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Editorial: Cutting Saturday Postal Service service unfortunate, but needed

6:55 PM, Feb. 6, 2013  |  Comments
U. S. Post Office letter carrier Tim Bell delivers the mail during a snow storm in Havertown, Pa. on Dec. 19, 2009. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)
U. S. Post Office letter carrier Tim Bell delivers the mail during a snow storm in Havertown, Pa. on Dec. 19, 2009. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)
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For an organization that's been bleeding like a severed artery, the U.S. Postal Service has finally decided to end Saturday delivery, except for packages.

It's about time. The move is expected to begin in August and save $2 billion a year for an agency that reported a $15.9 billion loss in the last budget year.

That annual loss is despite a 28 percent cut to the work force since 2006, consolidation of some mail processing locations and reductions of about $15 billion in annual costs.

So when considering those financial hardships, eliminating Saturday deliveries seems to be a logical choice.

It's true that the majority of the Postal Service losses result from paying future retiree health benefits. But those are mandatory costs.

Facing losses measured in the tens of billions of dollars and with cuts to those health benefits off the table, the USPS must look at operations, and eliminating Saturday home delivery makes sense.

The move isn't taken lightly and is not without some dissent. Many businesses, as well as the elderly and rural customers, rely on first-class mail deliveries. Many media companies, including Press-Gazette Media, have newspapers delivered by mail on Saturdays. Those are some real concerns.

But for those who rely on home delivery for entertainment, such as Netflix, you can wait, or better time your deliveries.

The National Association of Letter Carriers is understandably against the move. It will mean reassignments and losses through attrition and possible layoffs for some of its members.

But, as the Postal Service has noted, letter delivery has declined over the years while package delivery has increased since 2010. The Postal Service would still deliver to post office boxes on Saturdays and post offices that are currently open on Saturdays would still be open.

The USPS receives no tax dollars, but its operations require congressional approval, and right now the agency is required to deliver the mail six days a week. Over the years the Postal Service has called for five-day delivery, only to be thwarted by Congress.

Something has to give. The Postal Service is confident that it can make the moves without an act of Congress. If it can't, then Congress should back the USPS proposals.

As much as we might like getting mail on Saturdays, the billions of dollars in continued losses must prompt some changes. The Postal Service is willing to make the tough decision; Congress should do the same.

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