Editorial: Postal service

Congress has only itself to blame for the financial problems now facing the U.S. Postal Service.

February 11, 2013


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.


Richard Heckler 1 year, 2 months ago

Answering the lies that privatization zealots and FedEx are peddling The Post Office is not broke--and it hasn't taken any of our tax money since 1971

This another ALEC moment. Yes this post office operation is profitable which is the reason it has been painted otherwise. Yes a fed ex executive sits on a Koch BOD's and what they see is easy consistent lifetime profits at OUR expense.

Don't get duped again!

These tax dollar moochers want all of the tax dollars that flow into Social Security Insurance,Medicare and Public Education INTO THEIR BANK ACCOUNTS. More easy profit for a lifetime.


Armstrong 1 year, 2 months ago

Technology has taken a big bite out of the USPS ability to maintain business as usual. Online bill pay, ecommerce, email.... Technology is the dragon the USPS has to slay.


Stain 1 year, 2 months ago

The Post Office was not created as a profit-making business. It was created as a service to the people of this country.

It should still be such.

They are going to privatize everything, so there is no longer anything that is considered a service.


Carol Bowen 1 year, 2 months ago

Has it occurred to anyone that some in congress want to privatize the post office? That could be why the post office issue has not been discussed yet.


donttreadonme 1 year, 2 months ago

"Cant_have_it_both_ways48 minutes ago Note to self: Don't enter into debates with those cradle to grave entitlement types. Surround yourself with those who go to work every day..."

Funny stuff.

Note to self: Don't get into thread discussions wth entitled partisans who do nothing but spout GOTP talking points in response to every letter. They live in a fact-free environment and are contemptuous of anyone who actually works for a living.


5thStPhoggers 1 year, 2 months ago

Perhaps, if we're going to bust unions and privatize, which has been going on since Reagan, we should start with Congress. See how they feel about changing their pay and benefits. Seems to me that they are the ultimate union and, for the amount of work they actually do, they are grossly overpaid. Privatize them. Most everything they do is to further their own interests and careers. Great gig, if you can get it.


Cant_have_it_both_ways 1 year, 2 months ago

Note to self: Don't enter into debates with those cradle to grave entitlement types. Surround yourself with those who go to work every day and have something going for them. They will drag you up, not drag you down.


KansasLiberal 1 year, 2 months ago

"Of interest, perhaps: For whatever reason, no other federal government agency has any such requirement."

LOL...."for whatever reason." Everyone who knows about the 75 year mandate knows the reason. The republicans want the USPS to fail so that its services can be privatized, not to mention the added benefit of breaking up the Postal Union.


rockchalk1977 1 year, 2 months ago

If government unions are involved, it will cost more and take longer. It’s time to privatize the USPS.


deec 1 year, 2 months ago

While demand has dropped, the main cause of the financial problems stem from the 2006 law. The post office is required to fund retirement benefits for 75 years of retirees. In addition, Congress has not allowed the post office to offer new products or raise prices to cover costs.

The 2006 law was intended to bankrupt the post office so that it would be vulnerable to privatization. There is a great deal of overlap between the postal Board of Governors and executives of Fedex, UPS and Koch-funded front groups.

Anyone interested in researching the issues facing the post office can visit this site. It has links to the pro-privatization studies, the post office budget, etc.


Cant_have_it_both_ways 1 year, 2 months ago

If any organization or business does not keep ahead of their markets, move to different markets or otherwise do what they need to do to survive, then down the hole they go. Yes congress has had a lot to do with the demise of the USPS, but the unions have helped too. If there is a market for this service the private sector will pick it up which, IMHO is a good thing.


LJ Whirled 1 year, 2 months ago

Demand for USPS services has dropped sharply, and their response has been to cut services and raise prices, which will only further choke-off demand.

Time for a little creative thinking, or at least an introductory economics course.


5thStPhoggers 1 year, 2 months ago

Seems like most of our problems are due to the actions or inaction of Congress-Wall Street, housing bubble, healthcare, etc. The Postal Service's issues are just the tip of the iceberg. They get elected and then spend their terms focused on how to get elected again instead of solving this country's problems. Gridlock, paralysis by analysis. Call it what you will. Why would they want to change the system and risk getting voted off the island? And they talk about "entitlements."


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