The U.S. Postal Service’s decision to stop Saturday delivery mail — except for packages and to post office boxes — may sound practical, even necessary, but it’s not. Sure, the Postal Service has been facing some tough times, but what’s needed is a change of policy rather than a cut in services.
Last week, USPS announced that it’s planning to cut back to weekday deliveries only to save money. “Our financial condition is urgent,” Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe told The Associated Press. “Things change.”
One might think that modern developments — email, websites, FedEx — created the urgency to which Donahoe is referring, but that’s not necessarily the case. Instead, one of the biggest problems USPS faces is contained within a law that Congress passed in 2006. It requires the Postal Service to pay about $5.5 billion a year into future retiree health benefits, something that no other agency is required to do, the AP reports. Compare that to the projected $2 billion savings that will come with the Saturday cutback. Clearly, there are other options.
Interestingly, and perhaps ironically, Congress may not allow the Postal Service to cut out its Saturday deliveries, which Donahoe wants to implement in August. In the past, Congress has said no to such a proposal, and the opposition — from farmers, the letter carriers’ union, the National Newspaper Association and others — is formidable. Plus, it wasn’t so long ago that the closing of post offices around the country was on the table as a cost-savings measure, and that too fell short. This latest plan could turn into quite a political fight this coming summer, and rather than see the Saturday cutback implemented, we’d prefer the fight.
As we’ve already stated, there are other ways to balance the Postal Service’s P&Ls. But let’s look at the larger picture, let’s look into the future. If the USPS sees no way out of its conundrum but to cut its services, then it’s suffering from tunnel vision. Yes, Congress has told the USPS to operate within the confines of its revenues, but cutting expenses is only one part of the equation. Raising revenues is another, and if circumstances become too urgent, we’d rather see that.
Post offices are often the lifeblood of small towns. They also contribute tremendously to the private-sector economy (and not just Netflix). We say, cut through the bureaucracy, beginning with that unnecessary 2006 benefits requirement, and save the services for a nation that needs them.