President Trump Orders Postal Service Finances Investigation; Attacks ‘Sweetheart’ Amazon Deal

In the continuing escalation in his attack on Amazon, President Donald Trump issued an executive order yesterday for the establishment of a federal task force, led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin or his designee, to investigate the finances of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), which has lost more than $65 billion during the past 11 consecutive fiscal years. The special commission is expected to submit a report on its findings and recommendations within 120 days.

President Trump has frequently complained that the USPS continues to lose money, in part, due to a “money-losing” bulk rate delivery contract it has with Amazon to deliver packages. Amazon is primarily using the Postal Service and its letter carriers for the “Last Mile” delivery of packages to an estimated 150 million homes and businesses, including on Sundays.

“It shall be the policy of my administration that the United States postal system operate under a sustainable business model to provide necessary mail services to citizens and businesses, and to compete fairly in commercial markets,” Trump wrote in the executive order. “The USPS is on an unsustainable financial path and must be restructured to prevent a taxpayer-funded bailout.” The executive order calls for an examination of USPS policies, pricing and workforce costs, and will recommend reforms.

According to one report in Reuters, Wall Street analysts estimate that Amazon pays the USPS roughly half what it would be required to pay UPS or FedEx to deliver a package. UPS and FedEx also maintain negotiated contracts with the Postal Service for “Last Mile” delivery services. And Amazon is in the process of building its own delivery network.

Some pundits argue that President Trump’s tweets against the online retail juggernaut are politically driven, given that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos also owns the Washington Post, which has been highly critical of Trump and his policies. Trump’s ongoing public statements and tweets against Amazon, and how the online retailer is destroying the traditional brick-and-mortar retail industry, have negatively impacted Amazon’s stock price.

The main drag on USPS finances, in reality, has been the mandate that it pre-fund its retiree health care obligations to the tune of more than $38 billion. For the first time, last year the Postal Service missed payments it owes to the federal retirement system, for a combined total of $6.9 billion.

Last month, a bipartisan “Postal Service Reform Act of 2018” bill was co-sponsored by senators Tom Carper (D-Del.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). If passed, the Senate legislation would make sweeping changes to current rules and regulations. Among them, the passage of the postal reform bill would eliminate the existing statutory pre-funding payment schedule, cancel any outstanding payments and amortize future payments over 40 years. (Click here for more detailed explanation of the bill, and the subsequent response it received from printers and mailers.)
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