The recent bickering in Washington about the future of the U.S. Postal Service is curious. What’s the ultimate goal of those who are hesitant about providing money to a federal agency whose revenue stream has been hit hard by the coronavirus?
President Trump is outspoken in his criticism of the Postal Service, accusing it of giving online retailers such as Amazon.com delivery rates that are far too low. The Postal Service denies that, but at least Trump’s motives are clear: He dislikes Amazon because its owner, Jeff Bezos, also owns The Washington Post, which often criticizes the president. Plus, it’s in his nature to charge higher prices when he’s selling, while expecting lower prices when he’s buying.
House Democrats included $25 billion for the Postal Service this week in a new virus aid bill. This is on top of $10 billion in assistance that has already been approved, but which the president has not signed into law, saying he’ll hold it up until the USPS delivers significant rate increases to large shippers. That’s an odd strategy — expecting your best customers to pay more. Usually in business the big boys earn lower prices.
The Postal Service says mail volume is down 30% from a year ago, and it expects losses to increase by $22 billion over the next 18 months.
The Republican-led Senate, however, is not as inclined to help right away. That would imply it won’t get concerned until the Postal Service is close to running out of money, which will happen this year without extra cash. But that concept just doesn’t make sense.
After all, Republican voters still get mail, too, and the idea of going without delivery, or having it cut back sharply to get expenses more in line with revenue, will not sit well with anyone.
Maybe Republicans want to privatize the Postal Service and reduce or get rid of its large contributions to its retiree pension program. If that’s the strategy, who might one of the buyers be? None other than Amazon and Jeff Bezos.