Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe says nothing is “set in stone,” so there’s some faint hope of altering the sweeping cutbacks planned for the U.S. Postal Service. But time is running out, and congressional action is critical.
The postmaster’s plan to save $15 billion over three years by closing or merging more than 200 mail-handling facilities could slow first-class mail, throw up to 35,000 people out of work, and risk even greater erosion in post office business. Among the facilities affected in eastern Pennsylvania are Altoona, Erie, Greensburg, Lancaster, New Castle, Reading, Scranton, Washington, Paoli, and Williamsport.
It’s not that Donahoe has much choice but to pursue such a strategy, even if it proves self-defeating. The quasi-governmental agency he heads faces a $14 billion loss this fiscal year. It has seen the volume of first-class mail drop by 25 percent in recent years, yet the post office receives no direct taxpayer aid.
The Internet and the explosion of digital communications have dashed any hope of making the core service of delivering mail profitable to any degree. But it remains in the national interest to provide reliable and comprehensive mail delivery across the country, at the very least because 40 percent of Americans still pay their bills by mail.