When the Framers created the office of postmaster general, they could not have imagined that one day Americans would rarely need to communicate by scrawling words on paper slips to be delivered by hired hand.
Now the country maintains a vast organization of sorting plants, offices and mail carriers devoted to that slow and expensive process, and it's losing money. A lot of it: The U.S. Postal Service lost $15.9 billion last year, and it is losing billions more this year. On Friday it announced that it lost $740 million in the third quarter.
Lawmakers in Congress, though, have long resisted allowing the quasi-independent Postal Service to engage in serious cost-cutting, even as communication becomes ever more digital. Congressional balking has foiled efforts to restructure the service's labor costs, limit Saturday mail delivery and close branches. But the recalcitrance may finally end, if some promising signs in the House and Senate bear out.