Let's get honest about the U.S. Postal Service, Congress' favorite punching bag.
The Postal Service can't do anything without Congress' approval, yet the agency receives absolutely no taxpayer money to run its operations.
It has cut costs by $15 billion, closed post offices, let go more than a quarter of its workforce, costing 193,000 jobs, and still had a $15.9 billion shortfall as of last November.
Now it plans to cut Saturday delivery of first-class mail without getting Congress' permission first. Packages, Express and Priority mail would still be delivered. Whether that plan will fly is questionable. It sounds like another case of sending up a trial balloon to see who'll shoot it down first.
While email and online bill-paying have cut into Postal Service profits, that's not the real issue. The post office would be in much better shape if it didn't have a cost burden no other agency has. Back in 2006, Congress ordered the agency to put aside $55 billion over 10 years to cover retirees' future medical costs.
Since the Postal Service doesn't have the money to put aside, the deficit keeps adding up. In 2012, it totaled $11.1 billion. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which oversees the Postal Service, offered a bill last year that would return any surplus in pension payments to the agency, rather than keeping it in government coffers. Former Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, I-Conn.
We all love our postal carrier, but we love to hate the Postal Service. Yet, we can still mail a letter from Connecticut to some lonely outpost in Montana for a mere 46 cents.
Congress should relieve the Postal Service of its obligation to pay future costs, let the post office come up with novel ways to make money, such as its recent introduction of greeting cards in some post offices, and stop cutting the services, like Saturday delivery, that we've come to rely on.