It says something about the glamorous life I lead that my heart skipped a beat last night when I went through the daily mail and found the census form had arrived. “Oh cool, the census,” I actually said as my wife leaned in for acknowledgment that I was glad to see her, too.
Only it wasn’t the census form. It was a letter saying the census form would be arriving in about a week.
Want to guess how much this little exercise cost? Hand me that napkin.
There were 105,480,101 households in 2000. At 500 sheets of paper per ream, that’s 210,960 reams of paper for the letter. It’s cheap paper, though. At $40 a case, Office Max has the cheapest price I could find online, so that’s $843,000 for the paper.
Five-hundred envelopes go for $30. That’s another $6.3 million (I’m rounding up and down here; it’s the government afterall).
Finally, there’s the cost of mailing. It’s presorted first-class mail. According to the U.S. Postal Service Web site, pre-sorted mail costs .335, although a standard rate letter could be sent for 17 cents. But this was first-class. Total: $35,335,833.83.
Total: $42.5 million (although I remain somewhat skeptical about the postage) to send you a letter to tell you you’re going to get another letter next week. Oh, and sending a postcard would’ve been $15.8 million cheaper.
The average person pays $13,000 in federal taxes per year. So it took the annual federal taxes of nearly 327 taxpayers to send you the letter.
(See “Why Use Advance Letters“)