Bail Out Postal Service
Stressed by the economy and competition from the Internet and private shipping companies, officials from the U.S. Postal Service have asked Congress for permission to scale back deliveries from six to five days a week, in order to dramatically cut costs. They are considering not delivering on Tuesdays, according to one report.
The quasi-public postal service has been an independent agency of the U.S. government since 1971, but it remains heavily regulated by Congress. It is supposed to break even or make a small profit to reinvest in its operations. It must deliver mail six days a week across the U.S. at the same price, even to Alaska and Hawaii. It cannot close post offices, and its stamp prices can rise only at the rate of inflation.
In the past two years, however, the postal service has lost $7.9 billion, and it has had to borrow money to pay its bills. Last year, mail volume fell 4.5 percent; and the postal service expects a bigger drop in 2009.
The postal service's biggest hurdle today is the cost of providing health care to current and future retirees.
In late January, Postmaster General John Potter went before Congress for permission to delay $2 billion in health care payments until after 2016, saying that without the break, his organization could run out of cash later this year when a billion dollars in health care comes due.
My opinion is that the postal service should get some of that bailout money from the stimulus package. It will do more good and will benefit, we the people, more than the auto companies.
Vernon A. Carles
Withlacoochee Raises Rates As Costs Drop
"Electricity rates drop 14.6 percent."
Don't get excited; that's not a local headline. It's Rhode Island's largest provider, National Grid, passing along rate reductions, which went into effect on Jan. 1 as a result of the steep drop in energy pricing over the past several months. Their words not mine.
The Tennessee Valley Authority has announced a decrease in its fuel cost adjustment effective Jan.1. Residential consumers can expect a decrease ranging from $4 to $8 in their monthly power bills.
Our local provider, Withlacoochee Electric, who relies on some of the same energy component parts as the aforementioned providers, had over the past few years raised customer rates numerous times when natural gas was rising to above $15. Now that same natural gas has retreated to below $4 (week of Feb. 16), Withlacoochee refuses to acknowledge this reduction and pass along savings to their customers.
In fact, not only have they Ignored the 65 percent-plus decrease in fuel costs, Withlacoochee raised the base rate by 11 percent, from $44.10 per thousand KWH to $49.12; and increased the customer charge 30 percent a month, from $11.50 to $15. Then as if to say, "here's a bone," the company lowers the fuel cost adjustment line item by 6 percent, from $57.29 per thousand KWH to $54.19.
They package all this "fuzzy math" up in one nice little "customer friendly" public statement by saying, it's not our fault; due to an increase in coal transportation costs, we have to raise our customer's rates by 4.7 percent.
Indeed, Withlacoochee, you have some explaining to do. You may contact the author of this article at firstname.lastname@example.org.