In "Congressional Mailbags" {editorial, May 1}, The Post highlights a big reason why our congressional elections -- with House and Senate reelection rates of 98 percent and 85 percent, respectively -- resemble those of the pre-Gorbachev Soviet Union.

In the '80s, the 535 members of the Senate and House sent almost 900 million pieces of mail during each election year and about 500 million pieces during off years. Back in the '50s, when the House reelection rate was 90 percent and the Senate's was 65 percent, the average was about 50 million pieces of mail per year with no huge jumps in election years.

Abuse of the frank is only part of the story. Since World War II, House and Senate staffs have increased by more than fivefold. While the chief justice of the United States has a personal staff of only seven -- three clerks, three secretaries and a messenger -- House members have an average staff of 17 each, and senators have staffs of about 40 each.

Now, congressional incumbents are proposing "reform" to ensure fairer elections. But that's a little like asking the wolf to protect Little Red Riding Hood. Without real limits on taxpayer-funded mass mailings and cuts in bloated congressional staffs, limits on campaign spending -- "flexible" or not -- or any other reform will only further entrench incumbents.

Unless the American public demands that incumbents "fight fair," we may end up with elections that a Ferdinand Marcos or a Manuel Noriega would have been proud of. ROBERT J. GIUFFRA Washington