My colleague Tim Henley argues below that higher rates for U.S. Postal Service stamps should produce better service. I can follow his reasoning, but meanwhile that expensive gasoline isn’t making my car go any faster.
Although frequent hikes in the cost of a first-class stamp are annoying, they are justifiable. When I first licked a first-class stamp at about age seven, it cost 6 cents. This inflation calculator shows that 6 cents in 1968 was worth about 35 cents in 2006. The current price of a first-class stamp is 41 cents.
While many reasonable folks who know more about the Postal Service than I do have argued that agency could be much more efficient, the balance sheet looks pretty tight. Last year, the Postal Service generated $72.7 billion in revenue and spent $71.7 billion to run the business. That’s an operating margin of 1.3 percent.
Meanwhile, the Postal Service delivers just about anything Americans can jam into a mailbox. Here’s a sample of items that these folks submitted for delivery that arrived at their destination: a $20 bill encased in a clear plastic envelope; a rose (with address attached with a string); a tooth; an unwrapped feather duster; a coconut; a deer tibia; a dead fish and a cheese wheel.
Now the Postal Service has delivered another option for those who don’t like rate hikes — buy more stamps. The new “Forever” stamp will mail a one-ounce first-class letter no matter what the rate of postage.