November 25, 2011

Regarding the Nov. 19 editorial “Failure to deliver”:

The last time Congress reformed the U.S. Postal Service, legislation took a decade to become law. This time, progress has been made in less than a year. Senate and House bills take different approaches to the goal. But having witnessed debilitating stalemates on deficit reduction, The Post is too quick to criticize the progress made.

It is no easy task to reduce a 300-billion-piece postal system by half. The House bill incorporates tools used in the auto industry recovery and in Congress’s imposition of a financial control board upon the District. It assumes that dramatically trimming costs, including the 80 percent of costs that come from personnel, requires congressional direction.

The Senate assumes that, given sufficient incentives, fewer escape routes and some relief from its retiree mandates (which involve no taxpayer funds), USPS’s management and labor will make painful but inescapable choices to reach the right size.

To save a $1.1 trillion mailing industry with 8 million workers, both bills must move into conference to achieve what deficit reduction has not: a deal that keeps the system running. Neither bill can pass in the other house. But both bills offer effective solutions.

Art Sackler, Washington

The writer is coordinator of the Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service.