Updated: May 22, 2013 6:29AM
It’s frustrating enough that Congress can’t seem to make a decision on anything of consequence, but it’s maddening when it can’t even act on something that should be an easy call.
The U.S. Postal Service regrettably ran up the white flag recently on its plan to end Saturday mail delivery as of August to save about $2 billion per year and help stem an avalanche of red ink that saw it lose roughly $16 billion during the 2011-12 fiscal year. A federal bailout looms if dramatic steps aren’t taken.
USPS officials said they were forced to drop the plan because Congress last month, under pressure from business interests and the postal employee unions, refused to approve it. Postal officials saw a legal loophole to get around congressional approval but decided for now not to challenge Congress’ authority.
The officials did say they would still work to change the law so the Postal Service — an independent agency not funded by the government but under Congress’ control — is able to make fiduciary decisions in its best interest. They should press on to avoid Congress’ large thumb.
Financially, the Postal Service is a disaster. Email, Facebook and other Internet services have cut total mail volume by more than 25 percent since 2006. USPS also is greatly burdened by an unfair requirement (Congress, again) that it spend $5.5 billion a year for future retiree health benefits. No other federal agency has to do that.
Some experts have said the Postal Service could run out of money by October if Congress does not let it alter its business model and free it of those huge annual benefit payments.
How is the Postal Service supposed to stay in business? Its options for raising revenue seem limited (it competes with FedEx and UPS in package delivery). Congress killed an earlier proposal to close many post offices. Now, it has irresponsibly stymied the not-on-Saturday plan for first-class and direct mail (packages still would arrive).
Ending Saturday delivery is a necessary and reasonable move, one that polls show about 70 percent of Americans support. Congress needs to butt out and let the Postal Service run its business.