WHEN cynical consumers hear about the U.S. Postal Service's idea for "forever stamps," they may think that the cost of first-class postage is "forever" going up. They would be right.
A year ago the price of a first-class stamp rose two cents to 39 cents. Now the Postal Regulatory Commission wants to raise it again to 41 cents.
But there is relief of a sort, and the "forever" stamp is expected to begin providing it.
The new rate will probably take effect in May, although it still must be approved by Postal Service governors. The upward pressure on postal rates is relentless, but whenever the new forever stamp is purchased - at whatever rate is in effect - it can be used anytime in the future, no matter how high the first-class rate goes.
And not only the consumer saves money. The Postal Service will save because it will not have to produce those pesky one-penny or two-penny stamps to cover the increase from stamps already sold. No denomination would be displayed on the forever stamp.
One aspect of the plan still to be determined is whether some sort of limit will be placed on purchases, and if so, how it would be regulated. It is not difficult to imagine a consumer at the head of a long line attempting to buy up every forever stamp he can and shutting out everybody else.
Along with the proposed new first-class stamp prices, steep postal increases are proposed for other services. Express Mail rates could go up from $14.40 to $16.25, and the postcard rate could rise from 24 cents to 27 cents.
Clearly, using the Internet to pay bills and write letters has dealt a serious blow to the postal service, which, like the rest of us, must cope with the rising costs of a gallon of gasoline, health care, and everything else.