Postage stamps are going up in price.

The U.S. Postal Service plans to raise the price of a first-class stamp two cents - to 46 cents.

There are obvious reasons for the rate increase. Among them are that mail volume has decreased thanks to the Internet, wages and benefit costs have risen for employees, and other operating costs keep going up.

"The Postal Service faces a serious risk of financial insolvency," postal vice president Stephen M. Kearney said, an indication that without significant changes a time could come when the agency would be unable to pay its bills.

The post office lost $3.8 billion last year, despite cutting 40,000 full-time positions and making other reductions, and Kearney said it is facing a $7 billion loss for this year and the same for fiscal 2011, which begins in October. The rate increase would bring in $2.5 billion, meaning there still would be a large loss for next year.

So, rather than increase the indebtedness and try to play catch-up sometime in the future, why not just have a larger rate increase for first-class postage?

Why not just charge 50 cents for a first class stamp?

It would save a lot of man-hours for counting change. It would make it easier to use stamp machines.

It wouldn't impact the general public since most people don't mind paying extra pennies for most things. How many people complain or quit smoking when cigarettes go up in price? When gas prices rise a few cents, people don't cut back on their driving. Paying extra for extras on telephones and Blackberries doesn't seem to raise complaints.

Everything has risen in price. Have you bought a birthday card or graduation card lately?

We're not advocating such an increase for businesses which do bulk mailing and even self-sorting. But how much impact would a 50-cent stamp have on the average household? How many envelopes do you mail a month?

Under the proposed increases, in addition to the 46-cent rate for the first ounce, the cost for each additional ounce would go up a penny to 18 cents. Why not just increase it to 20 cents? It would make calculating the cost of mailing a lot easier.

The cost to mail a postcard would go up 2 cents to 30 cents.

It's not that we enjoy cost increases. It's just that common sense says we can increase the rates adequately now and prevent the financial situation of the Postal Service from getting completely out of hand. Or we can pay a lot more later.

Fifty-cents would actually be a convenience for postal customers for mailing a first class stamp versus trying to figure out how much it costs to buy three or four stamps at 46 cents each.

In fact, it might not be long before the penny becomes obsolete. We'll save those thoughts for another day.

By Ron Gower

rgower@tnonline.com [1]