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Is it time to privatize the Postal Service?

September 19th, 2011 9:05 am by Staff Report

What would this nation’s first postmaster, Benjamin Franklin, think of calls to privatize the U.S. Postal Service? Supporters of the idea say its time to scrap the Postal Service as we know it. Others, however, argue the USPS should continue to operate — but with fewer restrictions than it faces now.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, noted recently the Postal Service supports a $1.1 trillion mailing industry employing more than 8 million people in direct mail, periodicals, catalogs and other businesses. Even so, the Postal Service faces dire financial requirements at a time when the service has seen stiff competition from commercial carriers and new digital technology.
Earlier this month, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe told a congressional committee the USPS is on “the brink of default” if steps aren’t taken to address the situation. The USPS faces a Sept. 30 deadline for making a mandated $5.5 billion payment to the U.S. Treasury to cover retiree health benefits.
Democrats in the U.S. House filed legislation last week calling for a three-month delay in that payment. Proponents say the move will give the White House and Congress more time to find a long-term solution for the USPS.
The Postal Service, which does not receive tax money for its operations, is not seeking federal funds. Instead, postal officials want Congress to change the way the service operates, including relief from the requirement that it pre-fund medical costs. The USPS is the only federal agency that has to pre-fund retiree health benefits. Officials with the USPS also want to return to solvency by reducing mail delivery to five days a week, close 3,700 post offices and cut another 220,000 positions.
Some Republican lawmakers argue those steps don’t go far enough. They would like to see all the operations of the USPS privatized.
A recent editorial in the Asheville (N.C.) Citizen-Times points out the obvious questions that come up with privatization.
“Would a ‘private’ Postal Service continue daily delivery? Or would it cut back to once or twice a week, or perhaps decide to end service to rural areas? Might it cut out home delivery completely, forcing people to go to the post office for mail? Would it maintain post offices reasonably convenient to the people?”
Is it time to privatize the Postal Service? Tell us what you think by sending your comments to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717, or Please include your name, telephone number and address for verification. We will print your responses on the Opinion pages in the coming weeks.
You also can go to to cast a vote in the online poll. Results of the poll and comments from readers will appear on this page Sept. 27.

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