There have been two very different pieces of legislation introduced in the US Senate that propose reforms to the US Postal Service’s business model. On Thursday, the Senate committee that oversees the Postal Service will hold its second hearing on one of them. Senate Bill 1486, introduced by Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, would do all that Postmaster General Patrick Donohoe be-lieves needs to be done to keep the Postal Service affordable for its customers. Whether the plan is a good one depends on how you define “postal customers.”
As the head of a $65 billion-per-year operation, Mr. Donohoe listens closely to huge corp-orations that spend millions of dollars on postage every month; his policies are shaped by those conversations. Giant credit card companies like Chase and Bank of America spend millions of dollars each month to flood our mailboxes with solicitations for their credit cards. Credit card companies don’t really care when and where you and I pick up their solicitations. They are only interested in keeping their postage rates cheap.
It is no coincidence that a senator from Delaware would seek drastic measures to make sure the many credit card companies based in Delaware keep their extremely low rates. His bill would reduce postal deliveries from the current six days per week to five or even as few as three days. It would also eliminate to-the-door delivery for all businesses and most private residences by mandating centralized neighborhood boxes at the end of the street. After all, convenience and safety for you is not important to them; keeping bulk rate postage discounts is all that matters.
However, at the Kansas State Association of Letter Carriers, we believe Sen. Carper’s bill overlooks the millions of indivi-duals who occasionally spend the $6.99 in postage and handling when ordering items online. Whether it is a replacement part for the washer or Halloween costumes for the kids, Americans feel comfort-able ordering online because they trust that their items will be delivered safely and conveniently by America’s most trusted public servants: their letter carriers.
You and I don’t want to walk to the end of the street after work when it’s dark or raining to pick up our stuff. We like it better when the mailman is the one walking in the rain and when all we have to do to get our stuff is open the front door. We don’t mind paying the shipping and handling because the value of the service we receive makes it worth the cost.
Fortunately, another bill has been introduced in the Senate that would protect the value of service we all want and deserve. Independent Sen. Bernie Sand-ers of Vermont has introduced Senate Bill 316, which would reform and expand the Postal Service while keeping your mail delivered to your individual mailbox six days per week. S.316 has 30 co-sponsors while Sen. Carper’s bill has only one.
However, S.316 may never get a hearing because Sen. Carper is the committee chairman and controls which bills get hearings. You can make your voice heard by calling your senators and urging them to reject the drastic cuts proposed by Sen. Carper and requesting a hearing on the practical solutions proposed by Sen. Sanders. Sen. Jerry Moran’s local number is 539-8973; Sen. Pat Roberts does not have a Manhattan number, but the number of his office in Topeka is 785-295-2745.
Rod Holub, a Manhattan resident, is president emeritus of the Kansas State Association of Letter Carriers.