The U.S. Postal Service creed about punctually completing its appointed rounds regardless of rain, heat or gloom of night is about to have an asterisk. Starting in August, the Postal Service plans to stop Saturday delivery of first-class mail. That would mark the end of an era when that unexpected letter or new magazine falling through the mail slot could be the highlight of an easygoing day off.
In the age of instant messages and tweets, email and online bill payments, post offices would remain open on Saturdays and package delivery will continue six days a week. But the reduced first-class mail delivery schedule is presented as the agency struggles with a staggering $15.9 billion loss last year. The failure of Congress to permit the Postal Service to adjust its obligation to overpay billions of dollars into its pension and retiree health benefit funds has only exacerbated the financial crisis. It is unrealistic to demand that the Postal Service operate like a private sector business while Congress imposes such bureaucratic constraints on its management.
While the Internet and private sector delivery services like FedEx and UPS pose considerable market share challenges, Congress has prevented the Postal Service from being able to compete for business on a level playing field. Unlike any other public sector agency, the Postal Service alone is required to make an annual $5.5 billion prepayment into the retiree pension and health funds. At the moment the prefunding requirement has resulted in an estimated $11 billion in overpayments, money the Postal Service could use to fund its operations and compete for business.
Since 1775, when Benjamin Franklin was appointed the first postmaster general, the U.S. Postal Service has remained true to its oath in serving the public in the face of all manner of obstacles. It plans to continue to provide reliable home delivery — except on Saturdays.