WASHINGTON, December 29, 2017: Just when you thought this New Year’s weekend would be a quiet one, the President fired off another provocative Trump tweet this Friday a.m.:
Why is the United States Post Office, which is losing many billions of dollars a year, while charging Amazon and others so little to deliver their packages, making Amazon richer and the Post Office dumber and poorer? Should be charging MUCH MORE!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 29, 2017
As usual, within one minute of this newest Trump tweet, a predictable phalanx of left-wing trolls sprang into immediate action. They busily and effectively obliterated the initial positive responses to the President’s latest broadside. Examples below, followed by my own brief observations:
President has sexually assaulted 17 women and is still on office.
— Mal Malloy (@MalMalloyTweets) December 29, 2017
Right off the bat, the trolls lead off with a classic (fake?) tweet that has absolutely nothing to do with the subject matter. The tactic is called “deflection.” This one deploys a current meme on a non-related topic. This tactic is used to hijack the thread, instantly change the discussion topic, and render the initial comment or tweet irrelevant. This has often worked in the past, but has gotten less effective as readers and commenters have figured it out.
The post office doesn’t make huge profits or get “richer” like Amazon bc it’s ultimately a public service, a utility we should be grateful for that allows anyone to send parcels anywhere for a very low price. It’s a proud US institution you should be strengthening, not attacking.
— Rob Sheridan (@rob_sheridan) December 29, 2017
What is wrong w you? The PO is not-for-profit for a reason. Not everything has to make YOU money. Just stop it already. Stop draining our pockets at your will.
— annette nelson (@idenpsych) December 29, 2017
@realDonaldTrump probably thinks that the post office is funded by taxes and not independently funded by postage. Please stop talking about what you do not understand.
— Atheist ⚡ Flash (@FlashAtheist) December 29, 2017
This trifecta of dumb troll tweets is another attempt at deflection. This time, however, completely false “facts” are deployed to deflect from Trump’s opening salvo.
Each of these left-wing counter-tweets relies on the same piece of disinformation; namely, that today’s current, “independent” USPS runs on its own without any subsidy whatsoever from the U.S. taxpayer. The third tweet in the above sequence is probably the most egregious example, with its admonishment to the President to “stop talking about what you do not understand.”
What the “Atheist” and his friends don’t understand about USPS operations is effectively explained in an article by Chris Matthews (not the MSNBC Chris Matthews) in a 2015 Fortune magazine piece on the topic:
“The United States Postal Service’s financial troubles have been well publicized in recent years. The worst of it came in 2012, when the USPS lost a whopping $15.9 billion dollars, followed by $4.8 billion and $5.3 billion in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
“…But as Robert Shapiro — former Treasury undersecretary and chairman of the economic consultancy Sonecon—points out in a new analysis, American taxpayers subsidize the USPS at a rate that surpasses the costs associated with any Congressional mandate. He estimates that, all told, the subsidies and legal monopolies that Congress bestows upon the post office is worth $18 billion annually.”
Read the rest of the piece via the link above for additional gory details.
Bottom line: This trio of Trump tweet deflections by self-contained but clearly ignorant lefty trolls relies on false information. The supposedly private USPS does indeed rely on taxpayers to bail them out each and every year. It is funded by taxes at least in part. We don’t need to be “grateful” for a cheap service that we fund twice via tax subsidies and the purchase of U.S. postage stamps, Rob Sheridan. And the government is already “draining our pockets” for this cheap service, Annette Nelson.
Perhaps the following tweet, aimed at President Trump, would be better aimed at this trio of trolls:
— where’s clwaldo? (@clwaldo) December 29, 2017
The bottom line, however. While wildly off-base, misinformed and irrelevant trollery dominates among the responding tweets, the President’s main theme is, for the most part, being ignored. Problem is, it’s a relevant one.
This latest Trump tweet is not really attacking the USPS at all. It’s attacking the substantial subsidies that USPS is granting Amazon.com to gain at least a portion of that company’s massive package shipping business – business it might otherwise have lost to competitors UPS and Fedex.
On one hand, such quantity discounts are a way of life in retail business, whether it’s transacted online or at bricks-and-mortar stores. Think Walmart and Costco, for example. Their highly competitive consumer prices are largely attributable to their ability to demand massive discounts that reduce their per unit costs, based on the immense size of their typical orders from numerous vendors.
But the question is, should the still taxpayer subsidized USPS compete for Amazon’s shipping business in the same way? Walmart and Costco, as private businesses, absorb product and transaction costs via internal P&Ls, and profit or lose each year based on their ability to mark up each ultimate sale to at least cover those costs if not profit above and beyond them.
USPS can’t really do this, since by its very quasi-governmental nature, it’s “nonprofit,” in the sense that any loss is picked up not by profits elsewhere on the balance sheet but by subsidies from the taxpayers themselves.
Which gets to the real point of Friday’s Trump tweet: This subsidy, plus undoubtedly competing subsidies offered to Amazon via UPS and Fedex, gives Amazon’s online retail sales business a decided leg up on the bricks-and-mortar competition. That, in turn, is arguably what’s driving so many retail operations into bankruptcy and obsolescence, leading to massive retail job losses across the country.
Still worse, at least for the President, is the obvious. The aggressive tactics employed by Amazon to drive competitors out of business are also enriching CEO Jeff Bezos. He, in turn, is using his increasing cash flow to support opponents to the Trump agenda, not the least of which is his new media fiefdom, the Washington Post.
The Post, under Bezos, regularly competes now with the New York Times, CNN and MSNBC (among others) to undermine and perhaps eliminate the Presidency of Donald Trump. That’s the original intent of the President’s latest attack tweet, not the USPS per se.
I, myself, have long objected to the Federal government’s longtime treatment of the USPS as a bastard child of a quasi-governmental corporation. That fiction needs to be eliminated. USPS needs to be either re-incorporated into the government structure or completely liberated to run as a truly private corporation.
Since that’s unlikely, however, I think we do need to focus on whether the taxpayers should be subsidizing yet another wealthy West Coast tech giant, all of which have grown into the 21st century’s newest cadre of 1890s-style Robber Barons.
The real question is a tough one with broad economic implications. Is it time to revive the spirit of Teddy Roosevelt and launch a fresh and liberating round of good, old-fashioned trust busting? Today’s provocative Trump tweet may very well be the opening salvo against today’s arrogant cadre of high tech Robber Barons.
*Cartoon by Branco. Reproduced with permission and by arrangement with ComicallyIncorrect.