The End of an Era

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“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

- Inscription from the James Farley Post Office in New York City

For many, the U.S. Postal Service represents one of the last few reliable features of government.  Just as April 15th is bound to sneak up on us each year, our mail is just as likely to be found waiting for us in the mailbox at its usual time Monday through Saturday.  Born out of Ben Franklin’s vision of a national postal service, the steadfast men and women of the USPS, no matter how treacherous the conditions, have consistently and carefully handled and delivered mail to the millions of households all across America six days a week, every week of the year, year in, year out.

Unfortunately, that is all about to change.  With its business losing billions each year and Congress seemingly unsympathetic to its plight, the USPS unilaterally announced Wednesday morning that it would cancel the majority of Saturday mail delivery services in order to save costs.

According to The Atlantic, the post office has lost nearly $30 billion in the past three years.  A good deal of that loss is attributable to Congress’ financially disastrous decision to require the agency to pre-fund its retiree health benefits through 2056 by making approximately $5.5 billion in annual payments.

Additionally, the proliferation of communication technology in recent years has afforded people alternative methods of communication that are both faster and cheaper, albeit a little less personal.  The post office’s total mail volume has fallen by 25 percent since 2007.  Similarly, revenues have dropped by 13 percent, and do little to put a dent in the post office’s basic operating expenses, not including the retiree health payments.

By eliminating Saturday mail, the USPS plans to reduce its main expenses: labor and transportation.  Past estimates have suggested that such a move could save the post office between $1.6 to $3.1 billion, per year.

This week marks the most lamentable end of an era…

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