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AS I SEE IT

Posted 4/17/13 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

For hundreds of thousands of Americans, as well as a like number of small businesses across this country, the decision by the U.S. Postal Service to temporarily abandon its plans to reduce mail service to five days a week has to be welcome news. While there are those in the urban centers of this country who could care less if they have mail service five or six days a week, that is not the way a lot of people who live in rural America think.
The difference in attitude between the urbanite and the rural postal customer is pretty simple.
A lot of people who live in large, urban areas don’t rely on the Postal Service for even a fraction of their personal or business mail. They use their computers and their smart phones to pay their bills, check their e-mail accounts and do their banking. They even read their newspapers and magazines online and watch their favorite shows and movies that way as well. So what comes in their mail box in all likelihood is what the Postal Service makes a lot of money at delivering - namely sales flyers, catalogues and all that other mail which most of us would call “junk mail.”
If that was all that was in my mailbox, I probably would be happy if my mail was only delivered a couple of times a week. Unfortunately, that is one of the realities that is facing the Postal Service.
But for most people who don’t live in those urban areas, the post office can very well be our lifeline to everything that we do. Yes, the “junk mail” still finds its way into our mailboxes. But then so does the vast majority of our personal and business bills and statements. And unlike our big city neighbors, we get the newspapers and magazines that we read in our mailboxes. Likewise, for those people who don’t live just a couple miles away from a post office or who have their mail delivered right to their doorstep, six-day-a-week mail delivery is vital for elderly people who are waiting for their prescription drugs.
Without a doubt the U.S. Postal Service is in trouble financially as nationwide, the volume of letters and other forms of mail going through the postal system is plummeting.
So when Postal Service administrators are sitting in Washington, D.C. and scrambling for ways to trim a billion or so dollars, looking at dropping a day of mail service may seem like a pretty good idea.
The trouble with that logic is that reducing mail service by one day  a week is only going to further backlog a mail delivery service that is already slow. And if somehow reducing mail delivery to five days a week doesn’t result in all of the savings needed, one has to wonder if the next big cost savings effort is going to be to reduce mail service to four days?
Yes, the U.S. Postal System needs to figure out a way to stop the bleeding of red ink. It is going to take a systematic approach to address the revenue and expenditure issues facing the Postal Service, not an approach that one day calls for closing post offices and processing centers and then the next day proposing to cut back on service. And if any real postal reform is going to happen, Congress is going to have to finally step up to the table and be an active partner in crafting long-term solutions that will ensure a quality and reliable Postal Service for the people of this country.