Mini-billboards on letters?

US Rep. Barry M. Goldwater Jr. (R) of California believes he knows how to stamp out the US Postal Service's multimillion-dollar deficit: Just turn postage stamps into advertisements, at 20 cents apiece. (Users of the stamps would still have to pay for them, of course.)

The idea, says Mr. Goldwater, popped into his head while taking a shower one day. And last month he introduced it in Congress as the Free Enterprise Postage Stamp Act.

"I've got a long way to go on this one," the Republican congressman admitted to the Monitor.But he figures that his advertising scheme could mean $1.2 billion a year in revenues for the Postal Service -- which regularly runs in the red, and totaled up a $1.2 billio deficit four years ago.

So far, Mr. Goldwater says, reaction from his congressional colleagues has been "supportive" and "favorable." Early soundings in the business community have also indicated interest in the proposal, he claims.

If passed, the bill would mean that those letters borne through rain, hail, sleet, and snow (not to mention sunshine) may bear little Coca-Cola stamps or Chrysler K-car ads.

Be forewarned, however, that America's 25 million stamp collectors are not expected to stampede to Capitol Hill in support of such a proposal. In fact, reports of the Goldwater bill provoked philatelic concern that commercialized stamps will be decidedly uncollectable.

In the face of that opposition, Goldwater admits, "I'll have to work on it."

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