THE decline of the economy and the rise of the Internet have created a perfect and devastating storm for enterprises involved in deliveries to homes and businesses. But, no, this editorial isn't about newspapers. It's about the U.S. Postal Service.
As Americans were reminded on Monday, the price of a first-class stamp has risen by two cents to 44 cents. Prices for postcards, the first ounce of large envelopes and parcels, and international mail also rose in varying degrees.
The only customers spared are those who bought Forever stamps before Monday, although the price of Forever stamps now has risen to 44 cents as well. They seem a good investment for the future, given that this was the third straight year that prices rose in accordance with a new system that allows annual increases as long as they don't exceed the rate of inflation.
According to the Postal Service, the first-class stamp change will mean an additional $3 a year for the average household but the few cents extra for stamps will hardly alleviate the agency's distress. Just last week, the Postal Service announced a second-quarter loss of $1.9 billion for a fiscal-year-to-date loss of $2.3 billion.
Amid what Postmaster General John Potter calls an unprecedented decline in mail volumes and revenue, the Postal Service warns that it will likely be out of money by the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year. Though other efforts are being made to reduce costs, he has asked Congress for permission to reduce mail delivery to five days a week - which, numbers aside, would serve no one well.
Mr. Potter also has advocated the passage of a bill, House Resolution 22, to change a congressional mandate that requires the Postal Service to prepay retiree health care from its operating budget until 2016. The Postal Service says this change, which has the support of labor, including the American Postal Workers Union and the National Association of Letter Carriers, would reduce the expected 2009 loss by about $2 billion.
Characters from The Simpsons TV show are being featured on the new 44-cent stamps. You don't have to be Bart Simpson to know that if Congress isn't some help soon, the laugh will be on all of us.