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Opening Arguments

Dead-letter file

An interesting proposal we probably don't need to spend a whole lot of time talking about:

First, it was doing away with Saturday delivery. Now, door-to-door service could be coming to an end.

In an effort designed to cut costs at the cash-strapped agency by up to $4.5 billion a year, congressman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., is proposing that the U.S. Postal Service phase out door-to-door delivery and shift service curbside and to neighborhood cluster boxes.

The proposal — due for vote by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday — would affect about 37 million residences and businesses.

The Postal Service spends about $30 billion annually on mail delivery, losing $15.9 billion last year alone. It does not receive federal assistance, getting revenue from postage sales, delivery services and other products. But mail service has dropped nearly 25% from 215 billion pieces delivered in 2006 to a current volume of 160 billion, says Postal Service spokeswoman Sue Brennan.

The Postmaster General's office estimates labor-intensive door-to-door delivery costs an average $353 a year. Curbside delivery averages $224; cluster boxes, just $160. The Postal Service, currently making 54 million curbside deliveries and 40 million to cluster boxes and central locations, has been moving toward collective deliveries at shopping malls, business parks and newer residential developments.

If they can't even get elimination of Saturday delivery done, this is surely a dead-on-arrival proposal. I guess I wouldn't mind the "cluster" delivery (which reminds me of another "cluster" phrase that fits the postal service pretty well), although I like the idea of ending Saturday delivery better. I'd even give up two or three days of deliver -- most of the junk I get these days is not exactly time sensitive. I'll probably feel even more negatively about ending to-the-door delivery when I've even older and more infirm.

And can we stop emphasizing so strongly that the postal service "does not receive federal assistance? If Congress continues to refuse to make any changes, the volume of mail keeps dropping and the billions in losses keep adding up, there's only one way this can end, and taxpayers will certainly be involved then.