The U.S. Postal Service says it will cease practically all mail deliveries on Saturdays this coming August to save money. We all know the Postal Service is losing money and has been for some time. Is this move to cut service the answer to its financial problems? We don’t think so!

Ending the Saturday mail deliveries except for packages isn’t a done deal. The fight to continue the service is ongoing, with the National Newspaper Association (NNA) out front in the battle.

To Weekend Missourian mail subscribers, rest assured you will get your paper on Saturdays. We will find a way. The Missourian mails more than 7,000 copies to subscribers. The rest of the 15,000-plus circulation is by home delivery by us, and single copy sales.

Since this weekend mail delivery issue came to the front last year, The Missourian has been considering options. One we would like to see is for Congress to permit the use of  mailboxes for newspapers on Saturdays. That is an option that the NNA has proposed. It would end up costing us more to make the deliveries, but that is an added burden most newspapers would shoulder.

Of course, we want the Postal Service to continue all deliveries on Saturdays. The $2 billion savings claimed by USPS by dropping Saturday deliveries has been challenged by the NNA, which says the number is too high. Another claim by USPS is that the majority of Americans are on its side. We doubt that. We’ve already heard from some of our mail subscribers who want their weekend Missourian on Saturdays. We know that people who receive medical prescriptions by mail are concerned. There is countless other mail on Saturdays that people depend on and want.

Congress is going to play a critical role in this issue. The law is that there must be six-day mail delivery under the monopoly the USPS has. It is under the control of Congress although it is operated somewhat independently of the federal government. So far Congress has rejected USPS’ request to drop Saturday deliveries. The Missouri congressional delegation has opposed other cuts the USPS has proposed, such as closing many rural post offices. The National Association of Letter Carriers opposes ending mail deliveries on Saturdays except for packages. The battle probably will end up in a court.

A financial burden that Congress imposed on USPS in 2006 is prepayment of future retiree health benefits, which made up $11.1 billion of the $15.9 billion loss posted in the last budget year. That mandatory requirement by Congress must rank as one of the worst pieces of legislation in the nation’s history. No other federal agency is required to do that. No business has that type of prepayment burden. It’s absurd!

The health prepayment requirement is that the post office set aside $55 billion in an account to cover future medical costs for retirees. The plan is to put $5.5 billion a year into the account for 10 years. The postal service simply can’t afford that amount. It is at the end of its borrowing limits.

It’s up to Congress to settle this financial mess. The plan to end Saturday deliveries except for packages would be another negative move by USPS, which already is suffering from a poor image due to its service problems. We feel sorry for our local dedicated USPS employees who bear the brunt of criticism for policies they have no control over.

Is the Saturday mail delivery issue a move by USPS to get the attention of Congress? Perhaps. A longstanding problem is lawmakers don’t want to get involved in USPS issues. They consider it a lost cause.

Our representatives in Congress need to be involved in this issue. Strong leadership is needed. The majority of people don’t want less mail service. The ones who say it doesn’t make any difference to them have not studied the issue thoroughly. We all depend on USPS six days a week. We want it to be healthy and to provide a high level of service.

Congress has bailed out private companies. Why not the postal service, which touches all Americans? If there is a bailout, it must come with oversight and policy requirement changes, such as getting rid of that prepayment for future health costs for retirees.