The following is a letter drafted by Nation President Teresa Stack and signed by her and her counterparts at more than a dozen independent journals to protest a sharp increase in postal rates that will adversely affect small publications. To learn what you can do to help, go to www.stoppostalratehikes.com.
The Honorable James C. Miller, III
Chairman, Postal Board of Governors
U.S. Postal Service
475 L’Enfant Plaza, S.W.
Washington, DC 20260-3436
April 18, 2007
We write to you today on a matter of great urgency. The recent decision of the Postal Service Board of Governors (BOG) to accept the startling periodical rate recommendations of the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) undermines the historic foundation of our national mail system. These new rates will have grave consequences for disseminating the very type of information our founding fathers strove to protect and foster when they first established the public postal service.
As the publishers of small magazines that focus primarily on politics and culture, we share a common mission of providing the information necessary to a flourishing democracy, whether from the left, right, center, religious or secular point of view. We struggle, many of us on a weekly basis, to inform the national dialogue in a way the founders believed absolutely essential to the health of this country. As journals of opinion and ideas, we do not do it for the money–there are far more lucrative businesses–we do it because, like the country’s founders, we believe it to be a public good (unlike the mass circulation glossies, which are the primary supporters and beneficiaries of the new rate design).
As you know, the United States Postal Service (USPS) had proposed a rate increase for periodicals of about 11.7 percent in May of 2006, an increase which would have affected all periodicals more or less equally. While this would have been a very large increase, small magazines were budgeting for and preparing for its implementation in 2007.
Instead, in its February, 2007 decision, the PRC recommended a version of the Time Warner (the largest publisher in the industry) rate proposal that had previously been explicitly rejected by the Postal Rate Commission and strongly opposed by the USPS, and that had a disproportionately adverse effect on small national publications, while easing the postal burden on the largest magazines. The PRC ignored its own precedent and instead accepted a proposal from a segment of the industry that not only fundamentally changes the historic ethos of our postal system, but does so in a breathtakingly short period of time.
While in theory interested parties could participate in the rate case between the USPS recommendation and the PRC decision, and those (unlike us) with very substantial resources did, it was impossible for us to judge how the Time Warner plan would affect individual small titles, and frankly, most of us did not think an industry-generated plan that had previously been rejected would be chosen over the USPS proposal. After the dramatic and unexpected PRC decision, there was an industry “comment period” of only eight working days. This was an impossible amount of time for small magazines to digest changes so complex that to this day there is no definitive computer model to fully assess the actual new charges.