Feb. 12 Daily News editorial
Every day, one of our Editorial Board members gets a few dozen emails at work. Days can go by between pieces of mail from the U.S. Postal Service, however.
It’s a similar story at home, where correspondence from family and friends, messages from his daughter’s school and reminders about bills all come by email.
In most American offices and homes, it’s easy to understand why the Postal Service is proposing to end Saturday mail delivery in August to lessen its ongoing financial losses. Our means of communicating have changed dramatically during the past decade, and the USPS wants to downsize accordingly.
The Postal Service has seen a drop in first-class mail from 103.7 billion pieces in 2001 to 73.5 billion in 2011. Last year, the USPS lost $15.9 billion.
One aspect of the shift to electronic communication has helped the Postal Service. As Internet shopping grows, the agency’s delivery of packages has increased, and it proposes to keep delivering these on Saturdays. People who get prescription medicines through the mail would still get them on Saturdays, alleviating one concern.
Ending Saturday mail services would put more pressure on people who still mail in bill payments to do so on time. Though post offices would still be open on Saturdays, mail wouldn’t be moved along on those days. However, the trend is already toward online payments. About half of consumers’ bills were paid online in 2012, compared to 12 percent in 2002, according to a study by payment processor Fiserv.
Whether or not the USPS can stop delivering mail on Saturdays without Congressional support isn’t clear. Since 1981, a Congressional mandate has required the agency to deliver mail six days a week. However, the current stop-gap budget measure for the entire federal government doesn’t include such language.
We expect that if enough members of Congress want to keep Saturday delivery, they’ll be able to keep it going. So far, the response from members of Congress has been mixed. It’s a particularly vexing issue for conservatives who represent rural areas. They like the idea of saving money — but, like us, they’re sympathetic to smaller communities that rely more on postal delivery.
U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who represents Washington’s 3rd District, supports maintaining Saturday mail service, according to spokesman Casey Bowman.
“Jaime firmly believes that Congress must take action to put the Postal Service on sustainable financial footing. However, communities throughout her district — particularly those in rural areas — have let her know they strongly value Saturday mail delivery,” Bowman wrote (in an email, naturally).
Bowman went on to say that because Tuesday is the day of smallest mail volume and Saturday is above average, “ending Saturday delivery may not be the most financially sensible option.”
Opposition to ending Saturday delivery also is coming from companies that make packaging. About 30 percent of the members of the National Newspaper Association — which represents small community newspapers — either publish Saturday editions or mail ad packets on Saturdays, and it would be hard for them to find another means of delivery.
Even if Saturday delivery is ended, it wouldn’t erase the Postal Service’s red ink. Another major reason for the deficit is a requirement that the agency pay nearly $5.5 billion a year for health benefits for future retirees — a mandate imposed on no other government agency.
We expect to keep reading about the Postal Service’s budget problems — both in magazines delivered by carriers and online.