What's Wrong With The Mail, And Other Reading : Planet Money Also: bankruptcies, Medicare payments and how women saved Social Security.
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What's Wrong With The Mail, And Other Reading

Good morning.

The U.S. Postal Service is on the skids. People just don't write letters anymore! In a rather bleak 10-year plan released yesterday, the USPS said the number of pieces mailed in 2009 fell to 177 billion, down from 213 billion in 2006. And volume is projected to fall further by 2020. What this is likely to mean for you: More expensive stamps, and no mail delivery on Saturday.

Women saved Social Security, an economist argues this morning in the Times' blog Economix. Life expectancy has increased dramatically since Social Security was created in the 1930s. That means more people are collecting Social Security payments for a longer period of time. One reason that the program has managed to stay solvent: The higher percentage of women in the work force has meant more people paying into Social Security. For more on the growing length of retirement around the world, check out this very compelling graphic from the Economist.

The number of people filing for bankruptcy is still rising. More than 111,000 people filed in February, up 9% from the previous month and up 14% compared with February, 2009, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute. In 2009, bankruptcy filings rose by about a third compared with 2008, according to government figures released yesterday.

Those Medicare pay cuts to doctors I wrote about last week -- the ones that always get postponed -- got postponed again. One Senator was holding up a package of temporary measures, including a block on the Medicare pay cuts, because the additional spending added to the deficit. He backed down yesterday. The Senate passed the bill, which had already been passed by the House, and President Obama signed it into law.