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The U.S. Postal Service is an American asset that has underpinned and extended this nation’s strength, growth and sense of connection for more than 225 years. Now, however, shortsighted managers and congressional meddlers have made it increasingly difficult for the postal service to balance its books.

Congress can and should take action to ease the absurd financial burdens that it has forced on the USPS — first and foremost of which is the requirement that it prepay retiree benefits 75 years into the future, something no other major public or private agency must do. At the same time, Congress must remove the current limits on the ability of the Postal Service to compete and provide a full range of services.

These actions would stabilize the financial circumstances of the USPS and allow it to provide essential services — especially to small towns and urban neighborhoods — for decades to come. And even in this politically divisive moment, it is reasonable to presume that Congress can and will act. Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives recognize the value and quality of the Postal Service.

But as we await congressional action, we cannot let the Postal Service be dismantled by managers who are unwilling to defend its vital infrastructure.

The USPS has proposed to shutter its Madison Processing & Distribution Center, in a move that would result in the loss of 54 jobs and undermine the ability of state government and local companies to conduct business. If the Postal Service transfers mail processing operations to its Milwaukee Processing & Distribution Center, mail from Wisconsin’s second largest city and the surrounding south-central Wisconsin region would have to travel out of the region and across the state to be sorted before it can be delivered — even if that mail is being sent across town in Madison, even if it is being sent to someone in the same neighborhood.

This change, if implemented, would mean that businesses and public agencies could no longer count on one-day delivery for checks and invoices. The general slowdown in delivery services — in combination with the slowdown caused by cuts elsewhere — would make the USPS less immediate and reliable, and ultimately harm its long-term viability.

“At a time when we are still recovering from the financial collapse of 2008, closing the Madison Processing & Distribution Center would be an unnecessary economic burden for the region— killing jobs, increasing delivery time, and significantly affecting the way businesses operate,” says Congressman Mark Pocan, D-Madison, who testified last week at a meeting where the USPS discussed its feasibility study on the Madison center and took public comment. “The fact that this type of option is even on the table highlights the need for Congress to move forward on comprehensive postal reform that allows the USPS to make common-sense, innovative changes that will allow the organization to reduce costs without reducing service. I encourage the members of the community to join me and express our concerns to the USPS so that we can protect our mail delivery.”

Pocan’s right. We cannot cut our way to prosperity. And we certainly cannot cut our way to a better postal service.

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

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