February 07. 2013 10:56PM

Saturday mail: Postal delivery must change


The U.S. Postal Service is a constitutional division of the federal government made to look like a for-profit corporation while forced to function like a government bureaucracy. No wonder it is losing billions.

On Wednesday the postmaster general announced that the service would end regular mail delivery on Saturday while maintaining package deliveries, which are profitable. Members of Congress, though, say he cannot do that because they did not authorize it. Constituents want Saturday mail, and they're going to get it, delivered to their rural post offices by unionized carriers with full pensions, no matter what!

The Postal Service says it can save $2 billion a year by ending Saturday delivery. Some dispute that figure, but clearly the service has to make serious cuts, and soon. In the last fiscal year, its operating loss was $15.9 billion. And that was in a presidential election year in which campaigns filled people's mailboxes with mass mailings.

The Postal Service might have ways to save more money, such as reducing its workforce, shutting more post offices and relocating others, and offering less generous benefits. But all of those come with built-in political opposition. Every move the service can make to save money will be resisted by some constituency. And that is why the service needs to be further separated from politics.

Mail delivery is a core federal function over which Congress rightly has oversight. How the Postal Service provides that service, though, has to change with the times. Congress has to let it.