The announcement by the U.S. Postal Service that it will drop Saturday mail delivery starting in August was a complete surprise to most Americans, including Congress, which not only has mandated six-day delivery but also is responsible for most of the financial crisis facing the USPS.
It remains to be seen whether Congress will allow the postal service to follow through on its plan and who might suffer the most if Saturday mail were discontinued.
Excuse us for a whine on behalf of the newspaper industry, but many newspapers depend upon the postal service to deliver their products, including Saturday papers that often carry high school sports news, obituaries and social items of importance to the communities they serve. If Saturday delivery is curtailed, it’s just another problem for an already troubled group of businesses. (Their problems, incidentally, include increasing competition in rates and services from the USPS itself.)
If the curtailment is allowed, it may cause issues for others who depend on Saturday service. The president of the National Association of Letter Carriers singled out the Postal Service itself, and “businesses, rural communities, the elderly, the disabled and others who depend on Saturday delivery for commerce and communication” as those who will be negatively impacted if lawmakers eventually authorize the change.
Postal service officials said the elimination of Saturday delivery is needed to cut costs, and said it will save about $2 billion a year when fully implemented. (Saturday post office box service will be retained, as will package delivery, and post offices that have been open on Saturdays will remain open on Saturdays, they said.)
The postal service’s major financial burden is a 2006 congressional mandate that ordered the post office set aside $5.5 billion a year to cover future medical costs for retirees. The service simply does not have the money. Of interest, perhaps: For whatever reason, no other federal government agency has any such requirement.
The cash-strapped agency says it has reduced its annual costs since 2006 by about $15 billion, slashed 193,000 people from its workforce and consolidated more than 200 mail-processing locations.
Perhaps it’s time for Congress either to support the USPS decision to discontinue Saturday delivery or to rescind the onerous requirement that it set aside funds for future contingencies. Push is coming to shove.