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article imageThe U.S. Mail 'Must Go Through', But Maybe Not on Saturdays

By Joan Firstenberg     Jan 28, 2009 in Business
The U.S. mail 'must go through, rain, sleet, ice or snow'. But it stops short when there's not enough money to keep it going. Postal Officials warn it could hurt the economy in several ways.
In 1897 an author wrote,
"To see the excitement that the mail from outside makes, to see the eagerness with which the men press up to the postmaster's desk for their letters, and the trembling hands as they are opened, and the filling eyes as they read, touches the heart. It took three weeks for mail to get from St.Michael to Dawson and at least 100 days to get an answer by mail from any place in the central or eastern states. Mail carrying was an expensive and risky business."
U.S. mail delivery may have been precious at the start of this country, but now, it's having some big financial problems, and may be on its way out like the dinosaurs. Delivery days may be going down to five days instead of six each week. Saturday may have to lopped off as a delivery day with the U.S. Postal Service blaming plummeting mail volume and revenue. The six-day schedule has been mandated by federal law since 1983. This change mostly likely could have been predicted, since most Americans are relying on email now, rather than "snail mail". The only delivery items that may be difficult to transfer to the web are packages.
Postmaster General John E. Potter told a U.S. Senate subcommittee Wednesday that in the past year, the total amount of mail volume dropped by over 9 billion pieces, or 4.5% compared to the previous year and that the agency suffered a whopping net loss of #2.8 billion dollars last year alone.
Potter calls the Post office, a vital economic engine in our national economy, pointing out that it is the nation's second-largest employers and the mail affects both jobs and commerce.
"The mail system is a nationwide logistics network second to none. Working to protect the viability of the mail will produce benefits that reach far beyond the boundaries of the Postal Service."
Potter warned the senators that it is possible that the Postal Service may experience a net loss of $6 billion or more this year. And he points out that such a shortfall would exceed the agency's credit limit under current law. And so, he asked the senators for what everyone else is asking the U.S. government for......
"We believe that legislative relief is necessary to preserve the nation's mail system."
He also asked Congress to change the payment schedule for funding its retirees' health benefits. A 2006 law requires that the Postal Service make accelerated prepayments on future retiree health care costs. He said if this could be modified, it would allow USPS to focus on its financial problems.
Any change in postal delivery days won't happen right away. Potter says the agency has been working for some time now on cutting costs, and any final decision would have to be made by the postal government board.
If it did become necessary to go to five-day delivery, Potter said,
"We would do this by suspending delivery on the lightest volume days."
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