Taxpayers should not pay for Congress to flood our mailboxes

“It’s time to lock China out of U.S. government contracts,” read the glossy color brochure from U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer. If you live in his seven-county district, you probably received it in the mail this month and tossed it away casually.

Take a moment, though, and think about this mailing. Not the content so much, but the concept.

What did this mailing accomplish? Not much. It focused on a bill Schauer plans to offer to pressure China to let U.S. companies bid on its government contracts. Mostly, it allowed Schauer to get his name out to the public six months before an election.

Who paid for this? Well, we all did. “This mailing was prepared, published and mailed at taxpayer expense,” it says.

Members of Congress get to send such mailings for free. It’s a perk called “franking,” and it has been around almost as long as there has been a Congress. Free mailings cost the public more than $34 million in 2006, according to a report prepared for Congress.

It’s time for this perk to go away.

It’s expensive. It’s largely unnecessary in a digital age. And it’s abusive, giving incumbents a publicly supported way to boost name recognition in election years.

We don’t mean to criticize Schauer in particular. He is one of a long list of Democrats and Republicans who use these free mailings to their advantage.

But when Schauer writes in the mailing, “Let’s stop the most wasteful spending of all,” we agree heartily. Start by getting rid of taxpayer-funded mailings like this.

— Jackson Citizen Patriot