Most people get mail every day, Monday through Saturday. But what happens when the mail comes later than we expect?

We found out a few years ago when the Postmaster General had to take away overnight First-Class and Periodicals mail from most of the nation. That caused a problem for a lot of consumers and businesses. Now, we may be facing a new slowdown if something isn’t done by Congress.

Who needs the mail, some people ask? We have the Internet now. But a lot happens in the mail, and a lot goes wrong when it is late. To begin with, mail is the backbone for about $1.3 trillion in jobs, products and services.

People send in their credit card payments at the last minute when cash is tight. The payment reaches the credit card company late, and credit scores take a beating. That causes loans for cars and houses to get more expensive.

Many people count on the mail for medicines. A missed dosage can mean a trip to the hospital.

Some things just can’t be emailed. It is hard to send your grandkid’s birthday cake overnight by the Internet. Some farm supply houses use the mail to deliver small animals quickly. They certainly can’t zap them across broadband or allow them to die in a post office waiting for a mail truck.

We are at another crunch point. The U.S. Postal Service has a $57 billion deficiency on its balance sheet, most of it caused by Congress.

USPS last received a major overhaul by Congress in 2006. The next year, Steve Jobs appeared on a stage with a new gadget called an iPhone. Since then, Congress and the Postmaster General have been grappling with the tough problem of collecting enough postage for a system that must reach ever more mailing addresses in America, but with less mail. So far, Congress has done nothing but tinker.

The choices are tough, and Congress is never good at tough choices. Businesses that buy postage cannot afford big increases and will simply find alternatives if the rates are jacked up too much. Consumers cannot afford to pay more for slower mail. USPS wants to protect jobs for its workers.

A bill was sent to House Ways and Means Committee last March by the House committee responsible for overseeing the U.S. Postal Service. The bill, HR 756, is now sponsored by Republican Rep. Mark Meadows, of North Carolina, and three Democrats: Reps. Elijah Cummings, of Maryland; Gerald Connolly, of Virginia; and Stephen Lynch, of Massachusetts. All are experts on postal matters.

The legislation would require about 77,000 retired postal workers who draw benefits from a federal benefits health fund to use Medicare instead. Medicare taxes were already paid for these workers. The Medicare fund owes these retirees their benefits anyway. It is just that this group has chosen a different benefit for themselves, which they were allowed to do. Now it is time for them to follow the practice of most private sector workers and draw their earned benefits from Medicare instead.

Commercial mailers would have to accept a small postage increase to pay most of the new cost to Medicare.

And the U.S. Postal Service would save about $30 billion over 10 years.

If you are concerned about losing more mail service, particularly in rural America, the way to protect it is to contact your representative and ask for a big push for HR 756 in September.

Matthew Paxton IV is publisher of The News-Gazette in Lexington, Virginia, and president of the National Newspaper Association. The opinions are the writer's.

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