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Snail Mail's a Reality

on 8/15/01.

Have you noticed that mail delivery has been tardier than usual lately? "New delivery standards implemented by the U.S. Postal Service earlier this year are adding an extra day for first-class mail delivery to most cities in the West," reported The Associated Press.

The reason: The Postal Service has switched some services from planes to ground transportation because of flight delays, Chuck Gannon, national manager for service standards, told AP. It's true the nation's air-traffic system needs an overhaul; privatization of air traffic control and airports would help. But the Postal Service is slow _ and keeps raising rates _ for another reason: It has a monopoly on first-class mail.

The last time privatization or breaking the monopoly was seriously on the table was 1988, in the waning days of the Reagan administration. Jim Miller, then the director of the Office of Management and Budget, made a valiant but ultimately unsuccessful push for postal reform. Now a counselor for Citizens for a Sound Economy, he says one way to improve deliveries would be to privatize the Postal Service.

But even better, he said, would be to end the monopoly. "There is some concern for postal issues in the Bush administration. But every administration has to be driven by the very short run," he said. The catalyst could be an impending Postal Service operating deficit, causing much greater price increases that would slam consumers _ even as consumers switch more and more to e-mail.

Germany, Holland and Great Britain have privatized mail delivery. It's time for the United States to do the same.