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President Trump last night issued an executive order creating a task force charged with evaluating the finances of the US Postal Service (USPS). While Amazon was not specifically mentioned in the order, the decision comes in the wake of charges by Trump that Amazon is using the USPS as a delivery boy and is not paying enough for its services.

The order specifically refers to the USPS’s “unsustainable financial path,” ordering the task force to “conduct a thorough evaluation of the operations and finances of the USPS.”

Trump has consistently criticized Amazon, with the charges - sometime obliquely, sometimes directly - linked to its CEO’s personal ownership of the Washington Post, which has been aggressive in its coverage of the Trump administration.

In its story about the executive order, the New York Times writes that “while the service has consistently reported net losses for a decade, much of its financial woes are the result of a prolonged decline in the volume of marketing mail and first-class mail. The service makes money on packages, and Amazon is the service’s biggest single shipper of packages.” In addition, the USPS has been mandated by the US Congress to prepay its pension obligations, which has created, in the minds of most experts, an unsustainable financial burden.

The Times also writes that the order calls of the task force to examine “the ‘expansion and pricing’ of the package delivery market and the service’s role in competing with other, private delivery companies. The task force should look at the decline in mail volume and the implications for the service, Mr. Trump said. The order also calls for the task force to look at the service’s ‘universal service obligation,’ which requires the service to deliver to everyone in the United States, given changes in technology and e-commerce.”

And, the Times writes, “Some parts of the order appear to hint at further privatization of the Postal Service, indicating that members of the task force should examine ‘the U.S.P.S. role in the U.S. economy and in rural areas, communities, and small towns’.”
KC's View:
I think this is an excellent idea. An honest, unbiased and objective look at the USPS’s financials probably is long overdue, and the country ought to welcome it. If it ends up that such an examination proves, in fact, that Amazon is abusing the system, then things should be changed. If the pension issues are such that they are the biggest problem, then maybe the Congress will do something about that.

I will say this. While I believe in disruption, I’m not sure I’d want to go down in history as the president who privatized the post office and/or ended the universal service obligation. There are certain technological realities for which the USPS’s operations certainly need to be adjusted. But there’s something about being able to get mail that is important to the nation’s social fabric.