The world is morphing at cyberspeed, and the U.S. Postal Service has to adapt, fast, to avoid becoming a ward of the state. E-mail, online bill paying, social networking and the recession have dramatically cut mail volume. But the post office is too bound up in government-imposed restrictions to change with the times, and is looking at $7 billion in red ink.
Congress can either free the service to streamline how it does business, or taxpayers will eventually have to cover its deficits. Freedom is the better choice.
Changes postal officials want to make aren't that radical, considering that kids in the future may have no idea what a letter is. They include ending Saturday delivery, restructuring payments for retiree health care and closing some of the country's 36,000 post offices, replacing some with sites inside retail outlets or automated kiosks. But that can't happen without congressional approval, and members of Congress don't much like the prospect of losing a post office in their district.
The postal service was created 235 years ago so that people anywhere in the country could communicate with one another. It was a government agency until 1971, when it became a not-for-profit operation. In 2006, it was permitted to make money. Now Congress should prune the government strings so officials can re-imagine the service that, today, regularly delivers to every one of the 150 million addresses in America. That mission is still important. But to preserve the mission, change is even more so. hN