The U.S. Postal Service is losing billions of dollars a year. It lost $15.9 billion in the last fiscal year alone. A business cannot survive with such losses.
If the Postal Service is to continue, it has to find ways to save money. In recent years it has reduced staff, closed post offices and consolidated operations. Now it plans to end the 150-year-old tradition of Saturday letter deliver starting in August.
The Postal Service has been unable to compete with the private sector and technological advances such as email, texting, online banking and e-commerce that have contributed to a 60 percent decline in the volume of stamped mail in the past 10 years.
The plan announced by postal officials would halt delivery of letters on Saturday but maintain delivery of packages, which has seen growth in recent years.
Mail would still be delivered to post office boxes six days a week. The change would save $2 billion a year.
The proposal met with immediate objections from the business community, postal unions and some members of Congress, which maintains oversight of the Postal Service even though it is considered an independent agency that receives no taxpayer funds.
For 30 years, Congress mandated six-day delivery through use of appropriations bills. But the Postal Service has seized on what it sees as a legal loophole to bypass Congress. Rather than an appropriations bill, the government has been operating under a continuing resolution that does not mandate the service. The resolution expires in March, clearing the way for the unilateral change, postal officials say.
Opponents are hoping Congress will block the cost-cutting measure, but the proposal also has its congressional backers. Congress, however, has contributed to the Postal Services financial troubles by failing to enact reform legislation. It also forced the Postal Service to make billions of dollars in upfront health benefits.
In a poll last year, 70 percent of Americans said they could support ending Saturday delivery. It might mean ordering that video they want to watch Saturday night a day early or mailing the birthday card out on Wednesday or Thursday so it doesnt become a belated card on Monday.
Businesses might have to rethink production schedules, but many are already planning for the eventuality. Canada and other industrialized nations have managed to make the transition, and Americans can adapt, too.
Some traditions die hard. But the Postal Service has to operate more efficiently in a changing world, even if it means ending Saturday delivery.