Not only that, just last week, David Williams, the deputy chairman of the USPS board of governors and a long-time public servant, resigned. David Dayen of the American Prospect reported that “my sources indicate that this was a resignation in protest.”
Although we don’t yet know the details, Trump’s Treasury Department hopes to use a $ 10 billion loan for the USPS that was inserted into care law as leverage to force changes to the USPS, in particular by reducing the power of the postal unions.
But what Trump wants more than anything else is that the postal service dramatically increases the prices he charges for shipping parcels. This was apparently motivated by his anger at 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 love affair he has with the postal service. (In fact, the USPS takes advantage of the packages it delivers for Amazon; parcel delivery is its most profitable business.)
So now the USPS Board of Governors is dominated by the people nominated by Trump, and they just picked one of the best Republican Party fundraisers to run the postal service.
Could this mean that a huge increase in the rates for sending a package is underway? This is the fear that motivates a coalition that includes Amazon, eBay, Zappos and the National Retail Federation, among others, who organized themselves under the inspiring title of the Package Coalition.
They just published this announcement:
This ad uses colloquial tropes of interest groups, including using the terrifying word “tax” to describe something that could cost you money but is not actually a tax. In this case, it is a “parcel tax”, which they describe as “an increase of 400%, quadrupling the price of sending a parcel.”
Which sounds weird, except that that’s exactly what Trump suggested. “If they don’t raise the price, I don’t sign anything,” he said of the possibility of assistance to the USPS to help it cope with the pandemic, which has considerably reduces his income. “The post office is expected to increase the price of a package approximately four times. “
Interestingly enough, the ad does not attribute that feeling to Trump himself; his name is never pronounced. Instead, the villain is unnamed “politicians in Washington,” despite the fact that, as far as I know, Trump is the only politician in Washington who actually wants to see these rates rise so high.
The strategy is not hard to discern: they want to maintain bipartisan opposition to this type of dramatic rate hike, and if they attack Trump too directly, they will only encourage Republicans in Congress to support him.
And it must be said that support for the postal service has often been bipartisan in the past, because each member of Congress has a district full of constituents who rely on and love the postal service. It is the most popular agency in the federal government.
It is safe to say that quadrupling rates for parcel delivery would be spectacularly unpopular, not just with e-commerce companies. This does not mean that the primary beneficiaries would be UPS and FedEx, which charge considerably more than the USPS for the same services, and do not have the same obligation to deliver to each address at the same rates. A drastic increase in USPS rates would make the more expensive UPS and FedEx services much more competitive, and almost inevitably increase their activity.
The unpopularity of huge increases in postal rates may make these increases unlikely in the near future. But as they say, staff is politics, and now Trump will have a close Republican ally who will run the postal service. Who knows what kind of damage it can do.