The United States Postal Service can’t pay its bills, and management is asking Congress for money and concessions, including eliminating 220,000 jobs. This, despite agreeing in May not to lay off workers.

The USPS is a strange beast, providing a public service while competing in the marketplace. Too often we forget the first part while obsessing over the second.

Still, there are complexities to consider. The service can’t drastically increase its rates or suspend Saturday delivery without permission from Congress. At the same time, it has to contend with FedEx and the Internet.

For all its faults, the Postal Service is a remarkable organization. Handling some 3 billion pieces of mail a week, the men and women working in those beehives and driving those trucks manage to transport our most important messages from door to door, one coast to another, all for pocket change.

Here’s hoping they’re still in business this winter. — PZS

New York Times:

The United States Postal Service has long lived on the financial edge, but it has never been as close to the precipice as it is today: the agency is so low on cash that it will not be able to make a $5.5 billion payment due this month and may have to shut down entirely this winter unless Congress takes emergency action to stabilize its finances.

“Our situation is extremely serious,” the postmaster general, Patrick R. Donahoe, said in an interview. “If Congress doesn’t act, we will default.”

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