Saturday mail delivery will be missed, assuming the U.S. Postal Service proceeds with the plan to end it in August, as announced last week. But the end of Saturday delivery seems an inevitability ó not a matter of if, but when.

Parcel mail volume is declining, and the postal service is being asked by Congress to break even while facing pushback on the business changes necessary to achieve that ó including, besides Saturday delivery, congressional opposition to closing post offices and a requirement to excessively prefund its pension program.

Such is the predicament of quasi-government agencies such as the postal service. Amtrak is another. Members of Congress make much noise about how they should be self-sufficient and should operate like a business. But then they try to micromanage how they operate and apply prerequisites and restrictions that keep them from making operational changes that a truly private business would make.

Even in an increasingly digital world of communications, there is a need for a postal service ó at least for the foreseeable future. If we want to maintain a certain level of service in the U.S., the government might have to subsidize it. If, however, we want it to run like an independent business, the politicians will need to get out of the way and accept the consequences.

Eliminating Saturday delivery isnít all that outlandish. Most mail isnít so time sensitive that it canít wait until Monday ó though delivery of newspapers to subscribers who receive them by mail is something that likely would be affected.

But if the postal service were a truly private enterprise, this is what it would do. And the plan is to continue to keep post office buildings open on Saturday, allowing post office box mail to be available. And package delivery still will be done on Saturdays.

If Saturday delivery is sacred to Congress, then it should be prepared either to subsidize the postal service or free it to make other operational changes. Even then, it is difficult to imagine that someday Saturday mail deliveries to the home wonít be a thing of the past.

ó The Hutchinson News