Bending to strong public opposition, the nearly bankrupt U.S. Postal Service on Wednesday backed off a plan to close thousands of rural post offices after May 15 and proposed keeping them open, but with shorter operating hours.
The move to halt the shuttering of 3,700 low-revenue post offices followed months of dissent from rural states and their lawmakers, who said the cost-cutting would hurt their communities the most. In recent weeks, rising opposition had led Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe to visit some rural areas in a bid to ease fears about cuts that could slow delivery of prescription drugs, newspapers and other services.
This is a change from the USPS strategy that Donohoe laid out last year. He pushed for closing 500 processing facilities, a downsizing of 35,000 jobs and a review of 15,000 local offices that could be subject to shutdown. It would be hard to believe that they went through 15,000 post offices and found none that were good candidates for closure.
Members of Congress have agitated in favor of their constituents to maintain no cuts in service and no closures of processing facilities. There are precious few who recognize the dire situation that the Post Office is in - people like Darrell Issa, Joseph Lieberman and Scott Brown. And the biggest agitators in favor of a bankrupt status quo, unsurprisingly, are Democrats. Sens. Sherrod Brown, Jay Rockefeller, Joe Manchin, Jim Webb and Clair McCaskill have consistently pushed policies that would retain service and jobs for the postal unions.
I discussed the road to reform for the post office in this month's Townhall Magazine. Unfortunately, the political pressure I described seems to be working. There are real reform paths for the post office - but it's going to take courage to get there.
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