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The 21st Century Postal Service Act provides the president and Congress the most sensible plan to rescue the United States Postal Service from likely bankruptcy.

By allowing the mammoth government agency to explore its entrepreneurial potential, the bipartisan plan establishes a reliable opportunity for future fiscal security.

The bipartisan plan, put forth Wednesday by four U.S. senators, including Delaware's Tom Carper, requires the kind of fiscal checks and balances private industry relies on to maintain its profitability and suitable workforce levels.

As Americans rely more on the Internet and competing private mail carriers for personal communications, the plan calls for employee buyouts that would reduce the workforce by 100,000 employees.

To make good on those offers, the Postal Service would be refunded the $7 billion it overpaid into the Federal Employee Retirement System. The Postmaster General estimates this alone amounts to as much $8 billion in annual saving.

Additionally, the Postal Service would be allowed to work with unions to develop a new health plan, which could cut costs in half while maintaining "adequate" benefits. A recalibration of pre-funding requirements for retiree health benefits also is outlined.

However, the recommendation for a temporary halt to converting to five-day-a-week delivery raises questions about its eventuality. It's conditioned on developing remedies for customers who may be disproportionately affected by the change.

But it's also no secret that many postal workers and their customers want to maintain the status quo level of service. Doing business as usual is what has led the USPS to the brink of insolvency.

That's why the senators recommend the Postal Service be allowed to sell non-postal products and services and compete more directly with its private industry rivals.

This is a brave new horizon, but one this federal agency is well-suited to pursue. In reality, it has no other viable option.

"If the Postal Service were to shut down, the impact on our economy would be dramatic," said Sen. Carper.

Going forward, the emphasis must be on modernizing the service back into profitability to secure a stable workforce of about 8 million jobs.

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