Volume 14, Issue 3 ~ January 19 - 25, 2006


No Sense Nonsense

Who wants a 39-cent stamp, anyway?

by Pat Piper

Ever since George Washington took the oath of office that spring day in 1789, people have made careers out of bad-mouthing the federal government. In case you haven’t noticed, it continues today. In fact, it’s gonna continue right here because I need to add my two cents.

Wait a second. I already have. So have you. The price of a first class stamp increased to 39 cents last week, two pennies more than what we’ve been paying since 2002, when it went up three cents. In recent memory, stamps have cost 34 cents, then 37 cents and now 39 cents. Zeros and fives have only been used four times in the 121 years stamps have been in use.

Now let me ask the most simple of questions: What is this thing the federal government has with pennies?

Pennies have become meaningless, except for all those coin collectors who study eBay during Oprah commercials in search of an Indian Head penny or a 1943 Lincoln cent made with steel. Aside from collecting them, and the fact they are worth one stupid cent, pennies have no value.

Why can’t the price of a first-class letter be 40 cents? What would that extra penny do to us were we asked to pay it for a first-class postage stamp?

With a 40-cent stamp, you and I don’t waste space carrying pennies around. We don’t waste time counting out change, and sales clerks become all the more efficient because they don’t have to give us as much change as they do now. Get rid of pennies and the checkout lines will become shorter. You can take that to the bank. Society will become all the more efficient and the Gross Domestic Product will increase. Who knows? The president’s approval rating may even increase as a result of losing the penny.

Now, some might argue that paying 40 cents for a stamp when only 39 cents is required opens the door for the Post Office to waste our hard-earned money. The two-cent increase was ordered by Congress to establish a $3.1 billion escrow fund for employee pensions/retirement. The extra two cents will pay pensions and retirement costs for postal workers which, these days, is both admirable and rare. Add an extra penny, and the fund becomes all the more solvent.

It’s not the principle of the thing at all, folks. It’s a penny, and it’s designated for a good cause. So stop your whining, Rush Limbaugh. Besides, the new stamp features Lady Liberty.

It has been suggested that private companies pay to be on a postage stamp; such image rights would drop the cost you and I would pay for a first-class stamp. Instead of Yip Harburg on a stamp (as he appears on the now-defunct 37-cent version), you’d have Bill Gates or that stupid Geico salamander/gecko or a Big Mac.

That’s a lousy idea, even if the price were to drop to a figure with zero or five. Fed Ex has its name on a nearby football stadium, and the ticket prices didn’t drop one cent — er nickel. (Of course a professional hockey team plays in the MCI — whoops, Verizon — Center, and ticket prices are a bargain, but that’s only because the team stinks.)

This is a moment, however, to work the huge egos that reside throughout America. Let Donald Trump’s hair occupy a stamp, or Tom Delay’s smile. (Abramoff has some extra bucks, so he can foot the bill on the latter.) If there’s a co-pay (and you can bet there will be, because part of a big ego is the fact it doesn’t have to pick up the check), then make it a dime and call it a day.

I gotta go. There’s a sale on coffee in Chesapeake Beach for $2.99.

Pat Piper appears in Bay Weekly from time to time, whenever something sets him off.

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