Really? We can't make do?

Compared to WWII generation, we know nothing of sacrifice

You know by now that neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays the Postal Service from its appointed rounds.

But the organization’s unofficial creed says nothing about mud.

And right now, what the Postal Service will or should do about Saturday delivery is as clear as mud.

A big part of the problem is incessant meddling by Congress.

The elected body, for instance, does its level best to prevent the Postal Service from closing even one constituent’s post office to save money. Those are voters!

And this, from a recent news story: “Some of the Postal Service’s financial difficulties are due to a 2006 congressional mandate that requires the agency to pre-fund 75 years worth of retiree benefits within a decade. That statute cost the post office about $1.4 billion during the last quarter alone, according to the agency’s financial report.”

We appreciate forward thinking – particularly considering that so many pensions and other retirement programs are underfunded by the billions. But pre-funding 75 years’ worth of benefits in a decade seems a bit stout.

As a result of such congressional mandates, legacy labor costs, other inefficiencies and
competition from private companies and the Internet, the Postal Service lost $16 billion last year.

Things just can’t go on this way.

The truth is, we could live without Saturday delivery of most mail (the Postal Service’s stated plan to end Saturday delivery does not include packages and prescription drugs). The move would save about $2 billion.

The agency also plans to close 50 mail-processing centers to save another $2 billion.

Well, the letter carriers have bitterly decried the five-day delivery plan, in rallies and slick commercial advertisements. And now Congress has approved a nearly annual resolution vaguely forbidding the end of Saturday delivery.

How vague is the prohibition? The Postal Service is being counseled by some members of Congress to go on ahead with plans to go to five days a week.

Good grief.

First, Congress should butt out. Let the USPS Board of Governors run the thing and cut its losses.

Second, you’re never going to effect such sweeping changes without some squawking – particularly from the unions. You’ve got to forge on and do what’s right, which is to stop the bleeding.

Lastly, the larger point to be made here is that these overblown tempests over Saturday delivery – and the current chicken-feed “sequester”
budget cuts – are only the beginning of the austerity this country is going to have to endure to get its house in order. While the Postal Service lost $16 billion last year, the federal government as a whole lost over $1 trillion. And we are one zip code away from $17 trillion in federal debt.

If we get all worked up about losing one day of junk mail – so much so that our elected leaders feel like they need to rush in and save us – heaven only knows how we’ll face up to real sacrifice.

There’s a generation of Americans now enjoying their golden years who’ve seen a heck of a lot worse.

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Rick McKee Editorial Cartoon