Tell your grandma that Christmas card is never coming—the USPS announced today that one first-class stamp is now going to cost you just shy of two quarters, at the new rate of 49 cents. Up from the previous price of 46 cents, the three-penny increase is due to swiftly declining profits that the United States Postal Service has been dramatically struggling with the past few years. This is the first spike of that magnitude since 2002, and follows up 2013's inflation from 45 cents to 46.
The early 2000s were the gilded age of stability for stamp prices—for four solid years, the cost to ship a letter to your half cousin in Missouri remained stably at 37 cents. But not for long. In just as many years since 2002, the USPS has tacked on a penny, leaving us with the question of how soon will the double-quarter minimum arrive?
"Our financial condition is urgent," Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe said at a news conference last February when announcing the proposition to suspend letter delivery on Saturdays. In the year since, weekend delivery has continued, but the five-day schedule is still a precarious possibility, at the encouragement of epistolary disdaining Republicans.
Congressman Darrell Issa (R-California) reintroduced Bill HR 3801 two weeks ago in a measure to reduce USPS spending, which would also likely serve as an attempt to make the currently government-run agency "vulnerable to privatization." Issa claimed that "This common sense reform will help restore the cash-strapped Postal Service to long-term solvency," proposing that his bill would shave off $17 billion dollars of the federal deficit over the course of ten years.
Issa's determination to halt Saturday delivery didn't come without subtext—his proposal was meant as a restructuring of the House Budget Committee agreement made in December, as a method to safely repeal veteran pension cuts. The conflict in Issa's forward momentum comes from the fact that the USPS is the second largest employer to veterans, crested only by the Department of Defense, and the desire to cut out Saturday delivery would adversely affect those who Issa planned to help in retirement.
According to the National Association of Mail Carriers, however, suspension of six-day delivery was shut down and signed into law on January 17, maintaining the USPS's current Saturday schedule—at least for now.
"We are pleased that Congress has rejected the elimination of Saturday delivery as counter-productive," NALC President Fredric Rolando said. "Now we call on it to enact reform that will allow the Postal Service to innovate and grow—without dismantling the retail, processing and delivery networks that make it a national treasure."
The USPS is the only governmental agency required to hand over nearly $5.5 billion a year to pay for healthcare benefits for future retirees, and reassessing this mandate might be at the source of a stable postal service future. Whether Issa plans on pursuing other options for USPS spending cuts is still to be determined. And if anyone has a heads up on the sorcery of Forever Stamps, don't stay quiet.
[Image of Patrick R. Donahoe via AP]