Cutting 28,000 jobs in the U.S. Postal Service in today's economy is ludicrous, and such talk shows a true lack of imagination and initiative on the part of the postmaster general's office.

Yes, we all know, and appreciate, the power of the Internet and how its efficiency and ability to communicate instantly has impacted the use of regular mail, but with more than 150 million potential customers falling in the 44 to 80-plus age bracket, there still remains a huge market for the U.S. Postal Service.

The Postal Service union contracts were set to expire Dec. 7, and accordingly, 252 mail processing centers (including a relatively new facility in Gary) and more than 1,500 post offices across the nation were targeted for closure, along with 28,000 jobs.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and as opposed to putting our finger in the dike, hoping to put a temporary fix on the problem, why don't we look at the issue as business professionals, and solve this on-going saga?

Postal rates for regular surface mail in the U.S. have gone from 3 cents in 1863, to 6 cents in 1968, 22 cents in 1985, and 44 cents in 2009. The postmaster general's office has proposed a band-aid approach, i.e. a one-cent increase in 2012, and at the same time proposes major cuts in delivery service, not to mention the enormous job cuts.

If you stop to look at the levels of postal service and costs in the U.S. as compared to Europe, you will find that at the top of the list is Norway at 97 cents, Luxembourg at 50 cents, and tiny Malta at 19 cents. The bottom line is that our U.S. Postal Service is not only cheaper than most European countries, but it is also more efficient while covering much larger geographical areas than Europe. U.S. mailers are getting a huge bargain and don't realize it.

The "Sixth Sense" solution, you ask? Quit nickel and diming postal rates - instead of the band-aid approach, raise the postal rates 6 cents to 50 cents a stamp and give us, for the first time, no pennies.

We have a great product in the U.S.P.S. and its employees, so let's recognize that fact and get them back on their feet. The internet is here to stay, and social media continues to soar on a daily basis. Three quarters of Americans 18 to 34 own a MP3 player, but only 56 percent of the next oldest group (ages 35-46) own a MP3.

In 2012, the U.S. will have more than 100 million citizens 50 and older, and this group still represents a significant marketing opportunity for the U.S.P.S. It is time to get creative and develop that market.

Dave Ryan is the executive director of the Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce. The opinions expressed are his own. He can be reached at dryan@lakeshorechamber.com or (219) 931-1000.

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