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Is another price increase of stamps necessary?

Here we go again. The U.S. Postal Service wants to jack up the price of a stamp by one cent next year. We saw a price hike just about this time last year. Is another one really necessary?

The Postal Rate Commission will review the request and may have a decision by fall. We kinda hope it's "no."

The Postal Service wants to raise the price of a first-class stamp from 33 cents to 34 cents, which could bring in an estimated $3.7 billion. Postmaster General William Henderson says they are trying to remain "consumer-sensitive." He says that stamps are still a "real bargain."

Dead giveaway. Whenever someone says their product is still a bargain, even after a price hike, that's usually a good indication that it isn't a bargain anymore. You hear the same thing about college tuition.

The Postal Service does not receive tax dollars; it is a self-sufficient quasi-governmental agency that turns a modest profit. Officials say the increase is needed to keep the Postal Service "solvent."

We understand business is business. But it just makes no sense to raise prices when the likely outcome will be to drive many of their customers away.

Sending a letter to your aunt in Seattle is still pretty cheap, we admit. However, those who rely on bulk mail could see significant increases in the price of sending mail. Critics, mainly in the business and non-profit worlds, say a price hike could drive catalogue companies and retailers to the Internet.

"I can't think of a more ill-timed decision and I can't think of a more wrongheaded decision," said Gene Del Polito, president of the Association for Postal Commerce, a group which represents direct-marketing and catalogue companies.

In addition, those of us at home who send checks to pay bills or write a lot of letters (although there aren't many of us who do that anymore), the Web and e-mail will look even more inviting.

For every action, there is a reaction, and we feel that continued increases in the price of first-class mail will probably drive away customers and result in even lower revenues for the Postal Service.

Today's editorial reflects the opinion of the Exponent editorial board, which is comprised of John G. Miller, James G. Logue, Kevin S. Courtney, Patrick M. Martin and J. Cecil Jarvis.

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