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Trump Orders Audit of Postal Service After Suggesting Amazon Is To Blame For Their Troubles (politico.com) 493

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Politico: President Donald Trump ordered the U.S. Postal Service to undergo an audit Thursday evening, a move that comes after president's repeated claims that Amazon is fleecing the USPS through alleged unfair business practices. "The USPS is on an unsustainable financial path and must be restructured to prevent a taxpayer-funded bailout," reads the executive order Trump issued shortly before 9 p.m. While not explicitly mentioned in the order, the president has hammered e-commerce giant Amazon in recent weeks and alleged that the company and its CEO Jeff Bezos are driving the USPS into the ground. "I am right about Amazon costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy," Trump wrote on Twitter on April 3. "Amazon should pay these costs (plus) and not have them bourne by the American Taxpayer." According to the executive order, a task force comprise of top officials, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who would chair the group, will lead the investigation into the USPS' finances and will be required to issue recommendations and a final report no later than early August.

Trump Orders Audit of Postal Service After Suggesting Amazon Is To Blame For Their Troubles

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  • Pension (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Gilgaron ( 575091 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @09:05AM (#56430353)
    Hasn't it already been pretty well established that the USPS is doing just fine, but the accounting practices congress forces them to use for their pension funding make it look bad on paper?
    • Re:Pension (Score:4, Informative)

      by GLMDesigns ( 2044134 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @09:08AM (#56430371)
      No. I've read articles pointing that the picture is much worse.

      Does the USPS pay real estate tax? No.
      Does the USPS pay market rent for the property used? No.
      Does the USPS pay the water and sewage?
      Does the USPS pay the tax on their electricity. (Take a look at the tax on your electric bill.)
      • Re:Pension (Score:5, Insightful)

        by skids ( 119237 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @09:30AM (#56430521) Homepage

        Is the USPS a private for-profit company? No.

        The real reason Republicans want to kill this quasi-public, self-funding agency is
        because they can't make money (off the little guy) by buying stock in it and sucking
        profits out through a golden straw. How dare the common man have a reliable
        way to deliver mail that doesn't pay for their yachts?

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Is the USPS a private for-profit company? No.

          The real reason Republicans want to kill this quasi-public, self-funding agency is
          because they can't make money (off the little guy) by buying stock in it and sucking
          profits out through a golden straw. How dare the common man have a reliable
          way to deliver mail that doesn't pay for their yachts?

          I suspect it is more that they "BELIEVE" that all government linked stuff must be able to be done better by private parties. That may even be true much of the time, but the post office delivers everywhere, and that is the kind of service you can get when profit isn't your first motive.

          Many republican beliefs are flaming piles of shit, but they still somehow believe it, and generally will contort their interpretation of reality to fit those facts.

          It is a bit like, "Oh my gosh, the crops are failing, it look

        • Is the USPS a private for-profit company? No.

          The real reason Republicans want to kill this quasi-public, self-funding agency is because they can't make money (off the little guy) by buying stock in it and sucking profits out through a golden straw. How dare the common man have a reliable way to deliver mail that doesn't pay for their yachts?

          Well thought out except for the aside saying that Republicans want to make money specifically off the little guy. Rich people of both parties have no qualms of making money off others - rich or poor. Also, our taxes shouldn't directly pay for politicians' yachts.

      • Re:Pension (Score:5, Interesting)

        by plopez ( 54068 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @10:21AM (#56430879) Journal

        1) Often state governments have the same arrangement. Note if the USPS is leasing space they do pay taxes indirectly.

        2) That depends. If it is leased then once again they do so indirectly. Note also they had to purchase property in the cases where it is owned by them.

        3) Yes

        4) Unknown. Probably not though. They have the famous case where the court rules "the power to tax is the power to destroy". But neither do states pay Federal tax. Oh, and neither do corporations.

        The US Postal Service is mandated by the US Constitution. They provide a valuable and efficient service to *all* Americans in the US. Not just the profitable locations.

        This is just another way to give a monopoly to one company.

        I predict this will destroy commerce via mail.

        • Re:Pension (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Rick Schumann ( 4662797 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @01:14PM (#56432235) Journal

          The US Postal Service is mandated by the US Constitution. They provide a valuable and efficient service to *all* Americans in the US. Not just the profitable locations.

