The decision by the U.S. Postal Service to end Saturday mail delivery shouldn’t have caught anyone by surprise. Surrounded by red ink, service has been backed into a corner for some time now, with Congress holding the whip.
The only way out of this situation is for Congress to stop posturing and finally sign on to what the post office sees as necessary cost-cutting measures.
As an amalgamation of a public and private organization, the service has been in the unenviable position of having federal lawmakers hammer the agency to get its financial house in order ... and yet then turn around a veto money-saving proposals.
Ending Saturday delivery of mail would save the post office some $2 billion annually. While this move won’t erase the red ink — the agency reported a loss of some $15.9 billion for 2012 — it would be, in combination with other moves such as the recently instituted increase in the price of a first-class stamp to 46 cents, the kind of measure that would close the operating gap.
And isn’t that the bottom line for Congress?
While the post office was slow to meet the challenges presented by email and online bill paying, it has been taking quite seriously the congressional mandate to cut its losses. During the past six years or so, the agency has cut its work force by 28 percent, consolidated mail processing locations and closed post offices and other steps.
Yet, it still isn’t operating in the black.
It’s time that the American public turn its gaze on Congress and its role in overseeing the post office — one that may actually be hindering rather than helping in its operation.
Listen to what Americans are saying: In a poll conducted by New York Times/CBS News last year, seven in 10 Americans favored dropping Saturday delivery to help the post office save money and itself.
And while we’re at it, let’s re-examine the 2006 law that requires the agency to pre-fund the health costs of future retirees ... to the tune of $5.5 billion a year. That requirement is unique to the Postal Service — no other government institution or private company is required to do that.
Congress can’t continue to blast the post office over losses yet block the agency from doing what it deems necessary in order to survive.
Unless Congress is thinking that it will increase subsidies to the service so that ink color doesn’t matter, it’s time to let the post office do what’s necessary to operate in the black.