Archived Story

Saturday delivery takes a hit

Published 9:59pm Thursday, February 7, 2013

“Neither snow nor sleet nor dark of night” will prevent the U.S. Postal Service from delivering the mail. But when it comes to red ink, that will stop the mail.
The U.S. Postal Service, an independent but wholly owned entity of the federal government, plans to end Saturday delivery of letters. Packages and prescription drugs would continue to be delivered Saturdays. Post offices would continue to be open on Saturdays,
The switch to five-day delivery of letters would begin in August, saving about $2 billion annually, according to the Postal Service, which has been struggling financially for years.
Can we do without Saturday delivery of letters? Well, our Canadian cousins have done without Saturday delivery of any kind of mail.
“Our financial condition is urgent,” said Patrick R. Donahoe, the postmaster general, at a news conference announcing the change. “This is too big of a cost savings for us to ignore.”
Last year, the Postal Service posted a net loss of $15.9 billion.
The move is part of a five-year plan to return the Postal Service to profitability.
The move comes as the Postal Service blames Congress for dragging its feet in authorizing an overhaul that could financially stabilize the Postal Service. Meanwhile, the Postal Service’s move could face scrutiny by Congress.
Our concerns lie with indications the Postal Service’s financial woes will continue even with the loss of Saturday delivery of letters and first-class mail. Also, the move to do away with Saturday delivery of first-class mail could backfire if postal customers become upset with a reduction in services by the Postal Service.
Some people are furious with the decision to end Saturday delivery of first-class mail. Others accept it as a way to reduce the billions of dollars the Postal Service has been losing.
Most of the USPS’s red ink comes from a 2006 law forcing it to pay about $5.5 billion a year into future retiree health benefits, something no other federal agency does. Disregard that payment — $11.1 billion in a two-year installment last year — and other labor expenses, USPS sustained an operating loss of $2.4 billion for the past fiscal year, lower than the previous year.
In recent years, the Postal Service advocated changing to a five-day delivery schedule for mail and packages. It repeatedly but unsuccessfully appealed to Congress to OK the move.
As an independent agency, USPS gets no tax dollars for its day-to-day operations but is subject to congressional control.
The Postal Service can do a better job at saving money, but it may need help from Congress to accomplish that objective.
As we saw with Hurricane Sandy relief, Congress can be slow to respond to dire situations.

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