Who would carry mail to the Hualapai Indian Reservation in the Grand Canyon? To islands off the coast of Maine? To rural villages in Alaska? Only the post office goes to those places and thousands of others in the United States, and all for 44 cents. And it’s older than the United States itself…

A 90-day delay on the payment has been suggested, but postal officials and others in the industry say a long-term solution is needed.

Donahoe has one. It includes laying off staff beyond the 110,000 cut in the past four years, closing as many as 3,700 offices, eliminating Saturday delivery and switching from the federal retirement plan to one of its own.

Cliff Guffey, president of the American Postal Workers Union, called the proposal “outrageous, illegal and despicable.”…

Yet one of the biggest problems isn’t mail flow or labor or other costs. Rather, it’s a requirement imposed by Congress five years ago that the post office set aside $55 billion in an account to cover future medical costs for retirees. The idea was to put $5.5 billion a year into the account for 10 years. That’s $5.5 billion the post office doesn’t have.