Acting, When Congress Won’t

The U.S. Postal Service has decided to end Saturday delivery of letters to homes and businesses.  The move will take effect in August and is designed to address financial issues that the Postmaster General describes as “urgent.”

“Urgent” is one way to describe the financial condition of the Postal Service; another apt word would be “calamitous.”  The Postal Service lost $15.9 billion last year.  The elimination of Saturday delivery to most Postal Service customers will save $2 billion annually, so the Postal Service has a ways to go to get back into the black.  The president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, predictably, calls the decision a “disastrous idea” that would hurt the millions of Americans who depend on Saturday delivery, but I think eliminating Saturday delivery is an easy and obvious cost-saving decision.  I, for one, am willing to grudgingly give up the possibility of getting junk mail, catalogs, and political contribution solicitations over the weekend.

What’s especially interesting about the Postal Service decision is that it was made notwithstanding congressional inaction on Postal Service efforts to obtain approval of cost-cutting reforms.  In fact, Congress had been including a ban on five-day delivery in prior appropriations bills, but because Congress hasn’t passed an appropriations bill within the memory of most living Americans, and instead has resorted to funding the government through “temporary” spending bills, the ban doesn’t apply.  In short — and this is sweet, indeed — Congress’ inability to function has come back to bite it and cleared the way for the Postal Service to act in the name of fiscal sanity.

We’ll have to come up with new synonyms for “inactive” to describe our dysfunctional Congress.  I think “leaden,” “inert,” “dormant,” and “irresponsible” are all good options.

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