OTHERS SAY: Let's use common sense in the Postal Service debate

Friday, September 30, 2011 | 8:07 p.m. CDT

Sen. Claire McCaskill has a lot of common sense, and she wants Congress to take that approach in moving to make cuts in government spending. That's something that Congress often lacks — common sense. Politics rule over common sense in too many issues.

McCaskill wants cuts in spending to be made in a smart, balanced way. She said she is working to bring some common sense to the debate over the closing of thousands of post offices across the country.

Even though the U.S. Postal Service has eliminated 100,000 career positions and saved about $12 billion in costs, "It's not enough," McCaskill asserted.

The Postal Service is expected to lose $8 billion this fiscal year. McCaskill explained that because of increased use of the Internet, the volume of mail delivered has been in decline since 2006, sharply reducing the Postal Service's revenue. Its main revenue producer, first-class mail, has dropped dramatically.

The Postal Service plans to study the closing of more than 3,600 facilities, including about 160 in Missouri. Other facilities will be consolidated to save money. Reduced service is planned. Saturday deliveries may be eliminated.

McCaskill plans to make sure that rural customers are given complete information on closures. "I plan to hold their feet to the fire, because it's imperative that the closure process is handled in a transparent way," she said.

At a hearing, she reminded Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe how Missouri communities depend on the postal service and "stressed the importance of USPS truly taking the thoughts and concerns of affected communities into account during the closure and consolidation process."

She added that to rural Americans lacking access to broadband Internet at home, "the postal service is a lifeline, social network, a conduit for news and vital link."

McCaskill is a member of the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, which oversees the Postal Service.

Why doesn't Congress use some of the funds that normally go toward foreign aid and bail out the Postal Service, which also must make cuts. That's one suggestion — a simple one. There are bound to be others.

Let's face facts: The Postal Service can't survive long term without some help from Congress. It would be foolhardy to borrow money for a Postal Service bailout, but we have been appropriating money to foreign countries for too long, and too often the funds never end up being used in the ways for which they were given.

The Postal Service is in the process of reorganizing to save money. A new business model is needed to meet the changed conditions. It appears there is no way the Postal Service can ever regain revenue lost due to the Internet.

Copyright, Washington Missourian. Reprint courtesy of the Associated Press.

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