Return to sender: Ending Saturday mail is the wrong solution

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There will come a time when Saturday mail delivery is no longer needed, when it becomes an archaic luxury that Americans can no longer afford. This is not that time.

The U.S. Postal Service is bleeding money. Its losses in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 were nearly $16 billion, even though officials have cut billions of dollars in costs, eliminated nearly 200,000 jobs and consolidated more than 200 processing centers.

More red ink is expected this year. To stem the tide, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe announced last week that Aug. 3 will be the last Saturday that the service will deliver mail to homes and businesses. The change is expected to save $2 billion a year.

Cutting out Saturday mail delivery will hurt people in rural areas who don't have access to post office boxes. Also harmed will be poor, elderly and shut-in customers who depend on the mail for medicines and assistance checks. Businesses also rely on comprehensive mail delivery.

Most of the Postal Service's woes are the responsibility of Congress. Since 2006, lawmakers have required it to pay $5.5 billion a year to fund future retiree health benefits -- something no other government agency must do. Its $11 billion two-year payment last year accounted for most of its losses.

Lawmakers have failed to help the Postal Service cope with changes like email and online banking that have cut mail volume. Last year, Congress considered reform legislation; the Senate bill passed, then stalled, and the House measure never got to the floor.

Congress needs to approve comprehensive reform that will deliver a leaner, more efficient mail service. Lawmakers could begin by removing the onerous retiree health-funding mandate. Proposals to sacrifice services on which Americans depend should be returned to sender.

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