Heaven knows why I'm opening myself up to this right now . . . but I feel like I can at least shed some light on why the cost of adding pages to a passport is priced the way it is.
Disclaimer of Two Kinds: 1) I am a State Department Foreign Service Officer and have worked on these issues; 2) My views here represent only my understanding of the policies and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of State or government as such.
Here are a few things to think about:
-In general, government operations are funded by either taxes or fees. Taxes, as you well know, are solicited broadly from the population and occasionally "charge" people for services or benefits that do not directly help them or which they do not think are useful. Fees involve funding an operation directly (and sometimes only) from those who require the services of the operation. Such is the case for consular services (including all passport services) from the U.S. Department of State. Congress refuses to pay money out of tax revenue for these services and has required that we (the State Department) fund it out of the fees.
-Thanks to the new world order of advanced biometric and other security safeguards, providing and safeguarding identity and travel documents got a lot more expensive. Unfortunately (or fortunately) this even applies to the mundane task of adding passport pages. Every time a person applies for passport pages, federal law requires a review of that person to ensure that there are no outstanding warrants or other derogatory events connected to that person. Oddly enough, even HHS uses the passport system to nab those delinquent of child support payments. I kid you not, and have seen it first hand. Before you get very upset about this, please keep in mind that the passport interaction is often the only chance overseas that the U.S. government has a chance to engage with these issues with citizens attempting to circumvent U.S. law.
-A couple years ago, the Department of State initiated an external review by a non-government organization to fully understand the costs in existing resources, developing technology, and manpower hours of highly trained personnel for all manner of activity and service provided by Foreign Service Officers. As a direct result of this study and survey, the price of additional passport pages was set as it was.
-Final note. Many consular officers like myself do not like agree with the exorbitant costs of some common services, like this one. But we implement the law as directed to us by our superiors and lawyers. And, in the end, we end up explaining a process that we do not even agree with.
You guys rock! I just wanted to give a view from the horse's mouth. Now I going to think about cuben fiber and how to buy expensive things without my wife yelling at me . . . oh, and a new kilt.
Your UL Government Bureaucrat,