(Full disclosure: a portion of my income is derived from Amazon’s Associates program.)
It’s fair to say we all have a love/hate relationship with Amazon. On one hand, it entirely changed the retail landscape, making virtually every product imaginable available for overnight delivery to our doorsteps with the click of a single button. On the other hand, we have diminishing incentives to shop at brink-and-mortar retailers, saddling even some of the larger national chains with vanishing customers and the threat of extinction.
One thing Amazon is definitely not guilty of, though, is burdening the U.S. Postal Service. Nevertheless, Donald Trump is once again lying to his hilariously gullible base, insisting that Amazon should pay higher taxes in order to rescue other retailers and to relieve some of the alleged burden from the shoulders of our nation’s postal workers.
Only fools, or worse, are saying that our money losing Post Office makes money with Amazon. THEY LOSE A FORTUNE, and this will be changed. Also, our fully tax paying retailers are closing stores all over the country…not a level playing field!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 2, 2018
There are, of course, other tweets but I think you get the general idea. Despite the president’s habit of stealing ideas from Fox & Friends, this is yet another fabricated crisis. There’s no conflict whatsoever between Amazon and the USPS. Likewise, and contrary to Trump’s lies, Amazon pays all applicable state and local taxes, just like a traditional retailer.
The USPS reported that last year’s financials included a big boost from its “Shipping and Packages” business, which obviously includes business from Amazon.
The growth in our Shipping and Packages business provided some help to the financial picture of the Postal Service as revenue increased $2.1 billion, or 11.8 percent. However, that growth was offset in our financials by the decline in mail volumes discussed above, as well as a $1.1 billion 2016 noncash change in accounting estimate and the 2016 roll-back of the exigent surcharge mandated by the Postal Regulatory Commission which further reduced revenue by $1.1 billion from what it otherwise would have been.
Based on this 2017 report from the USPS itself, its shortfalls have absolutely nothing to do with Amazon. Indeed, business from Amazon and other online retailers seems to be keeping the service afloat. (Also worth noting: despite what Trump wrote, no one’s called the USPS “the Post Office” since 1971.)
So, why is Trump targeting Amazon? It really has nothing to do with the alleged “forgotten men and women” or beleaguered brick-and-mortar retailers or the Postal Service. Trump’s relentless disinformation campaign has to do with, 1) the fact that Amazon’s Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post, and around half of all the Trump-Russia reporting is published by that paper, and 2) Trump lost hundreds of millions of dollars in personal net worth partly due to Amazon.
Fortune reported on Monday that Trump has lost around $400 million thanks to Amazon:
Appearing on CNN Tuesday, Forbes assistant managing editor Kerry Dolan leveled blame for Trump’s real estate losses on e-commerce’s domination over retail, mentioning Amazon. Specifically citing the lease of the Niketown store and the Trump Tower property, Dolan said that retailers are suffering—even on the high end. It would appear that Amazon’s strategy of e-commerce over brick and mortar retail is winning, and that is having an effect on real estate values, she added.
In other words, Trump is inventing a crisis as a way to jab Bezos and his paper, and because he’s personally losing millions. (Personally, this makes me like Amazon even more, knowing that Trump’s taking a beating.)
This is one of many reasons why presidents need to divest from business interests upon being inaugurated. Duh. Otherwise, they pull stunts like this, using the bully pulpit as a platform for building their own personal wealth, rather than at least trying to do the right thing for the American people. The truly confounding aspect of this nonsense is that Trump’s supporters don’t seem at all concerned that the president is being more than a little, um, swampy with the office. They’re also unconcerned about a Republican president proposing a massive corporate tax hike. So much for low taxes and hands-off laissez-faire capitalism.
Indeed, all of this links perfectly with Trump’s well-known corruption and abuse of power, including the reality that he’s billing you and me and all taxpayers for his weekend excursions to Mar-a-lago, Bedminster and other Trump-owned resorts at a significant profit to Trump and the Trump Organization. This is not normal. Not even vaguely normal. Trump’s actions here and elsewhere land far beyond the behavior of any recent chief executive, even George W. Bush. Trump is exploiting the office to turn a profit, and to rescue his net worth. Full stop.
And none of his swamp-draining fanboys seem to mind that their hero is knowingly deceiving them, while financially ripping them off at every turn.
One last thing. Trump’s jihad against Amazon today coincided with Trump praising Sinclair Broadcasting as the emerging media organization buys up local TV stations, then peppering news broadcasts with pro-conservative, pro-Trump propaganda. If anyone should be yanked back and properly regulated, it’s Sinclair.