Editorial board opinion: Postal service waste signals trouble beyond Victoria

July 13, 2013 at 2:13 a.m.

The abysmal state of the U.S. Postal Service almost defies comprehension.

The post office lost $15.9 billion in 2012. That's on top of losses of almost $25 billion from 2007-11.

Meanwhile, U.S. mail volume has dropped 25 percent since 2007 as people turn to digital solutions for communicating and doing business. That decline is projected to intensify during the next decade.

The Postal Service likes to tout that it receives no tax dollars, but it already is in debt to the U.S. Treasury far beyond its ability to ever repay the taxpayers.

To understand this huge mess a bit better, let's look smaller: consider the plight of the Victoria post offices. Postal Service officials are looking to cut their way to profitability, but their initial proposal to close the downtown office and consolidate to the Sam Houston office doesn't make good business sense.

The downtown office remains a busy place as Victoria grows and its Main Street efforts bring more activity than ever to the city's heart. Postal officials acknowledge that almost half their revenue comes from this location. Meanwhile, the Postal Service is looking for everywhere it can to cut - without regard for how to best serve its customers.

That would be somewhat understandable, given its dire economic plight, except that postal officials haven't figured out how to save money from the cuts they made in Victoria in 2011. Two years ago, the Postal Service moved its mail processing center out of downtown to Corpus Christi, but they appear to have overlooked a major source of savings: Despite laying off half of its workforce downtown, reducing the space it occupies in half and moving out all of its high-energy-using equipment, the Postal Service did not find a way to reduce its corresponding rent or utility bills.

What individual or private business would ever do this? Who would downsize but pay the same rate? That's not downsizing. That's just giving away your money to your landlord.

In this case, the landlord is the federal government - the General Services Administration, which likely has been happily accepting rent money with much lowered expenses. But the government taking money from one pocket and putting it in the other doesn't make the waste any better. It just clouds the picture about where money is being lost.

The arrangement also makes no sense when you consider the Postal Service has paid $465,000 annually to the GSA for use of the downtown office. For the space needed, any private business would have figured out long ago that it makes more sense to build or buy a building than to pay almost half a million dollars each year to lease.

Our congressman, Blake Farenthold, who sits on the House committees that oversee the Postal Service, says he wants to dig into the Victoria situation. He certainly should be able to point out how the Postal Service could operate much more efficiently here.

He and his fellow congressmen have a much tougher job trying to figure out how to make the Postal Service viable across the country. They surely won't succeed if the Postal Service can't even figure out how to turn a profit in downtown Victoria. If it can't, then the other 31,000 post offices in the country likely are doomed.

The post office has served a noble purpose for three centuries: providing an inexpensive, fast, convenient communication system. Because of technological advancements and a bloated bureaucracy, those glory days are being stamped out.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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