SATURDAY WILL SORT OF BE LIKE SUNDAY: Letters, magazines and bills won’t be delivered on Saturdays anymore starting in August, the Postal Service announced today. The symbolically resonant cutback will save about $2 billion annually in labor and fuel costs — a stark reminder of the service’s abysmal financial condition. The move also will infuriate not only millions of people (those who don’t use email or the Internet and still rely on the mail as one of their main connections to the outside world) but also Congress — which deadlocked on a Postal Service overhaul last year but has nonetheless made clear that it’s not ready to see Saturday mail delivery curtailed.
Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe says surveys done in advance of the announcement found nearly seven in 10 Americans support the switch in the name of cost savings — an assertion that would make it unlikely for lawmakers, especially in the current cash-strapped budgetary environment, to order the USPS to reverse itself. Darrell Issa and Tom Coburn, the top Republicans on the House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over USPS, immediately issued a joint endorsement of the Saturday delivery cutbacks. And Democrat Tom Carper — who wrote the postal overhaul the Senate passed last year, which would have assured Saturday delivery for two more years — said he would not stand in the postmaster general’s way of doing “what he believes he can and must do to keep the lights on at the Postal Service, which may be only months away from insolvency.”
The Postal Service lost $15.9 billion in the last fiscal year — triple the loss in 2011, thanks largely to ballooning retiree benefit expenses and the surge in online communication — and even more red ink is forecast for this year. It has defaulted on two recent multibillion-dollar payments to the fund that pays former workers’ medical bills. And that is even after cutting its overhead a combined $15 billion in the past six years mainly by cutting its career workforce 28 percent and getting rid of 200 mail processing locations. Although envelopes will only come to homes and businesses on weekdays, packages will still be delivered six days a week under the plan, because such deliveries are still bringing in plenty of revenue (the volume is up 14 percent since 2010), officials say, while the delivery of letters and other mail has declined with the increasing use of email and other Internet services. Post offices now open on Saturdays would remain open on Saturdays, and people with boxes could still retrieve regular mail there on the weekend.