          Great point, really. Otherwise we end up with the 'gentrification' of the mail service. Imagine this: neighborhoods full of poor minorities suddenly don't get mail service anymore because it's 'unprofitable', being forced to drive to some far-away facility to pick up what was mail service to their door (assuming they can even get there at all). Or worse, they have to pay some sort of 'delivery surcharge' because they're not on 'normal routes', putting more financial stress on people already living paycheck to paycheck. Is this really the America we want to create?

    • Re:Pension (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rgmoore ( 133276 ) <glandauer@charter.net> on Friday April 13, 2018 @09:12AM (#56430387) Homepage

      Yes, it has been established the USPS's biggest problem is their need to pre-fund all their pensions for the next 75 years. There's also an established Republican desire to privatize USPS, probably so some private equity firm can suck that pension fund dry and discard the useless husk. If you want to preserve the USPS, get ready to fight to defend it.

    • Re:Pension (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TheRealMindChild ( 743925 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @09:22AM (#56430467) Homepage Journal
      This has very little to do with the USPS anyway. Trump bloody hates Bezos because he owns the Washington Post, which regularly publishes stuff unflattering to Trump and his circle of friends
    • While they may be doing just fine, the amount they charge companies to spam the living shit out of us with dead trees is a complete fucking joke compared to the [relatively exhorbitant] costs for an individual to send anything.

      It's pretty clear who's subsidizing who.

      • Re: Pension (Score:5, Interesting)

        by olsmeister ( 1488789 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @09:37AM (#56430555)
        If you want to pre-sort the mail you send, deliver it to the postal sorting center rather than having it picked up at your house, and give up the requirement to have it delivered as soon as possible, then maybe you too can get better rates.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by AvitarX ( 172628 )

        It's not that low.

        Pre-sorting saves about $0.06 each on first class mail.

        You can save another $0.15 going with lower class (standard) mail, but it can't contain a personal communication (even when a company does it) because they don't really out much effort into time or making certain someone gets it.

        For that $0.06 discount, they are gaurenteed the address is good too, and that gaurenteed that their machines can read the address.

    • Re:Pension (Score:5, Interesting)

      by VeryFluffyBunny ( 5037285 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @10:02AM (#56430719)
      Yep, here's an explanation from the USPS themselves and a nice analogy to illustrate just how unfair the current attack on the USPS is: https://www.uspsoig.gov/blog/b... [uspsoig.gov]
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by MightyYar ( 622222 )

      The criticism that they did it too fast is fair (10 years), but the change was absolutely justified and should be extended to the rest of government. Private companies have not been able to promise unfunded pensions for decades - it's a moral issue that the government is allowed to continue this practice. If you want to promise people future benefits, then actually fund those promises. Otherwise you are simply burdening your children with future obligations, and making no guarantee that they will keep your

      • Oh I don't really consider it a problem that they balance their retirement budget that way, I have more of a problem for it being used to try to demonstrate that the USPS isn't solvent.
    • Re:Pension (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Friday April 13, 2018 @10:59AM (#56431177)

      "Hasn't it already been pretty well established that the USPS is doing just fine, but the accounting practices congress forces them to use for their pension funding make it look bad on paper?"

      Nonetheless, the idiot will make the post office asking for a higher price, which then will prompt Amazon to create their own 'delivery boy' service, thereby ruining the post office and thousands of people may lose their pensions and jobs.

  • by kick6 ( 1081615 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @09:05AM (#56430357) Homepage
    But for tall the wrong reasons. I think Amazon is the only thing keeping the USPS from insolvency. It's probably a good idea to look into why they're both broke and bad at their job.
    • by belthize ( 990217 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @09:13AM (#56430397)

      I think the moon is made out of cheese. We should audit NASA while we're at it.

    • I think Amazon is the only thing keeping the USPS from insolvency.

      I'm afraid "think" simply isn't the right word.

