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A Times Editorial

Deficits endanger deliveries

We pay bills online and e-vite friends to parties. Our income taxes are filed electronically, and we have even replaced the Mother's Day card with It is no wonder the postal service is smarting.

Recent congressional testimony by Postmaster General John Potter indicates that the once mighty U.S. Postal Service is feeling the pinch of the digital age. It lost $2.8 billion last year and is on track, Potter says, to potentially lose another $6 billion this fiscal year. It's the kind of red ink that has to be stanched one way or another, and Potter's solution — at least in part — is to consider reducing mail delivery from six days to five.

The suggestion went over like a lead mailbag with a Senate government affairs subcommittee. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said in a statement, "I believe cutting services would ultimately result in a death spiral for the Postal Service."

Maybe so. Maybe by making mail delivery less reliable, volume will plummet even faster. But if Congress wants the service to be close to self-supporting, then it has to allow postal officials to respond to fiscal challenges. Since 1983, Congress has included an annual appropriation bill rider that requires six-day-per-week delivery.

The impulse to keep our mail arriving every day but Sunday is natural. Checking the mail is part of the rhythm of the day. And the mail carrier is our national symbol of fortitude, delivering his route regardless of inclemency. But in the age of e-mail, faxes, private overnight delivery services and the likely return of high gas prices, the famous ditty might need an adjustment to: Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. But a whopping deficit, now that's another story.

It may be time to let go of that sixth day.

Deficits endanger deliveries 01/31/09 [Last modified: Sunday, February 1, 2009 2:15am]
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