Not only that, last week, David Williams, the vice-chairman of the USPS Board of Governors and a longtime civil servant, resigned his position. David Dayen of the American Prospect reported that “my sources indicate that this was a resignation in protest.”
While we don’t yet know the details, the Trump Treasury Department is hoping to use a $10 billion loan for the USPS that was inserted in the Cares Act as leverage to force changes at the USPS, including diminishing the power of the postal unions.
But what Trump wants more than anything else is for the Postal Service to dramatically increase the prices it charges to ship packages. This is apparently motivated by his anger toward Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon. (Bezos also owns The Washington Post.)
Any mention of the Postal Service sends Trump into a rant against Amazon and the supposed sweetheart deal it has with the Postal Service. (In fact, the USPS profits from the packages it delivers for Amazon; package delivery is its most profitable enterprise.)
So now, the USPS Board of Governors is dominated by Trump appointees, and they just picked one of the Republican Party’s top fundraisers to run the Postal Service.
Could that mean that an enormous increase in rates for mailing a package is on its way? That’s the fear motivating a coalition that includes Amazon, eBay, Zappos, and the National Retail Federation, among others, which have organized themselves under the inspiring title of the Package Coalition.
They just put out this ad:
This ad employs some familiar interest-group tropes, including using the terrifying word “tax” to describe something that might cost you money but isn’t actually a tax. In this case it’s a “package tax,” which they describe as “a 400 percent hike, quadrupling the price to mail a package.”
Which sounds outlandish, except it’s exactly what Trump has suggested. “If they don’t raise the price I’m not signing anything,” he said about the possibility of aid to the USPS to help it deal with the pandemic, which has drastically lowered its revenues. “The post office should raise the price of a package by approximately four times.”
Interestingly enough, the ad doesn’t attribute this sentiment to Trump himself; his name is never spoken. Instead, the villain is nameless “politicians in Washington,” despite the fact that as far as I can tell Trump is the only politician in Washington who actually wants to see those rates raised so high.
The strategy isn’t hard to discern: They want to maintain bipartisan opposition to this kind of dramatic rate increase, and if they attack Trump too directly, they will only encourage Republicans in Congress to get behind him.
And it should be said that support for the Postal Service has often been bipartisan in the past, since every member of Congress has a district full of constituents who rely on, and love, the Postal Service. It’s the most popular agency in the federal government.
It’s safe to say that quadrupling rates for package delivery would be spectacularly unpopular, and not just with e-commerce companies. That’s not to mention that the main beneficiaries would be UPS and FedEx, which charge dramatically more than the USPS does for the same services, and don’t have the same requirement to deliver to every address at the same rates. A drastic increase in USPS rates would make UPS and FedEx’s higher-priced services much more competitive, and almost inevitably increase their business.
The unpopularity of huge postal-rate increases may make such increases unlikely in the near future. But as they say, personnel is policy, and now Trump will have a close Republican ally running the Postal Service. Who knows what sort of damage he’ll be able to do.