While many media outlets have attributed the financial struggles of the United States Postal Service to inefficiency and a decline in mail volume in the digital age, The Nation has regularly reported on the real factors behind the USPS‘s decision to eliminate Saturday mail delivery—and why it’s bad for workers and bad for our democracy.
Washington correspondent John Nichols has covered the Postal Service since well before the default this past summer, writing how Congress manufactured a crisis where one didn’t exist. “In 2006, a Republican Congress—acting at the behest of the Bush-Cheney administration—enacted a law that required the postal service to ‘pre-fund’ retiree health benefits seventy-five years into the future,” writes Nichols. “No major private-sector corporation or public-sector agency could do that. It’s an untenable demand.”
This week Nichols called the postal cuts “austerity on steroids,” explaining why the decision to cut service should be seen as equivalent to a deep cut to Social Security. “The damage associated with the curtailing of Saturday delivery will be most severe in rural areas and inner cities, where small businesses and working families rely on post offices that are already targeted for shuttering,” he writes. “It will, as well, be particularly harmful to the elderly, the disabled and others who rely on regular delivery and the human connection provided by letter carriers and rural delivery drivers.”
With 20 percent of Americans now casting ballots by mail, this is about more than the convenience of Saturday delivery—it’s also about access to voting. “Taking Saturdays out of the rotation deals a serious blow to existing absentee and vote-by-mail operations, and reduces the likelihood that this voter-friendly approach will be expanded,” writes Nichols.
But Congress can stop these cuts. In fact, the USPS is prohibited from unilaterally suspending Saturday delivery. And members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have come out in opposition to the USPS’s decision. Republican Susan Collins called the move “inconsistent with current law” and said it “threatens to jeopardize its customer base.” Meanwhile, Senator Bernie Sanders released a statement calling on the GOP leadership in the House to work with the Senate and bring meaningful reform to the Postal Service.
Find out how you can take action and implore Congress to say “no” to the end of Saturday delivery. Sign this Nation petition calling on your representatives to act. Get educated on why these cuts threaten to undermine this vital public service. And check back as we continue to cover this story at The Nation.