Cutting Saturday mail delivery affects more than just budget

The U.S. Postal Service is at a crossroads. With billions of dollars of debt staring it in the face, decisions need to be made.

Those decisions, however, could have extreme repercussions for Postal Service employees, while at the same time benefiting the Postal Service.

The Postal Service recently announced proposals to cut costs, close post offices, raise rates and eliminate some services, namely Saturday mail delivery.

According to a March 2 New York Times article, Joseph Corbett, chief financial officer of the Postal Service, said eliminating Saturday delivery “is one of five or six areas that will save $3 billion a year.”

Yes, $3 billion a year is a lot of money and most U.S residents would not strongly object to or even notice the elimination of Saturday service.

But a large group of people will notice – the Postal Service employees and the businesses that rely on the six-day-a-week delivery service.

Over the past year the Postal Service has been the victim, along with other major corporations, of the financial crisis.

According to a March 2009 United States Government Accountability Office report on the Postal Service, there are “escalating financial problems that require major cost reductions to limit losses.” In other words, if you want to come out of this alive, you better start cutting.

This is not a new thing to hear in this economic climate. Major automotive corporations and banks, among others, have had to make cuts in order to survive.

However, cuts and major changes to a federal institution that has been around since the mid-1600s cuts a bit deeper in the psyche of Americans, especially those who this institution employs.

The GAO report also said the Postal Service in the 2009 fiscal year projected that mail volume will decline by a record 22.7 billion pieces (11.2 percent) and a record $6.4 billion net loss. While these figures make for a good report and news story, people are behind these numbers. Numbers are cold. They do not empathize. A government body ruling that an institution should start implementing major cuts does not have in its interests to worry about the elimination of the around one-sixth of letter-carrier positions. The GAO’s job is to look at the overall picture.

The Postal Service has a $238 billion deficit to face. The elimination of Saturday delivery will save the service $3 billion a year, which seems like a fairly small chunk of the overall debt. Perhaps it would be worth another look to see what other services or areas could be cut before cutting more jobs in this country.

While many reading this would not mind the elimination of Saturday delivery – who needs another day’s worth of junk mail anyway? – the perspective would likely change if it was your father, your mother or you that was among the one-sixth losing their jobs.

Before you brush this off and continue with your morning coffee, it may be worth the while to give it a second thought and give your senator a call before it comes time for Congress to make a decision.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln may be reached at (202) 224-4843 and Sen. Mark Pryor at (202) 224-2353.

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