Despite modest improvements in profitability over the past couple of years, the United States Post Office is still on the ropes financially. There have been a few schemes under discussion to avoid even larger problems and a possible taxpayer bailout, but the situation continues to flummox Congress. The USPS is already pushing back against an ill-advised privatization scheme which the President has endorsed and they’re facing a critical shortfall in covering the retirement benefits of their former workers.
We all probably saw this coming, but lacking any other remedy on the horizon, the Post Office is now preparing to request an increase in stamp prices. And it’s a sizable one. (CNN)
The US Postal Service is asking for the biggest price jump on stamps in its history.
Facing pressure from the Trump administration to address a revenue shortfall, the Postal Service on Wednesday proposed raising the price of 1-oz. letters from 50 cents to 55 cents, which would be a record nominal increase if approved. The price of each additional ounce would go down slightly.
The request was made by the USPS’ board of governors, which has been operating on an emergency basis because of a lack of confirmed members. It will have to be approved by the Postal Regulatory Commission.
In addition to the rates for normal letters, the Post Office is also requesting a hike for the price of shipping packages. They’re looking for a bump in Priority Mail prices of 5.9%, meaning the small, flat-rate box many of us use that currently costs $7.20 to ship would go up to roughly $7.90.
I realize the usual response to any price increase is for consumers to complain about it, particularly if it sounds like the government is taking more of your money. But the USPS isn’t really part of the government anymore, despite being heavily regulated by them. And if we’re going to be honest about this, do you really feel justified in fighting a five cent increase in the price of stamps?
Having the Post Office go away or be privatized would be bad for everyone, not to mention being constitutionally problematic. But they definitely need to increase their revenue. So when debating this, let me ask you to consider how much you actually use these services and what you get for your money. In an era where it costs you hundreds or thousands of dollars to fly someplace or the time and expense involved in driving long distances, think about how we send letters. You can take an envelope with some document you need to have delivered, stick a stamp on it and have somebody come to your door, pick it up and send it all the way across the country. And they do it for fifty cents. Considering the reality of what’s required to make that happen it borders on miraculous.
And how many letters do you really mail anyway? People use email for communications almost exclusively. Most of you probably pay most of your bills electronically. The number of letters I send in a year has dropped to barely three or four per month. The same thing goes for small parcels, at least in terms of how shockingly little it costs. Is it really going to impact your life that much to pay an extra five cents for a letter or seventy cents for a package? (If you do bulk shipping for business reasons you need to factor that into your business model.)
If this is what it takes to put the USPS back on solid footing and avoid billions of dollars lost in a bailout down the road, it doesn’t strike me as such a painful price to pay. Congress should consider just letting this one slide and put the problem behind them for a while. There’s plenty of other things to fight about.