On Wednesday, USPS leaders stopped waiting for the feckless lawmakers — “We want you postal officials to balance your budget but don’t reduce service” — to act. The USPS announced a bold move to cut mail delivery, but maintain package delivery, on Saturdays. That will begin in August and save the capsizing USPS about $2 billion a year. USPS officials believe they have the authority to do this ... unless Congress intervenes.
Memo to Congress: Don’t.
This is a smart, long overdue move by the Postal Service. Congress should build on this by dropping outdated laws and rules that bind the USPS’ ability to streamline its operations, properly price its services, and fully compete in a less regulated marketplace.
Cutting Saturday service only flicks at the Postal Service’s deeper financial problems. Despite massive consolidations in facilities and cutbacks in its bloated workforce, the USPS lost nearly $16 billion last year. That’s after the service defaulted last year on $11.1 billion in payments to cover future retiree health care costs.
The red ink will keep gushing out of postage meters unless postal officials can swiftly transform their business to compete in the 21st century. Congress, are you listening?
USPS needs to be able to raise rates on money-losing mail categories fast enough and high enough to make money.
This overhaul can’t be incremental. For instance: The Postal Service recently raised the price of a first-class stamp by a mere penny. U.S. stamp prices remain among the lowest in the developed world, according to a 2012 report by the nation’s largest mail-carriers union. A 2006 federal law limits rate increases to the pace of inflation. Lawmakers, here’s a start at helping the USPS survive: Repeal that law.
Lawmakers also need to end the Postal Service’s monopoly on delivering everything that lands in your mailbox. Invite more private competition, as some European countries have done. How about letting companies bid for the right to deliver first-class mail, nationally or regionally? Or maybe on Saturday only?
Let’s see what innovations, including innovations at the USPS, spring from opening the market to competition.
Yes, some Americans will miss their Saturday mail. But many will shrug because most of their mail already comes electronically. We’re guessing they won’t mind waiting a while longer for their daily dose of bills.
Jeanette Dwyer, president of the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association, said the end of Saturday delivery is “yet another death knell” for the USPS’ quality service. She called it “completely unacceptable.”
No, what is unacceptable is Congress allowing the USPS to hemorrhage to death.
Unleash the Postal Service to innovate and compete. No holds barred. Let’s find out if the Postal Service or other carriers can serve customers better.
Otherwise, this won’t be the last SOS from the USPS.