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As others see it: Government not a fair competitor

Government's duplication of and competition with the private sector has been a public policy issue for years. Unfortunately, government is encroaching in new, more aggressive and troubling ways.

... As email and online services have diminished the volume and significance of the U.S. Mail, the embattled postal service has gone on the offensive to gain customers. Of particular interest to us, some of those efforts involve winning customers away from newspapers.

For example: In a small eastern Iowa town, the local grocery store discontinued distribution of its advertising inserts through the newspaper so it could use a new program that the U.S. Postal Service is pushing, Every Door Direct Mail. In the same town, the postmaster convinced the chamber of commerce to use the mail instead of the newspaper to distribute its annual member directory.

The promotion is a full-on, aggressive sales pitch competing with private enterprise. A postmaster in Missouri told a newspaper publisher that he had been told by his superiors that he had to go see businesses in person to push the direct-mail option.

No word yet whether the U.S. Postal Service, which is losing an estimated $25 million per day, plans to report and distribute the city council summary, obituaries and Little League scores once it puts the small-town newspaper out of business.

Newspapers aren't afraid of competition -- but it should be fair competition.

... It is a troubling trend that government is putting itself into competition with the private sector when it should be working harder to become more efficient and operate within its means.