STARTING IN August, the postman will no longer ring even once on Saturdays. Patrick R. Donahoe, postmaster general and chief executive of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), says the move to five-day delivery — except for packages — will save the cash-strapped organization $2 billion per year. Praised by some postal reformers as a long-overdue cost-cutting move yet condemned by postal unions and rural lawmakers as a legally questionable abandonment of “universal service,” USPS’s announcement is actually a blend of “common sense,” as Mr. Donahoe said, and desperation.
Postal management has been begging Congress for years for explicit statutory authority to end Saturday delivery, arguing that it’s one of several structural reforms without which USPS cannot survive the digital age. The Postal Service’s financial plight is difficult indeed. Despite years of aggressive cost-cutting, it recorded a $15.9 billion loss in fiscal 2012, defaulted on $11.1 billion in retiree health-benefit prefunding payments and temporarily maxed out its $15 billion line of credit with the Treasury. Prior to Wednesday’s announcement, USPS forecast a $7.6 billion net loss in the current year.