Congress is back in session today. But forget for a moment the president's jobs speech Thursday or the continuing battle over the deficit. Attention should be paid to an overlooked crisis that affects us all:
The possible bankruptcy of the U.S. Postal Service.
The Postal Service is the only federal agency that touches most of us just about every day.
But it's in serious trouble. Mail volume is down and the service hasn't been able to cut costs as much as needed. It is expected to lose $8 billion this year. The Postal Service has hit the limit on a $15 billion loan from the Treasury Department.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee begin hearings today to find a way to keep the Postal Service from collapsing.
Prime on the list of possible solutions is a bill sponsored by Delaware's Sen. Tom Carper. Rival bills are coming up through the Republican-controlled House.
Postal Service officials want to reduce the workforce by 120,000 by 2015. While some cuts would come from attrition, others would have to come from layoffs, but union contracts forbid that. That's why the service wants congressional help.
The Postal Service is supposed to be self-supporting, with its costs covered by sales of its services. No taxpayer money is involved. But oversight of the service is tied up in a bureaucracy ultimately controlled by Congress.
At stake are the current six-day delivery, post office closings, reduction of the workforce and an increase in health care costs to postal workers. All of these are highly political issues.
Something has to be done. And that something begins today.