It looks like the U.S. Postal Service won’t be able to cut out Saturday delivery after all. But don’t think that means you’ll be able to drop by the post office on a Saturday morning to buy a stamp or mail off a letter.
Caught in a financial bind caused by a change in the way Americans communicate that has been exacerbated by congressional interference, which has forced six-day delivery in a changing market and huge mandatory payments for future USPS retirees’ health care benefits, the postal service, which lost $16 billion last year, decided that its best avenue was to discontinue Saturday mail delivery this summer.
Changing to weekday-only delivery, postal officials say, would save $2 billion a year — not nearly enough to rid the service of its red ink, but at least the number would move in the right direction.
On Thursday, the House passed legislation from the Senate that, once it is signed by President Barack Obama, again will prevent the Postal Service from cutting out Saturday delivery.
Or will it?
The legislation says the postal service has to deliver six days a week, but it doesn’t say what it has to deliver. And it doesn’t say post offices have to be open on Saturdays.
That means the service likely will be able to deliver packages and pharmaceuticals — the latter a major issue for rural residents and their lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany — but it won’t have to pick up or deliver first-class mail, direct mail and periodicals.
Most Americans, at least if you believe the reports on various surveys, are OK with the discontinuation of Saturday mail delivery, especially if it means taxpayers won’t have to ante up to keep the postal service afloat. The USPS is losing an estimated $25 million a day, and postal officials say the service will need a $47 billion taxpayer bailout in four years if they’re not allowed by Congress to change the business model.
We’re not sure what that model would be. With all the recent changes that are resulting in slower, less convenient service, it may well be that officials in Washington already have forced the USPS on an inevitable course toward obsolescence.