Al DeSarro, spokesman for the western area of the United States Postal Service, said surveys show that elimination of Saturday mail delivery is by far the most favored option for trimming the post office’s losses.

“It’s a dire forecast here unless we do something,” he said.

As government agencies go, the postal service is an odd duck. The “quasi-independent federal agency” must follow federal regulations, but it’s not tax supported.

“We’re fully funded through postage, stamps and sales of our products,” DeSarro said.

Yet the postal service can’t cut six-day delivery without congressional approval. And the elimination of poorly performing facilities is next to impossible because few congressmen support closing a post office in their district.

Postal patrons, too, balk at the notion. The Gallup poll that showed 66 percent of respondents in favor of doing away with Saturday delivery as a way to shave costs revealed that only 11 percent approve of closing their local post office.

Cutting Saturday delivery also wouldn’t be the first time the agency has tried that option. Back in 1957, according to CNN.com, the postmaster general implemented five-day service — but the change lasted just one Saturday. Public furor was so great that additional funding was immediately allocated and mail was delivered the very next Saturday.

Even today, three in four Americans say it’s “very important” that the postal service remain in business. According to the Gallup poll, another 19 percent rates it as “somewhat important.” The survey indicates that it’s more important to women than men and to older Americans than the younger generation. But across the board, the postal service wins overwhelming support.

“For the sixth year in a row now,” DeSarro said, “private polling firms have rated the postal service the most trusted federal agency. That says a lot to us.”

The good news for postal carriers is that dropping Saturday delivery  will vastly simplify scheduling shifts and probably won’t lead to layoffs, DeSarro added. Positions will be eliminated through retirements and normal attrition.

“Down the road, and we’re talking years from now, we won’t need as many carriers because we won’t have to support that sixth-day delivery,” he said. “It’s estimated that probably between 40,000 and 50,000 fewer carrier positions nationwide will be needed.”

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