Declaring that "a book should not be charged the same rate for mailing is a brick," Sen. Barry M. Goldwater R-Ariz) yesterday called for a national policy that would keep postage rates low and frequent deliveries maintained.
Testifying at the opening session of Commission on Postal Service hearings, scheduled to continue here through Friday afternoon, Goldwater also asked for abolition of the independent Postal Rate Commission and living its rate-setting powers back to Congress.
The postal commission was set up last year and ordered to report by March 15 with recommendations for future post office services and financing.
Goldwater told the commission that the Constitution does not require the post office to make a profit, in denouncing some critics of the postal service and a recent Court of Appeals decision here, seeking to fully allocate all costs to various classifications of postal users.
"Ever since the patriots began their own mail system, postal service has been just that - a public service," Goldwater asserted.
Stating that the role of the printed word has not been diminished by the modern telecommunications of today, the Arizona Republican said government should promote dissemination of printed matter which treats subjects in depth.
Higher postal rates will drive out the printed word and "drasticallt alter or reduce the quality and variety of information available to the public. Even libraries must curb their service. Such a development may set in motion harmful changes in society that are beyond prediction," the former GOP candidate for President told the commission. Specifically, he recommended:
That firts-class mail rates be provided as a public service at rates "the public can easily afford."
Mail service should be designed for public convenience and not just bare necessity.
A suggested reduction to three-times-a-week residential delivery is contrary to the public's wishes.
A separate class of mail for newspapers and magazines and a separate class for books must be retained as a public service.
In other testimony yesterday, the American Bankers Association provided data which challenges Postal Service claims of delivering most mail on time.
Under the Postal Service guidelines, overnight delivery is promised to major cities and all points within 300 miles of origin while all mail is to be delivered nationwide within three days.The Postal Service says it meets the overnight delivery standard on 95 per cent of its volume.
Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust vice president Arthur J. Theriault, speaking for the ABA, said, however, that bank surveys show overnight delivery never has reached 90 per cent. Last June, the ABA surveys showed, overnight delivery was performed for 89 per cent of first-class letters with the remaining 11 per cent taking from two to five days.
Warren H. Phillips, president of Dow Jones & Co., said experiments in private delivery for his firm's publications - The Wall Street Journal, National Observer and Barron's - have proved them to be effective in terms of lower costs.
A change to residential deliveries three times weekly would "destroy the historical, time-honored concept of communication of ideas through the printed media; the very foundation of the constitutional guarantee of freedom of the press," Phillips testified.
Stephen E. Kelly, president of the Magazine Publishers Association, warned the commission that tying rates to actual costs for each class of user would "quickly begin driving just those customers most able to use alternative systems out of the Postal Service."
James J. LaPenta, director of the federal-public service division of the Laborer's International Union (AFLCIO), said he was "shocked" to learn that one possible future being considered by the Postal Service staff is formation of a private business.
He called such an idea a "conspiracy by the big business - Republican Nixon-Ford administrations - to dismantle the postal service . . ." He called for abolition of the postal rate commission and the postal service board of governors as well as resuming the practice of presidential appointment for the Postmaster General.