(Alexandria, VA) -- Fiscally flawed Postal Service "reform" legislation could contain at least one bright spot for consumers, if the House of Representatives enacts an amendment from Congressman Jeff Flake (R-AZ) to let local Postmasters experiment with non-bureaucratic mail delivery services: that's the view of the 350,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU), which today pledged full and active support for Flake's proposal.
"Congress has missed the opportunity to deliver full-fledged free-market reforms in the deceptively named 'Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act,' but lawmakers can at least put their stamp of approval on a pilot program to demonstrate there are lower-cost, higher-quality alternatives to the First-Class Mail monopoly," said NTU Government Affairs Manager Kristina Rasmussen. "Congressman Flake deserves a helping hand from his colleagues in the House for pushing the envelope on behalf of overburdened Postal customers."
In a June 8 letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), NTU declared H.R. 22, the "Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act," a "poor substitute for reform because it further expands the monopoly powers granted to the United States Postal Service (USPS) and does nothing to bring needed market discipline to the agency." Specifically, the bill saddles taxpayers with some $27 billion in Postal pension liabilities, fails to focus the USPS on core business missions, and reduces the independence of the Postal Board of Governors by offering entrenched labor unions a seat on the panel.
Congressman Flake's amendment, entitled the "Postmasters' Empowerment Act," would lay the groundwork for true Postal reform in the future by creating a five-year program in which 20 communities would be allowed to competitively bid U.S. Mail and other USPS services among private businesses, non-profit organizations, or labor groups. The Postal Service monopoly on First-Class Mail would be suspended in these 20 areas, while franchise operations would be overseen by "Postal Performance Review Boards" chaired by the local Postmaster, business and consumer representatives, and other community members. Franchisees would be evaluated using specific cost, reliability, timeliness, and other factors, thereby producing hard data to measure the potential for wider-scale private sector alternatives to the Postal bureaucracy.
"Innovative Postal reforms that expand choice and reduce costs are succeeding around the world, but if Congress won't implement them nationwide through legislation this year, consumers can and should reap the benefits of these initiatives one community at a time," Rasmussen concluded. "Congressman Flake's forward-looking amendment gives Americans hope that someday the backward practices of the U.S. Postal Service will be replaced by a free-market vision that puts customers first."
NTU is a non-partisan citizen group working for lower taxes, smaller government, and economic freedom at all levels. Note: The June 8 letter to Speaker Hastert, along with other materials on Postal reform, may be accessed online at www.ntu.org.