The United States Postal Service (USPS) lost nearly $16 billion last year and has been attempting to cut costs by, among other measures, ending delivery of mail on Saturday. This simple, common-sense step has proved difficult and now Congress is backing off from its plan to end Saturday delivery, and it won’t let the USPS implement the cuts it is prepared to make.
Some in Congress are hailing the move. Senator Bernie Sanders, Vermont independent, told reporters “this is good news for rural communities, businesses, seniors, veterans and others who depend on consistent and timely delivery of the mail.” Government employee union bosses also applauded. National Association of Letter Carriers president Frederic Rolando said Saturday delivery is “critical to the Postal Service’s future” and part of its “competitive advantage.” Sorry president Rolando, but that’s not quite right.
The USPS competitive advantage is not Saturday delivery but its government-enforced monopoly on all first-class mail delivery. Independent companies can’t compete on that field even if they wanted to. But even with its federally protected monopoly the USPS is a perennial loser. One notes, however, that even in tough economic times it finds a way to boost the pay of USPS executives, mainly by hefty increases in their already upscale retirement plans.
The cuts the USPC bosses want, including the end of Saturday delivery, might trim about $2 billion. That would not put the USPS in the black but simply make it less wasteful and inefficient than it already is. If legislators ever want to seek true reform they should lift the USPS monopoly on first-class mail. That would be real change everybody could believe in but an unlikely move from a Congress that won’t let the USPS stop Saturday delivery.