Postal Service confusion

Well, at least we’re not the only ones confused by the Postal Service’s plans to cut Saturday mail service. Apparently Congress and the Postal Service aren’t exactly clear on what’s going on, either.

A new spending bill passed by Congress this past week includes a provision that requires six-day mail delivery, despite the Postal Service’s plan to cut back to five days delivery beginning in August.

Here’s where it gets a bit confusing: Lawmakers disagree on what the six-day requirement actually means. Some lawmakers believe the requirement means exactly what it says, that the Postal Service must maintain delivery on six days of the week. Other lawmakers believe that the requirement doesn’t specify what the Postal Service has to deliver on those six days. Postal officials have said they plan to deliver mail on six days, but not all mail will be delivered on six days. Saturday delivery will include packages, but not first-class mail, they have said.

The Government Accountability Office concluded that the postal agency does not have the right to unilaterally discontinue Saturday mail delivery. The letter carriers union, a critic of the postal agency’s plan to end Saturday delivery, agrees with the GAO.

But the Postal Service believes the language in Congress’ requirement is vague, and says it is sticking with its plan, which officials say will save $2 billion annually. The agency loses an estimated $25 million per day. Postal officials say their plan makes sense because as the volume of letters has dropped, package delivery has risen by 14 percent since 2010.

We wish someone would figure this out once and for all. We believe the Postal Service should maintain six-day delivery of all items, not just packages. Customers depend on the daily mail delivery for business and personal reasons, and that’s especially true in states with rural customers, like the booming and population-gaining North Dakota.