A Side of Clyde
We keep hearing how the U. S. Postal Service has become such a tightly run ship that the big deficits of the past have become big surpluses. The Postal Service has turned into a real free enterprise powerhouse that now is marketing a line of clothing. That must be the reason why the price of mailing a first-class letter will go from 33 cents to 34 cents Jan. 7.
That penny represents a 3 percent increase, but if you include other types of mail, the overall postage increase is more than 6 percent. Magazine and newspaper publishers face the cruelest increase, nearly 15 percent. The postal carriers don't like that type of business.
Here is a rundown of first-class postage rates over the years: July 1, 1885, 2 cents; Nov. 3, 1917, 3 cents; July 1, 1919, 2 cents; July 6, 1932, 3 cents; Aug. 1, 1958, 4 cents; Jan 7, 1963, 5 cents; Jan. 7, 1968, 6 cents; May 16, 1971, 8 cents; March 2, 1974, 10 cents; Dec., 31, 1975, 13 cents; May 29, 1978, 15 cents; March 22, 1981, 18 cents; Nov. 1, 1981, 20 cents; Feb. 17, 1985, 22 cents; April 3, 1988, 25 cents; Feb. 3, 1991, 29 cents; Jan 1995, 32 cents; Jan. 10, 1999, 33 cents, and now, Jan. 7, 2001, 34 cents.
Looking at it as a long-time customer, in the first 78 years of the Postal Service's existence, rates increased about 100 percent. In the last 36 years the rates increased 700 percent. Talk about causes of inflation.
We're not begrudging a casual increase, but what is irksome is the way the Postal Rate Commission grants the increases with penny implements.
Rather than upping the rate by even amounts and longer terms, the agency nips away a penny at a time. Instead of raising the current stamp price to a nice round 35 cents( eliminating the need for that penny in change) and having it stick for a couple of years, the increase is a mere one cent. Then another penny in another 12 months. As the letter said to the stamp - stick with me and we'll go places.
It's a way to make money for the post office, because what does a person do with a drawer full of letter stamps? Quick now, how much was the D stamp worth? In the past, changeover stamps carried letter designations, A through H and each had a different value.
You could go to a stamp dealer and get your answer, but the post office has put private stamp collectors out of business. Most towns had a business for kid stamp collectors, but they all went broke or into baseball cards. Los Altos had two stamp collector businesses at one time.
So what are we getting for the penny increase? A bunch of new stamps. That's all.
To show appreciation for our extra penny, the Postal Service will issue a Love stamp and a Lovebirds stamped envelope in January. The lunar new Year comes next, marking the Year of the Snake in a 12-year Oriental series.
Also in January, the post office will mark the centennial year of the birth of civil rights leader Roy Wilkins and physicist Ernico Fermi. Stamps for baseball parks, Thanksgiving and Amish quilts show up during the year.
More than 300 new stamps will be available for your letters in 2001. No wonder people are using e-mail more each day.
"U.S. Postage stamps are a reflection of the American experience," said Postmaster General William Henderson.
The same can be said for postal rate increases. They need a commemorate stamp that would honor postal rate hikes and it might feature a Cape Canaveral rocket headed for the stars.
Old Postmaster Generals never die - they just lose their ZIP.
Clyde Noel is a longtime contributor to the Town Crier.