Do you know how much a first-class postage stamp costs?
Just two decades ago, knowing how much a stamp cost was common knowledge, since written communication absolutely required a visit from your local postman.
Today, with email, text, and a variety of social media messaging services, that dependence on licking a stamp and sticking it to an envelope just doesn’t exist anymore. And that should spell doom for the U.S. Postal Service as we know it.
Except it isn’t.
Because thanks to that same growth in technology that all but killed the personal letter through “snail mail,” many people have turned to doing their shopping online — something that requires home delivery, and you guessed it, people like your local postman.
Even with competition from UPS, FedEx, and maybe even someday drones, the Postal Service has held its own despite changing times, even if it’s not pulling in the same revenue it once did.
However, the Postal Service has an even bigger enemy, and it’s not the internet. It’s Congress.
A little more than a decade ago, Congress passed a law requiring the Postal Service to prefund 75 years of retiree health benefits — in advance. We’re talking nearly $6 billion a year over seven years, to fund a program through 2082.
That’s 8 percent of the Postal Service’s annual budget, and is one of the key ingredients to annual losses posted by the organization each year.
It’s no wonder the Postal Service wanted to cut 120 jobs from Bronx post offices, despite what U.S. Rep. Jose E. Serrano described — and what we already know — are already long lines at our neighborhood offices.
Congress also has tied the hands of the Postal Service, not allowing it to dip into reserves to help cover short-term losses — the very reason why reserves exist in the first place.
The Postal Service needs to evolve not only to service the millions of people who depend on it, but also to keep its competitors in check. But it can’t evolve if Congress doesn’t get out of its way.
It’s great Serrano fought for Bronx postal jobs. But now he and his colleagues should fight for all postal jobs.
And the price of a first-class postage stamp, by the way? It’s 49 cents.