The Postal Service is hoping to convince Congress that cutting Saturday delivery of mail except for packages would be a good thing, mainly to help the agency save costs. Postmaster General Patrick R. Donohoe is under the gun from Congress to save money and try to get the Postal Service back into the black. Last year, It lost $15.9 billion, The Associated Press reports. Donohoe believes cutting Saturday deliveries would save about $2 billion annually.
Donohoe has his work cut out for him. His road to profitability is blocked not by the costs of running his agency, but by Congress.
Congress years ago decreed the Postal Service should be an independent agency unsubsidized by the government. But the agency actually isn’t independent. It remains under the control of Congress, hardly any members of which have ever run a business. As a result, it carries burdens that other agencies, and few businesses, for that matter, have to bear.
Most onerous of these is the Congressional requirement in a 2006 law that mandates the Postal Service pay some $5.5 billion annually in advance for future retiree health care benefits. Last year, that requirement cost the Postal Service $11.1 billion, as it had to make a two-year installment.
If the Post Office hadn’t had to do that, and if it could have dropped Saturday mail delivery, it would have been in the black.
Congress already is gearing up to keep the postal service from making that change. If it is prohibited from making it, then Congress will have to start coming up with money for operations, or it will see a necessary national service deteriorate.
The Postal Service already has been hit hard by email and other forms of electronic communication. Congress shouldn’t hit it again with obstructive mandates.