Postal service behind times

First-class postage stamps at 49 cents each may be about to go the way of the carrier pigeon. By next month, the Postal Service may be given permission to increase stamp prices dramatically.

Increasing use of online communications has hurt the Postal Service, cutting deeply into its revenue. But, say critics, many in the private sector have had to adapt to change, too. Why can’t the Postal Service?

In part because Congress will not allow the agency to react to change as many in the private sector have. Archaic old rules, such as pre-funding health care benefits for retirees, cost the agency billions of dollars a year. Yet Congress, in part because of special-interest lobbying, refuses to allow the Postal Service to change.

Before Congress stands aside and allows stamp prices to continue skyrocketing, lawmakers ought to be held accountable for tying the agency’s hands in some respects.

Certainly, some requirements — such as offering mail delivery on Saturdays — ought to be left in place.  But where the rules are not clearly customer oriented, the Postal Service should be allowed to change them.

Otherwise, it will not be long before the 49-cent stamp of today is viewed much the same as its 4-cent cousins were not so many years ago.

By Patricia Older

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