Fund Postal Service

No one denies the detrimental effect the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have had on the U.S. economy. From the airline industry to the bison industry, profits in an already slumping economy have fallen off and pleas are being made to Congress for help. The U.S. Postal Service is now adding their name to the list of organizations posting losses and seeking Congressional assistance. But unlike less essential industries such as bison (Minnesota Daily editorial, Dec. 3), the Postal Service deserves taxpayer assistance.

Even before anthrax scares, the Postal Service was feeling the effects of the recession. After posting profits for five consecutive years, this marks the second consecutive loss for the Postal Service. Ideally the service breaks even every year, but in a year where mail volume dropped by more than 400 million pieces while rates rose only a penny, breaking even was impossible. Instead the Postal Service reported a $1.68 billion loss. Already they have cut back on spending and halted construction to keep the loss below $2 billion. But a sharp decline in mail volumes following Sept. 11 cost the Postal Service between $200 million and $300 million.

Couple lost revenue with the increased costs of preventing terrorism in more than 207 billion pieces of mail and the loss is understandable, even expected. The $175 million President George W. Bush has released is merely a drop in the bucket for an organization that might see even greater losses next year. Congress owes the Postal Service almost $1 billion, and rather than pay it off interest-free during the next 34 years, it should pay up now. Additionally it should fund the entire cost of updating post offices to keep the mail safe. These types of costs could not have been anticipated by the Postal Service and have already cost $418 million.

The alternative to such a bailout is a massive rate increase. The Postal Service had already planned to seek a three-cent increase for next year, but if its costs continue to escalate, greater increases will continue into the future.

The United States relies on a few basic industries and organizations to provide the infrastructure for the largest and most complex economy in the world. The Postal Service is at the forefront of these industries. As the Internet has expanded the way in which business is done, the importance of a reliable, safe, efficient and inexpensive mail delivery service has grown exponentially. Now this service is threatened because of a change for which no one could have planned. So dependent is the United States on this service that Congress must come to its aid quickly to ensure that the Postal Service can continue to serve.