More Suffocating Big-Government Gouging

by George Archibald

According to internal documents of the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors, currently headed by former Reagan administration budget director James C. Miller III – an appointee of President George W. Bush – a huge postal hike for newspapers and magazines due to take effect July 15, 2007 was accepted based on a “a rate structure proposed by Time Warner, Inc” – the company of Ted Turner and Jane Fonda.

The new postage rates being implemented by the U.S. Postal Service would impose hikes up to 30 percent for many small and independent publications, imposing stringent regulations for packaging periodicals by zip code and charging postage based on the amount of non-advertising and advertising content.

Read the new U.S. Postal Service requirements for mailing periodicals here.

I promise your eyes will glaze over at the complexity and tedium of these new Postal Service regulations for magazines and newspapers issued under an administration that promised to reduce and simplify government regulations and costs to small businesses.

So much for that promise. Instead, big corporate titans like Ted Turner win again at the expense of the little guys.

While largest circulation magazines such as Time, Newsweek, and People, with huge multi-million circulations would face hikes of less than 10 percent under these new rules, magazines ranging from the conservative National Review, neo-conservative The Weekly Standard, and liberal-left The Nation will face postage cost hikes of 30 percent or more – enough to cripple them unless they send subscription and advertising prices through the roof.

But circulation for these small news and commentary magazines on right and left of the political spectrum will surely fall because of the postal rate hikes. Advertising will plummet and many small-circulation specialty periodicals will be driven into the ground.

So much for promoting free speech and vigorous debate in an open society. These small specialized magazines provide their readers with the rubber-hits-the-road facts and opinion each week or month, from all points of view, while the giant personality-oriented  so-called news magazines provide mostly gossip and pablum. So here's another example of government promoting the dumming-down of America while kicking critical thinkers in the financial groin.

This U.S. Postal Service rate increase for small specialty publications seems designed to drive some out of business, chill free and open debate in our free society, as increased suffocating government regulation wins again – and this thanks to a Republican administration and appointees of President George W. Bush.

How ironic is that?

The advocacy group Free Press says the periodical rate change was developed with no public involvement or congressional oversight. The group and many publications have called for a congressional hearing on the changes that Free Press says, based on documents obtained, based on “a rate structure proposed by Time Warner, Inc.”

This fiasco is on the heels of Reagan and Bush administration changes to the federal Freedom of Information Act that made it almost impossible for citizens and journalists to get government documents from U.S. government agencies.

The changes allowed each government agency to put FOIA requestors at the back of the line, even though the law requires production of requested documents within ten calendar days. And as the line gets longer, agencies ignore the ten-day rule for months and years.

As a result of new FOIA rules implemented under the Reagan administration, it took me as an investigative reporter for The Washington Times five years to get the first document regarding former Reagan image-master and White House deputy chief of staff Michael Deaver’s use of the U.S. Trade Representative and State Department to parlay his access to the Reagan White House into multi-million-dollar lobbying contracts  before and after he left the White House.

And five years after I broke the Deaver story, the documents provided were worthless to public information as Deaver had long since been convicted of perjury during an independent counsel investigation based on our 1985 and 1986 stories.

Another example of how public information and debate has been chilled by suffocating government regulations to restrict a free flow of information and ideas.

My own personal ideological views are what I call libertarian-with-morality. I subscribe to The Nation magazine, grew up with National Review, and long subscribed to The Weekly Standard because I want to know what they all are saying about issues of the day.

That’s what free speech and full debate is all about so we can make up our own minds.

But as Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation, said about the U.S. Postal Service rate increase for periodical publications: “What’s at stake is the stifling, the future, the survival of an independent media that the founding fathers of this country thought was essential to a vibrant, flourishing democracy.

“We are publishers of magazines that don’t make money, that believe in information as a public good. We believe it is vital to the marketplace of ideas, which, you know, you would think this big behemoth Time Warner would be supportive of. But again, in an unprecedented move, again almost in the dark of night, we're seeing the Postal Board of Governors accepting a rate increase developed by the largest publisher in this country …

“This is not a partisan issue. We have assembled a coalition including the National Review, The American Conservative and others across the board – Mother Jones, In These Times, The Progressive – because we believe that if we are to remain a democracy, we have to have flourishing ideas and not one huge publisher conglomerate deciding what this quasi-government agency is going to do.

“What’s needed here, of course, is some investigative reporting on what is going on with an agency that, as John Nichols and Robert McChesney of Free Press have described, is one of the most secretive agencies. It makes the FCC look like a Vermont commune. But it's imperative that we stop this, because it seems to me that if we allow Time Warner to dictate what the postal rates will be in this country, we are forfeiting the possibility of a true exchange of ideas.”

I couldn’t agree more.

As John Adams, first vice-president of the United States and second president, asked Thomas Jefferson, writer of the Declaration of Independence and third president: “Who shall write the history of the American Revolution? Who can write it? Who will ever be able to write it?”

Jefferson responded: “Nobody, except perhaps its external facts.”

That’s why the continuing, lively free speech and debate of the American people and leaders, as reflected by reporting and commentary of a variety of media covering all aspects of the ideological spectrum are so important.

Government regulation and punitive mailing rates imposed by the postal system first established by Benjamin Franklin are inimical to our free society and its continuation.

What leader is going to live up to his or her promise to rein-in unwanted and dangerous government regulation and costs that drag down our country and its flourishing liberty and economic opportunity?


George Archibald, is a veteran journalist. He has worked as a staff writer for The Arizona Republic, and was an investigative reporter for the Washington Times for two decades. He was nominated by that publication four times for the Pulitzer Prize in investigative journalism. For more of Mr. Archibald's writing please visit his blog.

Worth Quoting

If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace.  We ask not your counsels nor your arms.  Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you.  May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.

Samuel Adams


What is liberty without wisdom and without virtue?   

Edmund Burke