The bill would also neuter the current regulator of the USPS, the independent U.S. Postal Regulatory Commission, and stop the U.S. Court of Appeals from reviewing a pending case stemming from a USPS attempt last year to raise postage rates above the rate of inflation. The postmaster general and the rest of the USPS Board of Governors would gain emperor-like authority to raise postage rates at the expense of customers. No one — certainly not a government-owned service as big and important as the USPS — should have that much unchecked power.
No public, quasi-public, or private entity — especially one with monopoly power over large segments of the American economy — should be so insulated from regulatory scrutiny or judicial review. Indeed, other vital network industries such as railroads, telephone companies, and gas and electric utilities have their rates regulated by independent regulatory commissions in markets where the firms still have monopoly power. And these regulated firms aren’t sheltered from competition by federal criminal law. By enacting the Senate bill currently under consideration, Congress would be abdicating its own responsibilities and gutting vital checks on the USPS’s exercise of its monopoly power.
Even in the digital age, everyone agrees that the nation needs – and will need — a viable and affordable postal system. Thoughtful, carefully balanced postal reform legislation undoubtedly is needed: legislation that will promote efficiency, innovation and cost effectiveness. Simply handing the postmaster general and his board a blank check to raise prices is not the answer.
On Wednesday, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee should stamp the USPS power grab “Return to Sender.”
Mary Berner is the president and CEO of MPA — the Association of Magazine Media, whose more than 260 members publish nearly 1,000 magazine titles.