The U.S. Postal Service has filed for a rate increase. It’s no surprise: Postmaster General William Henderson has been signaling mailers for months about his intention to file.
For sure mailers will object to the USPS’ request for more cash, particularly after it’s enjoyed five years of operating surpluses. Even so, this can’t be written off as the USPS reverting to business as usual.
First, the postal service could have proposed this increase last fall. Mailers asked Henderson not to do that, since they didn’t need to contend with a proposal that might have hurt holiday mail order sales.
There’s truth in the USPS’ assertion that the 1997 rate increase was designed to last one year, but has been stretched to last for two. Mailers (and the postal service) have benefited greatly from this period of rate stability.
Also, the postal service has heard our message that smaller, more frequent increases are far preferable to less frequent monster increases. The rate hikes of 1988 and ’91 may be a faded memory to some, but the impact they had on the business mailing industry was devastating.
None of this should be interpreted as meaning the USPS has done all it should to minimize the need for new revenue. There still are too many people on the senior postal staff who express the misguided belief that it would have been better if the USPS had requested the latest raise much sooner than now.
These students of the old school have to be flushed out. No longer can mailers’ business be taken for granted. In fact, this next round of rate increases may hasten business’ flight out of the mail and into the electronic realm.
No one benefits from needless hyperbole in any debate about the postal service’s future. Our nation still needs an affordable, reliable mail delivery system. The challenge we face is ensuring that this gets done.