Proposed increase a symptom of a bigger problem
This week the Postal Service announced a proposal to raise rates for a first-class letter from 50 cents to 55 cents.
While just a nickel, the increase would be the largest single percentage hike in history.
The USPS also plans to raise the price of priority mail about 5.9 percent. As a consolation, the price of letters more than 1 ounce in weight would go down a bit. For example, a 2-ounce letter would cost 70 cents instead of the current 71 cents.
“The Governors believe these new rates will keep the Postal Service competitive while providing the agency with needed revenue,” the USPS said in a press release, adding it offers “some of the lowest letter mail postage rates in the industrialized world and also continues to offer a great value in shipping.” The move comes as the USPS is trying to deal with falling revenue and billions in red ink. They make a good bit of money from packages—Amazon is big customer. But providing the public with first-class mail service and delivery—once a cash cow for the post office—is a losing proposition in these days of email.
The proposed increase now goes before The Postal Regulatory Commission for approval.
What’s to be done about the Postal Service? As an independent agency of the U.S. government, it doesn’t get tax dollars to fund its expense. But those expenses have long been growing and revenue hasn’t kept up. There have been reform efforts, but the reduced services included were unpopular with the public and Congress wouldn’t risk the blowback.
President Donald Trump has vowed to bring the USPS into the black. And in March the Senate made big noise about fast-tracking a reform bill to help make that a reality—or at least closer to reality. Among other provisions, it would give the USPS some relief in medical and pension expenses for retirees.
But so far? No vote. Congress needs to get back on track with this bill. The USPS is a vital agency that can’t go on like it has been in these changing times.