The United States Postal Service (USPS) will run out of cash in five years. Postmaster General Megan Brennan shared this news in testimony before the House Oversight and Reform Committee earlier this month. The immediate consequence of USPS becoming insolvent would be that the world’s largest postal system — which moves 150 billion mail pieces per year, or 412 million pieces per day — would be dead in the water. This is something that has never occurred in the Postal Service’s long and storied history.

If you think these primary effects would be devastating, the secondary effects would be catastrophic. More than half a million postal workers would be without wages. Magazine companies, which send millions of glossies per month, would be stuck trying to find local deliverers. Retailers — particularly those that sell via catalogs — would see their main advertising medium vanish. The paper and printing companies they work with would see their revenues plunge. Prescription drug deliveries would be disrupted as sellers scrambled to find alternate means for delivery. Jury summons, voting materials (including ballots for overseas troops), and international mail and shipments would stop flowing.