- The Washington Times - Monday, May 14, 2001

Maybe the United States Postal Service (USPS) is simply attempting to ensure that our kids learn math. Or maybe its governors just cant count, and they are hoping no one else can either.
Either explanation would account for the post offices most recent rate hike, which, following on the heels of an earlier rate hike this year, has left millions of Americans attempting to select the proper postage from their stamp collections. (Are flags and statues worth more than flowers and portraits? No one knows.) Not that it really matters, since judging by the USPSs customary level of efficiency, most letters are lucky to surface at their proper destination at all.
Surprisingly enough, the USPS didnt raise the rates on a one ounce envelope of first-class mail, although it did raise the rates on practically everything else. Mailing additional ounces will cost additional coins, as will mailing post cards, magazines and express mail. The USPS claims that, since it faces operating losses of between $1 and $5 billion this year, it needs the money break even, as it is mandated by law. The USPS is currently carrying an annual 'negative net income (read debt) of nearly $10 billion, and it could reach its $15 billion statutory debt limit by the end of next year.
One reason is that the USPS annually looses an estimated $1.4 billion each year in waste, fraud and abuse.
The USPS loses another $1.5 billion each year in undeliverable mail or "mail not deliverable at this address," which comes as no surprise to anyone who still receives Mothers Day cards addressed to the mothers of neighbors who moved away years ago. Another lost cause is advertising. As Rep. Butch Otter pointed out during an April hearing of the Committee on Government Reform, "The Postal Service has maintained a $300 to $500 million annual advertising budget, despite the fact that it has no competition in the first class monopoly." Mr. Otter also noted that the USPS lost a reported $85 million attempting to market new products such as stationary, ties, tee shirts and baseball caps.
Instead of shooting, or at least stopping, such costly programs, the USPS has suggested that it could cut Saturday deliveries. It would probably take most Americans several months to notice that something was amiss at the mailbox.
Many things dont add up at the USPS, including any reasonable rationale for its latest rate hike. Before rate hikes again multiply, Congress should insist that the USPS divide itself from all unnecessary ventures, subtract all unnecessary expenses, and add some value to its service.


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