Friday February 8, 2013

Since the phrase "snail mail" entered the lexicon, it was obvious that change was coming to the U.S. Postal Service. The elimination of Saturday mail delivery, which will save the debt-ridden service an estimated $2 billion a year, was inevitable, and if Congress doesn’t like this unilateral action it can blame itself.

Email has dramatically reduced the number of letters and bills and other mail delivered by the Post Office and while delivery of packages has increased, the Postal Service competes with a host of private companies for that business. The service is losing $15 billion a year, and surveys have indicated that a substantial majority of Americans support or at least have no problems with the end of Saturday delivery, which will come in August.

Congress, which has been jerking the Postal Service around for years, prohibits a return to five day a week service, but because Congress is operating under a temporary budget, Postmaster General Patrick Donohoe decided that gave him the ability to act on his own. Good for him. The Postal Service gets lectured by Washington politicians for running a deficit, but seven years ago Congress mandated that it make yearly advance payments of $5.5 billion for future retirees, a burden no other agency is required to make. When the Postal Service tries to reduce costs by closing post offices, parochial House members say, "Not in my district."

The Postal Service will now be reducing services in rural post offices around the country, including in Berkshire County from Lenox Dale south to the Connecticut border. This will be inconvenient but necessary. While the Postal Service has not announced any layoffs as part of the plan they would seem to be inevitable, if painful. With House Speaker John Boehner acknowledging Wednesday that Congress "has tied their [the Postal Service’s] hands every which way" in preventing it from digging out of the red, Congress should step aside and allow the postal service to do what it must.