Disseminate Information, Protect Democracy
The following is a shortened version of a letter drafted by Nation president Teresa Stack and signed by her and her counterparts at more than a dozen independent journals, including National Review, The American Spectator and Mother Jones. To learn what you can do to help, go to www.stoppostalratehikes.com.
James C. Miller III
Chairman, Postal Board of Governors
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 established the public postal service.
As the publishers of small national magazines that focus primarily on politics and culture, we share a common mission of providing the information essential to a flourishing democracy. We struggle to inform the national dialogue in a way the Founders believed essential to the health of this country. As journals of opinion and ideas, we do not do it for the money; we do it because, like the Founders, we believe it to be a public good.
As you know, in May 2006 the United States Postal Service proposed a rate increase for periodicals of about 11.7 percent, an increase that would have affected all periodicals more or less equally. Instead, in February the PRC recommended a version of the rate proposal put forward by Time Warner, which had previously been rejected by the PRC and strongly opposed by the USPS. This proposal would have a disproportionately adverse effect on small national publications while easing the burden on the largest magazines.
The decision was followed by an industry "comment period" of only eight working days, an impossibly short time for small publications to digest changes so complex that to this day there is no definitive computer model to fully assess them. Nonetheless, the new rates are scheduled to take effect July 15.
We now know that small titles will be devastated. According to an analysis by McGraw-Hill (but not, inexplicably, done by the PRC or BOG), about 5,700 small-circulation publications will incur rate increases exceeding 20 percent; another 1,260 publications will see increases above 25 percent; and hundreds more, increases above 30 percent. Some small magazines will no doubt go out of business. Meanwhile, the largest magazines will enjoy the benefit of much smaller increases and in some cases, decreases. To make matters even worse, editorial content charges will now be based on distance. The system of charging one price however far editorial content travels, which has existed since our country's founding, seems to have been summarily dismissed by the PRC, and then by the governors, with little thought of its future impact.