Editorial: Post office woes
And so, the woes of the U.S. Postal Service continue: Saturday mail delivery will end in August. Add to this the cutback in hours of many smaller offices, the elimination of others, and the service offered and provided will diminish.
We warn readers of the Gazette-Journal today: If you live out of town, you may wish to convert to a digital subscription which will arrive on Wednesday afternoon. Mail moves slowly now, and it seems certain it will go even more slowly after this.
Who or what is to blame?
First-class mailings have fallen dramatically against the speedy, reliable and now-entrenched presence of e-mail, which did not start out as a threat to postal service, but quickly established its bona fides.
Then there is Congress, which has demanded the USPS fund its pension far into the future, a demand that has attracted its own conspiracy theorists. Some surmise that certain conservative members of Congress wish for the USPS to fail so that a private entity can take over and deliver 1) perhaps more efficiently and 2) certainly at a much higher price.
At any rate, the pension requirement seeks revenues that cannot meet the demand, and are falling.
As the Baltimore Sun pointed out in a recent editorial, "The main reason the Post Office is in trouble is not a decline in first-class mail, but two laws passed by Congress."
The first law is the 1971 Postal Reorganization Act, which requires the USPS to be run as an independent agency that makes a profit from its services. "No other government agency is required to do this, and since 1971 the Post Office has not taken any taxpayer money to support its operations," the editorial stated.
The other is the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which required the department to pre-pay health benefits for current and future employees (including those not yet born) over the next 75 years. The 75 years of funds must be paid within a 10-year window from 2007 to 2016, with payments in the range of $5.4 billion to $5.8 billion a year. What private business could survive such an onerous requirement?
The loss of Saturday delivery has its consequences. Postal customers will suffer and seek speedier ways to move their messages. Postal staffs will decrease, leaving fewer people on hand to perform their tasks. Perhaps deliveries will slow even more. It’s a vicious cycle.
Some members of Congress are discussing ways to address the problem. But given the gridlock in Washington, there seems little chance that the USPS, only one element of an increasingly dysfunctional government, will find enough voting friends to fix it.