Beam: Time for postal service to end Saturday deliveries

By By Jim Beam / American Press

The decision of the U.S. Postal Service to end Saturday mail deliveries by Aug. 1 isn’t being well-received in some quarters,

but 7 in 10 Americans think it’s a great idea. Supporters are relieved to know that is one less day they will have to cope

with mail boxes filled mostly with continuous appeals from charities, business solicitations and pure junk mail.

Fredric Rolando, president of the

National Association of Letter Carriers, speaks for the opposition. He

said ending Saturday

mail delivery would hurt small businesses, rural communities, the

elderly and the disabled. Rolando blames what he calls unnecessary

retirement benefit payments for the service’s $15.9 billion in

losses last year.

Congress in 2006 required the Postal Service to set aside $55 billion in an account to cover future medical costs for retirees.

That meant annual payments of $5.5 billion for 10 years. The Associated Press said no other government agency is required

to make such payments. The Postal Service has defaulted on two of those payments, and that is why its losses were so high

last year.

In addition to the payments it couldn’t

make, the Postal Service still sustained an operating loss of $2.4

billion. And ending

Saturday mail delivery would save $2 billion annually. There is no

way to justify not doing something about annual losses

that are expected to keep growing from year to year. The New York

Times said Postal Service losses total $36 million per day,

and they are expected to climb to about $21 billion a year by

2016.

With that prospect and last year’s $15.9 billion loss, how can you ignore any decision aimed at cutting costs?

The Associated Press reports the Postal

Service since 2006 has cut annual costs by about $15 billion, reduced

the size of

its workforce by 193,000 (28 percent) and consolidated more than

200 mail processing locations. Drastic as that was, it hasn’t

been enough to curb the losses, and more needs to be done.

The big unanswered question is how

members of Congress will react to the end of Saturday deliveries. They

have resisted past

efforts to control rising costs, even though the service doesn’t

receive government funding. However, Congress oversees the

independent agency and for the last 30 years has insisted Saturday

mail delivery continue.

Two congressmen who are linked to

postal operations did indicate Wednesday they believe it is

“common-sense reform,” according

to USA Today. U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., is chairman of the

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. U.S. Sen.

Tom Coburn, R-Okla., is the ranking member of the Senate Homeland

Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The two sent

a letter to leaders of both chambers of Congress supporting the

plan to end Saturday deliveries, the newspaper said.

U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of

Maryland, the top Democrat on Issa’s committee, had a slightly different

take on the issue.

He said something has to be done about the financial status of the

postal system, but Congress needs to be a partner in the

concept.

“The Postal Service’s declining mail

volume poses a significant challenge, and the enactment of comprehensive

reform legislation

must be an urgent priority for the current Congress,” Cummings

said in a statement. “However, the issue of service delivery

frequency should be addressed in that legislation rather than

through arbitrary action by the Postal Service.”

Unfortunately, Congress has been the

main hindrance to postal reform. As you would expect, its members look

at the issue from

a political perspective. Closing post offices and reducing

deliveries doesn’t go over well back in their communities. Congress

also has a reputation for putting off permanent solutions to most

serious financial problems.

Postmaster General Patrick Donahue said of the plan, “The Postal Service has a responsibility to take the steps necessary

to return to long-term financial stability and ensure the continued affordability of the U.S. Mail.”

Donahue said the service wants to

concentrate on its strong package delivery system. That business has

increased by 14 percent

since 2010, while letter delivery has declined. He adds that mail

would still be delivered to post office boxes on Saturdays

and post offices would remain open on Saturdays.

Congress has tried to manage postal

affairs, but the financial situation has gotten worse during its watch.

Politicians need

to give up their supervision of the Postal Service and let the

agency have greater flexibility to control its own costs and

create new ways to increase its revenues. There are too many in

Washington, D.C., who refuse to adapt to today’s realities

of American business life, and they are destined for failure.

E-mail, smart phones, iPads and other modern technology has changed many aspects of our lives, nowhere more so than in the

postal service. Singer-songwriter Bob Dylan said it best as far back as 1964 with his third album titled, “The Times They

Are a-Changin’.”

Donahue, the postmaster general, said, “America’s mailing habits are changing. This makes common sense.”

Yes, it does. And wouldn’t it be better to have five days of mail delivery than three or four or none at all?

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Jim Beam, the retired editor of the American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 494-4025 or jbeam@americanpress.com