Hamstringing the USPS

The United States Postal Service has been a national whipping boy for decades now.

Unjustly so, we believe. The service has lost much of its first-class business to email, much of its parcel business to outside firms.

And, only the USPS is mandated by law to provide six-day-a-week service to tiny hamlets all over the country. Now its attempt to eliminate Saturday delivery beginning in August is facing an almost certain turndown by Congress.

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that there is language in a federal funding bill for the rest of fiscal year 2013 that seems to ban the elimination of Saturday delivery.

The Journal quoted Ruth Goldway, chairman of the Postal Regulatory Commission, as saying the language would make it difficult to implement the change.

“With language in the appropriation bill for over 30 years, the consensus is that the Postal Service must deliver mail on Saturdays,” Goldway was quoted as saying.

A New York congressman was even blunter:

“The language is clear. They can’t put these changes to Saturday mail into effect,” said Rep. Jose Serrano.

The Saturday mail elimination was designed to save $2.9 billion. The USPS is projected to lose around $16 billion this year.

The service has made strides in recent years. Priority Mail is a competitive product and the “one size, one price” campaign is very appealing both to private citizens and businesses.

But Congress needs to make a decision and stop sending mixed messages. If it wants the USPS to be run like a business, then it needs to let its leadership make business-like decisions – such as the elimination of Saturday delivery.

If, on the other hand, it deems the USPS to be an essential government function, then it needs to cut out all the phony quasi-business treatment of the service and be prepared to underwrite huge losses indefinitely.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.