‘The Nation’ seeks $120,272 from readers to cover cost of ‘Tea-Party’ backed postal-rate hikes

The Nation. (Photoillustration.)
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Nicole Levy

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The Nation emailed subscribers a note today asking for $120,272 in donations, a hefty chunk of change the journal will owe as a result of the “impending postal rate hike crisis,” as the note puts it.

“Tea Party–backed conservatives helped force the US Postal Service into requesting an emergency rate hike — one that will cost The Nation an additional $120,272 every year. While corporate media can handle this kind of a bill, The Nation can't foot it alone,” President Teresa Stack wrote to the nonprofit publication’s readers.

The Nation isn’t the only magazine bracing for an emergency rate hike as the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service scrambles to offset falling mail volume and fund employees’ retirement benefits. Mary Berner, C.E.O. of the Association of Magazine Media, spoke for the magazine publishers in attendance at last week’s American Magazine Media Conference when she lobbed insults at the USPS and its congressional enablers: “I mean, who thinks raising rates on its best customers is a remotely sane idea for a business whose revenue is already in free fall? It’s like raising prices on shoe laces when everyone is using Velcro,” Berner said, the New York Post reported.

The United States Postal Service announced its proposed price changes, including a three-cent increase in the cost of first-class mail postage, in a news release on Sept. 25. It expects the changes, which would go into effect this January, to raise $2 billion in additional revenue a year.

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The Nation’s donation page blames conservative Republicans, like U.S. Rep. Darrel Issa, for “forc[ing] the Post Office into requesting an emergency rate hike.”

But Stack’s personal take on the subject is more nuanced: “Postal politics are very complicated,” said Stack, a “postal nerd” in her own words. “[The Postal Service] will tell you the reason that they’ve lost so much money is because of these ridiculous pre-payments they have to make for future health benefits, which is something the Republican Congress will not compromise on.”

While Republicans push for the privatization of the post—and in the short term, “common sense cost-cutting reforms, like 5-day mail/6-day package delivery,” as Rep. Issa advocated in a statement—Stack believes that Congress should end the Postal Service’s mandate to invest billions in postal workers’ future retirement benefits.

“We feel for the postal service,” she said. “We think it’s a great institution, whose hands have been tied in terms of rate increases in the past.”

Sympathy aside, The Nation—which relies on the Postal Service to reach 130,000 print subscribers and whose circulation numbers have dropped by 15 percent since 2008, according to data from the Alliance for Audited Media, can’t wait for the institution to sort out its issues; Stack’s email asks readers to sign up as “Nation Builders,” or contributors, by Oct. 31.