Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

January 22, 2014

Still going up

Congress fiddles while postal rates keep rising

While Congress continues to skirt around the issues facing the U.S. Postal Service, the agency continues to nickle and dime its customers with rate increases that seem to come year in and year out.

The latest price hike takes effect Sunday. The price of a First Class stamp goes from 46 cents to 49 cents, along with a 1-cent increase — from 20 cents to 21 cents — for each additional ounce. Postcard rates will increase by 1 cent to 34 cents from 33 cents, while the USPS is introducing a new First Class letter rate for metered mail of 48 cents, 1 cent below the retail rate for First Class letters.

Among other changes are an increase in First Class Flats from 92 cents to 98 cents, while Priority Mail Express rates will increase to a base price of $16.95. In addition, there will be a 5 percent increase in First Class Package Service during 2014.

All the while the postal service continues to drown in red ink, with a budget deficit of $15 billion and $25 million a day losses.

Despite repeated efforts, Congress has never been able to implement a solution. Some of the problem stems from the requirement that the postal service pre-fund retirees’ health benefits 100 percent within 10 years. Additionally, members of Congress have blocked attempts to eliminate Saturday mail delivery as a way of cutting costs.

Mail volume continues to drop as prices increase and competitors offer different alternatives for mailing and shipping.

The inaction by Congress puts the postal service at an unfair advantage. In the meantime, we customers must grit our teeth and bear yet another hike in the cost of a stamp — with the knowledge that another price increase is just around the corner.

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