Editorial: Saturday delivery survives
Saturday mail delivery is safe … for now.
The USPS Board of Governors announced last month that it wouldn’t be discontinuing the practice in August, as it had previously planned.
That will come as good news to some (including us here at the Gazette-Journal, who rely on it for home delivery), but to others who find themselves relying increasingly on e-mail, digital magazine subscriptions and online bill payments, it may mean very little.
The decision was made because Congress recently passed legislation as part of a broader funding bill requiring Saturday delivery.
It’s a difficult position for the USPS. On the one hand, the service is supposed to be a self-sufficient entity (even though it is currently losing an estimated $25 million a day). On the other, it is accountable to Congress for how it runs its business.
This quasi-public/quasi-private relationship presents major problems for the Postal Service. The USPS ran headlong into this in 2006, when lawmakers enacted a requirement that it pre-fund its workers’ retirement benefits to the tune of $5 billion a year. That requirement is the main reason that the USPS is shedding money at its current rate. And now, when it looks to save money by eliminating Saturday delivery, it runs into this problem again.
Of course there are other reasons the USPS is losing money. The increased reliance on digital media is definitely one. Another has to do with the nature of the word "Service." Unlike commercial mail carriers who can concentrate on profitable delivery routes and forego others, the USPS is mandated to deliver to every house, apartment and office in the U.S., all for the same low, standardized price, regardless of distance. Staffing and maintaining its 31,272 retail offices alone is a cumbersome and expensive undertaking.
What is the solution for the USPS? We don’t know. Will we face more post office closures and consolidations in the coming months and years? Probably.
But the USPS is here for the long haul and, for the time being, we still have Saturday delivery. Of that, we can be thankful.