WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 06: Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe speaks during a press conference at U.S. Postal Service headquarters February 6, 2013 in Washington, DC. The U.S. Postal Service will stop Saturday mail delivery beginning in August, but will still offer parcel delivery six days a week in a plan aimed at saving approximately $2 billion annually. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 160945869
Updated: March 11, 2013 6:28AM
Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night can slow the Postal Service, at least not on weekdays.
But on Saturdays? That’s another matter.
On Wednesday, the Postal Service announced plans to end Saturday deliveries, except for packages, by early August. The agency, which lost $15.9 billion in the last budget year and has reached its borrowing limit, expects to save $2 billion a year.
In an age when people have turned to the Internet, this makes sense even though it won’t please greeting card senders, many rural citizens, some businesses or people waiting for a weekend Netflix movie.
Congress should take time out from sending free bulk mailings to constituents and approve this move. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee it will.
Back in 1970, Congress converted the post office from a government service to a quasi-governmental agency that’s supposed to operate as an independent business. In practice, that means the agency gets no money for day-to-day operations even as members of Congress — putting political considerations first — refuse to allow it to close unneeded post offices and sorting centers. Most burdensome is a 2006 law that requires the Postal Service to prepay future retiree health benefits at a cost of $5.5 billion a year, something no other government affiliated agency must do.
In the past, Congress also has insisted on six-day-a-week service. But a quirk in the law appears to have created an opportunity to drop Saturday deliveries to homes and businesses, and Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe says he plans to do so. Market research shows seven in 10 people support the move, the Postal Service says.
The agency has tried other options already. Since 2006 it has cut annual costs by about $15 billion and has reduced the size of its career work force by 193,000, or 28 percent.
People and businesses who depend on snail mail may not like the change. But they also need a healthy Postal Service, and that means the agency can’t keep losing billions of dollars every year.
Congress should stop acting like a dog that bites mail carriers and do what’s necessary to assure the agency’s future.