If your local post office was about to close down, how far would you want the government to go to raise enough money to save it?
To pay for the snail mail, would you be willing to pay a tax on e-mail? It's a real proposal, though, not one that'll happen anytime soon.
The idea was put forth by a city councilman in Berkeley, California. The postal service there is considering selling its old, iconic post office building downtown, but a lot of people are protesting the idea. The postal service as a whole lost $16 billion last year and selling some real estate is part of its plan to stop the bleeding.
City Councilman Gordon Wozniak has a different plan. He wants the federal government to institute a very small tax on every email Americans sent. He recommends something along the lines of 1/100th of a penny on each email. That's a penny for every 100 emails sent -- $1 for every 10,000 sent. Worldwide in 2010, an estimated 294,000,000,000 emails were sent every day.
So, even just the slice of U.S. e-mails would add up quickly in terms of the tax, though 90 percent of all emails are said to be spam.
One potential upside to an e-mail tax is that spammers could be driven out of business. Then again, a lot of reputable businesses would be hit hard by an e-mail tax.
Think of how many e-mails are sent from the place you work every day. Supporters say the money could be used not just for the post office, but to maintain and improve internet service. They compare it to paying a gasoline tax to improve the highways.
Opponents say the idea is like taxing cars in order to bring back the horse-and-carriage industry.
Federal law currently bans e-mail taxes. The law is up for renewal, or possible expiration, next year.