Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2013, 6:00 am

Editorial: Save Saturday delivery

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The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus

To: U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk and U.S. Reps. Cheri Bustos and Bruce Braley
Re: Saturday mail delivery


Last week's announcement that the U.S. Postal Service has decided in a fiercely competitive 24/7 world to provide fewer services to customers requires your immediate attention.

Word from Washington is that legislation will be introduced to preserve six-day mail delivery. We urge you today to pledge your support to that effort.
We are pleased to note that our Q-C lawmakers were among those critical of the surprise announcement by Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe promising elimination of Saturday delivery by August.

Rep. Bustos, D-East Moline, you were correct in calling the change "a blow to communities across our region of Illinois."

And Rep. Loebsack, D-Mount Vernon, you were dead right in identifying the key problem. "By requiring the postal service to prefund retirement health benefits to the tune of over $50 billion over 10 years, which no other agency or business has to do, Congress is tying their hands" Thank you for co-sponsoring a House resolution in support of the postal service maintaining a six-day delivery service. "I can't think of a less partisan issue than the postal service," he said. "It is past time Congress works to find a solution to this problem."

The challenges facing the post office are very real and many of them -- particularly competition from exploding, instant and cheaper communication delivery systems -- are not of its own making. But they can't be fixed by following a disastrous business model that relies on increasing prices while cutting services it provides by 15 percent. And more than the postal service will be harmed, if Saturday delivery disappears.

For businesses it is a bread-and-butter issue. NNA President Merle Baranczyk said, the decision to "maintain Saturday delivery of packages but abandon delivery of newspapers is an indication the Service is moving further and further away from the universal service the American public expects.

"This unfortunate decision sees packages as profitable but forgets the importance of money in the mail for small businesses and thousands of American communities who depend upon local newspaper delivery on Saturdays."

In fact, everything from catalogs to specialty and hobbyist magazines to news and opinion periodicals also will feel the pinch. And the switch could hurt consumers in surprising ways. Those who pay their bills by mail could see fees for less timely deliveries and those who rent DVDs could see their costs increase. For example, if you subscribe to Netflix, fewer delivery days could result in fewer movies viewed for your money.

We share Mr. Baranczyk's dismay with the failure to deal with that 2006 retiree benefit bookkeeping issue crippling the agency. The fix is hardly a complex one, while the payoff is huge.

So our request to you is twofold: Ban five-day delivery. But also demand that your fellow lawmakers remove the budgetary requirement that is helping to bankrupt the agency while hurting both business and customers.

For many, many Americans, the U.S. mails aren't a luxury, but a necessity. That makes it your duty to protect them.