Once upon a time, the United States Postal Service was a big deal. It was sort of founded by Benjamin Franklin. The Postmaster General was a Cabinet-level post. Now, like so many arms of our government, it’s a financial albatross that hemorrhages money as a statutory requirement.
Since Congress doesn’t appear to be in any hurry to do anything about it, USPS is taking what it thinks is a dramatic step and holding on to your first-class mail for an extra day. This will save $2 billion a year, the Post Office says, or roughly 13% of the $15.9 billion it lost last year. And it’s drummed up a nifty if specious legal argument for the move.
Under a Congressional mandate that has been in place since 1981, the Postal Service is required to deliver mail six days a week. But post office officials argue that since the government is operating under a stopgap budget measure, known as a continuing resolution, that mandate does not apply, giving them the authority to make the changes without Congressional approval.
The whole thing doesn’t seem likely to evince much opposition from those who are not employed by the USPS. Or our elected representatives, defending, on the one, less important hand, what they think is important to their constituents, and on the other, more important, hand, their own dignity in interminably delaying a solution to the problem.
“The passage of the continuing resolution did not suspend that language, as they claim, but in fact extended it,” said Representative José E. Serrano, Democrat of New York and ranking member on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, which also has jurisdiction over the Postal Service. “Rather than use very dubious legal arguments to end Saturday delivery, the U.S.P.S. should work hand-in-hand with Congress to come up with a successful restructuring and reform package that allows them to become more efficient while maintaining vital services like Saturday delivery.”
Senator Thomas R. Carper, Democrat of Delaware, who led a bipartisan effort to pass a postal overhaul bill last year, called the post office decision disappointing and said it was the intent of Congress that the agency provide six days of mail delivery.
Who knows? Perhaps the affront to their authority will focus the minds on Capitol Hill. Who cares, either way?