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When it comes to mail delivery, don't leave rural America behind
Changing times and technology are catching up with the U.S. Postal Service, as e-mail, online bill pay and other electronic services take over for "snail mail."
New Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, who was sworn into office earlier this month, wants to cut 7,500 administrative jobs through attrition, including those of postmasters.
He has a problem. The postal service, which is set up to be self-supporting, forecasts a $6.4 billion loss for its 2011 fiscal year, which ends in September.
"Eighty percent of our offices don't cover our costs, and the law prevents us from closing those," said spokeswoman Sue Brennan. "But we're looking for ways to cut costs.
As a sign of the times, the Postal Service's application for Apple Inc.'s iPhone is the number one free business app, and more and more of us are buying postage online or at alternate sites.
Some post offices in rural areas are staffed solely by a postmaster, costing perhaps $90,000 to operate while bringing in $10,000 in revenue.
In contrast, the Postal Service makes an average of $243,000 per year in revenue from each of its automated kiosks, more revenue than 19,000 of its post offices generate apiece, according to another spokeswoman.
Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal reported the postal service is reviewing 16,000 post-office locations for possible closure, and the Postal Regulatory Commission is reviewing appeals for six closings, according to a spokesman.
It's popular to compare private package delivery companies to the Postal Service, but none of them are required by law to serve small rural communities. Some, in fact, feed certain small packages into the U.S.P.S. for final delivery.
Providing mail service has been one of government's traditional roles and there is nothing inherently wrong with income from more profitable urban post offices subsidizing service in rural, less populated areas.
We're not saying postal service shouldn't be as efficient as possible, just don't leave rural America behind.