The long-threatened dismantling of the United States Postal Service has begun in piecemeal fashion as the agency announced on Wednesday plans to end Saturday mail deliveries cutting a deeper path for privatized delivery and inciting the "death spiral" of an American institution.
Confirming earlier reports, Postmaster General Patrick Donahue said that the Saturday mail cutback will begin the week of August 5. The Associated Press reports that "under the new plan, mail would be delivered to homes and businesses only from Monday through Friday, but would still be delivered to post office boxes on Saturdays. Post offices now open on Saturdays would remain open on Saturdays."
“The postmaster general cannot save the Postal Service by ending one of its major competitive advantages. Cutting six-day delivery is not a viable plan for the future. It will lead to a death spiral that will harm rural America while doing very little to improve the financial condition of the Postal Service,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in a press release denouncing the plan.
Fredric Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, called the move "a disastrous idea that would have a profoundly negative effect on the Postal Service and on millions of customers."
“Providing fewer services and less quality will cause more customers to seek other options. Rural Americans, businesses, senior citizens and veterans will be hurt by ending Saturday mail,” Sanders continued.
Under the Postal Service's universal service model, profits generated in more lucrative locations subsidize the cost of more unprofitable routes, like those in rural areas, allowing rates to stay even across the board. Under a privatized, profit-seeking model, rural residents will likely have to pay more.
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Though most corporate media outlets are hailing the change as cost-saving, supporters of the government service call the agency's supposed budget crisis "manufactured," saying they've been unfairly targeted with explosive pension mandates that have driven the once-functioning budget in the red.
According to AP,
the agency's biggest problem – and the majority of the red ink in 2012 – was not due to reduced mail flow but rather to mounting mandatory costs for future retiree health benefits, which made up $11.1 billion of the [2012 record $15.9 billion in] losses. Without that and other related labor expenses, the mail agency sustained an operating loss of $2.4 billion, lower than the previous year.
The health payments are a requirement imposed by Congress in 2006 that the post office set aside $55 billion in an account to cover future medical costs for retirees. The idea was to put $5.5 billion a year into the account for 10 years. That's $5.5 billion the post office doesn't have.
“No other government agency, no other corporation in America is burdened with this mandate," Sanders added.
Congress has not yet approved the measure and it is not yet clear if their agreement is necessary to drop the Saturday delivery.