Simpsons stamps coming with rate hike to 44 cents, doh!

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Homer Simpson may have had trouble getting Mr. Burns’ letter after he told the postal worker Mr. Burns’ first name was “I don’t know,” but that didn’t stop the U.S. Postal Service from putting America’s best-loved animated family on their new first-class stamp.

The US Postal Service sent out a press release promoting the new stamp to be released May 7. They even promote ballot stuffing by saying “Vote Early and Often: It’s the American Way” to call attention to their online poll for the public’s favorite Simpsons character.

“The Simpsons” creator and executive producer Matt Groening said in Bart-like fashion, “This is the biggest and most adhesive honor The Simpsons has ever received.”

But Lisa Simpson may be a bit put out. The “activist” Simpson, along with her family members, will have their faces on the 44-cent rate-hike stamp.

That’s right. Postal rates are going up — AGAIN. Instead of 42 cents for a typical letter, you’ll be paying 44. Each additional ounce will stay at the current 17 cents.

Since January 2001 rates have gone up 10 cents for first-class stamps.

The USPS is planning a “First-Day-of-Issue Dedication Ceremony” with Groening, fellow executive producer James L. Brooks, and several of the Simpsons actors, at Fox Studios in Los Angeles at 11:15 a.m. PT on Thursday, May 7. Those interested in attending can call 1-866-268-3243.

Maybe Lisa-lovers will go and celebrate the historic first of putting an on-air TV show on a set of stamps, and ask some tough questions about the U.S. Postal Service.

Postmaster General John Potter testified in Congress that the agency lost $2.8 billion last year, due to declines in mail volume unseen since the Great Depression, as the economy crashed. He said volume from several key customers plunged. One was the financial sector, as banks and securities houses merged, collapsed or were taken over.

Potter told Congress recently that the service is considering cutting back deliveries to five days a week. It already is planning to offer early retirement to 150,000 workers, eliminating 1,400 management positions and closing six of 80 district offices.

Last week, the USPS announced it plans to close three mail-processing centers and eliminate approximately 1,490 jobs in West Virginia, Indiana and Arizona.

But union presidents William Young of the Letter Carriers and William Burrus of the Postal Workers both said the real culprit for the Postal service’s financial crisis was not just the decline in volume or competition from the Internet — which Young said his union has worked on for years with USPS — but the health care pre-financing requirement. They are urging the passage of a bipartisan bill, HR 22, to ease the stringent requirements.

Right now, USPS has to fund future retiree health benefits out of current revenues. The legislation would let the agency stretch out the funding over a longer time, and carry forward some of the obligations after the year 2016.

While the unions are for pre-financing requirements the current rules governing USPS are “virtually unknown in any other agency or private company,” Young said. The “burden threatens USPS’ existence.”

Young told lawmakers, “The Great Recession we face today threatens to destroy the most trusted and universal connection most Americans have with their national government.”

Burrus agreed. Like Young, he cited past decisions by the GOP Bush administration and the USPS board — named by Bush — that put the Postal Service in the red. Burrus also charged that the USPS board and management are too cozy with the big mailers, who practically wrote postal rates in the last round of revisions.

“No business can exist for long with a strategy based on cost reduction alone. Eventually it will become impossible to maintain an acceptable level of service, and there will be nothing left to cut,” Burrus said.

“In recent years,” Burrus told the congressional hearing, “major mailers have assumed the role of shareholders. They have formed organizations that have been granted unfettered access to the inner workings of the Postal Service and to the decision-making process. One umbrella organization has even been afforded office space in postal headquarters. This cozy relationship between postal executives and major business mailers is unhealthy and counterproductive.

“One of the byproducts of this relationship is the preservation of discounts that benefit the mailers at the expense of Postal Service stability. The law specifically requires universal service at uniform rates, yet the standard has been nullified with the growth of discounts that were intended to be temporary. Over time, discounts have morphed into a disgraceful policy that rewards large mailers with rate reductions so extreme as to be absurd,” Burrus added.

While everyday people have to pay more for first-class stamps and small publications have to pay more than larger publications for second-class rates (see “Postal rate hike threatens free speech” ) big mailers, privatization and Bush-era rules are milking the USPS dry.

As Homer would say, “D’oh!”

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Postal workers fight for We Deliver promise