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U.S. Post Office closures: Get ready for a battle

August 18, 2011 |  2:07 pm

Rural_post_office
If you thought the debt ceiling was a bruising brawl, buckle up: A battle is brewing as the U.S. Postal Service considers closing hundreds if not thousands of postal outlets nationwide. Lawmakers are already lining up to ask why the cuts seem to target the poor, minorities and rural America.

Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas) blogged in "The Hill" today that he had noticed a troubling pattern among the 222 postal outlets that are on the chopping block in his state. "Every single facility mentioned is located in a lower income and predominately minority neighborhood," he wrote.

That trend also holds true for the rest of the post offices, outlets and retail locations also targeted for possible closure. "Almost without exception, this pattern holds for our nation’s other great cities as well," he added.

But unlike the budget battle, this fight unifies both sides of the aisle and pits them against the financially ailing Postal Service.

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) said in a news release on his website that he's determined to save about 130 rural post offices in his state that are on the "hit list." Such rural post offices make up less than 1% of the budget, Moran said, and if the USPS wants to save money and cut costs, "it should look someplace else."

Moran said he intends to make Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe justify such closures, particularly in the face of federal law calling for the preservation of such services.

The lawmaker used his website to quote Title 39 of federal law that says, in part, "No small post office shall be closed solely for operating at a deficit, it being the specific intent of the Congress that effective postal services be ensured to residents of both urban and rural communities."

The Postal Service is by turns beleaguered, bedeviled and beloved. For many, particularly in rural areas, it is a crucial connection with the world at large.

That said, the Postal Service is limping along. People write fewer letters, need fewer stamps and have plenty of other options -- some more convenient -- for getting their parcels and posts from Point A to Point B. Recent projections predicted that the agency would lose $8 billion by the end of the 2011 fiscal year. Simply slashing all the post offices on the list -- a political impossibility -- would save only $200 million.

Oddly enough, the Postal Service's list of the 3,700 outlets identified for possible closure is titled  "Expanded Access study list."

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--Rene Lynch
On Twitter @renelynch

Photo: This rural post office in Brownstown, Wash., is among those on the potential chopping block. Credit: Gordon King/Yakima Herald-Republic

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