On Sunday, August 29, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) will raise prices an average of 6.8 percent on mail products and 8.8 percent on periodicals, such as community newspapers. This follows earlier increases on January 24, 2021, with most prices going up nearly two percent.
USPS’s spin is to emphasize that the price of a first-class stamp is only going up three cents, from 55 cents to 58 cents, while noting that this item did not increase in price in the January round.
But there is more to the story.
Body Blow for Many Small Businesses. Many small businesses rely heavily on the mail to develop and sustain their operations. And unlike large businesses, such as retail package shippers, they cannot obtain negotiated service agreements (volume discounts and cheaper prices) from USPS. For numerous community businesses like restaurants still struggling to come back from the pandemic, the hike is especially burdensome.
Improved Service is Not Part of the Deal. When prices go up service is supposed to improve, or at least stay the same. That’s not the case with this mail hike or the many large ones above the rate of inflation likely to follow. On October 1, 2021, the U.S. Postal Service will implement new service standards, which means it will delay the time it takes to deliver approximately 40 percent of first-class mail.
Erodes the Fabric of Communities. Since before the American Revolution, USPS has delivered periodicals which have been essential for forging community and at the heart of USPS’s mission to “bind the nation together.” The 8.8 percent increase on community newspapers and other periodicals will be the tipping point to close many such organizations.
Sunday’s price hike is one of a series of deliberate actions by USPS to de-emphasize the mail, a product only it can deliver, and which is especially important to rural Americans, the elderly, and the disabled. Instead, USPS continues to devote and shift financial resources and executives’ time disproportionately to packages.
Ben Franklin, our first Postmaster General, would not be proud.
About the Author: Paul Steidler is a Senior Fellow with the Lexington Institute, a public policy think tank based in Arlington, Virginia.
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