    • International postal treaties. Ever wonder why it is cheaper to have a product shipped from China than from your next door neighbor... Thats the biggest red line item on the USPS books.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 13, 2018 @09:06AM (#56430359)

    For some reason, Congress will not allow the USPS to use GAAP for their pension and healthcare obligations which make the USPS look like it is in the red. It is actually a well-run amortization that by normal metrics is revenue neutral.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 13, 2018 @09:50AM (#56430631)

      Even if the USPS was in the red, it's still an incredibly valuable and critical piece of public infrastructure and should be well funded. Yes, even at a net loss. If we can light $600+ billion on fire every year to fund the most powerful military in the world, we can throw a few pennies at the postal service.

      • by Trailer Trash ( 60756 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @12:37PM (#56431951) Homepage

        Even if the USPS was in the red, it's still an incredibly valuable and critical piece of public infrastructure and should be well funded. Yes, even at a net loss. If we can light $600+ billion on fire every year to fund the most powerful military in the world, we can throw a few pennies at the postal service.

        Here's the thing, and I say this as a libertarian. Well, let me show you something:

        http://constitutionus.com/ [constitutionus.com]

        Scroll down to Article I, Section 8, paragraph 7. It's short, I'll put it here:

        (The Congress shall have Power) To establish Post Offices and post Roads;

        It's actually in the Constitution! This is a fully legal part of the federal government. This isn't the Department of Education.

        The founders recognized that this was a really important function of the government, so important that they put it in a list of only 18 areas over which the federal government has legal authority.

        I'm glad the USPS funds itself, but I don't care, actually. It's a very important thing to have around and we need to protect it, even if that means throwing a little money at it now and then.

        That said, it also needs to fulfill its pension obligations.

  • It is hard to crunch the exact numbers, but I am in the camp that Amazon helps the USPS stay afloat, by giving them something to do. The way the USPS is structured government control but technically independent, there is not way there they can turn a profit.

    That said, this is just going to push Bezos to implement his Uber/Lyft delivery even quicker. I've seen those white van of Amazon, tossing packages on my door stop, taking a picture, sprinting back to their van, and speeding off to their next drop.

    What d

    • by rjr162 ( 69736 )

      Not only this, but they're logistics suck.

      Ordered something and did next day delivery to an Amazon store as I needed the part for a repair and no one locally had it. The site said it would be there by 8pm, although I was hoping it would arrive sooner as the store is in the town I work in, where as I live 40 minutes away and it was to be delivered on a Friday.

      Long store short, 8:03pm hit before Amazon updated that my package was delayed by the carrier but they couldn't give a why, even though the status in t

      • Not only this, but they're logistics suck.

        Ordered something and did next day delivery to an Amazon store as I needed the part for a repair and no one locally had it. The site said it would be there by 8pm, although I was hoping it would arrive sooner as the store is in the town I work in, where as I live 40 minutes away and it was to be delivered on a Friday.

        Long store short, 8:03pm hit before Amazon updated that my package was delayed by the carrier but they couldn't give a why, even though the status in the app said the package had been delivered to the carrier. It updated my delivery to be "Monday to Wednesday". I called Amazon to complain as I paid the extra for the next day. They refunded that cost and I asked how they didn't know when it would arrive as THEY are the carrier. They said it would be there Tuesday. Guess what arrived over the weekend (I can't remember now if it showed up Saturday or Sunday).

        Amazon's Logistics/delivery service (or whoever they contract out to and slap that label on) is utter crap.

        I tried the Amazon Prime free month thing over xmas-time. Was very dissatisfied with it. Over half the prime shipping they sent me took longer than the two days they promised at the electronic check-out. (Probably due to being the busiest shipping time of the year...) that's the only time I've really been dissatisfied by Amazon. The extra day (or two days for one package) delay in Prime shipping wasn't a big deal, I didn't need it then, but it didn't bode well for the free-trial, and bothered me tha

  • by kilfarsnar ( 561956 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @09:27AM (#56430491)

    "I am right about Amazon costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy," Trump wrote on Twitter on April 3. "Amazon should pay these costs (plus) and not have them bourne by the American Taxpayer."

    I'm confused. Doesn't Amazon pay for the postage on the packages it ships? I would assume they do. If so, how are they not paying these costs? And isn't the purpose of the Post Office to be a "delivery boy"? What's going on here?

    • by Kierthos ( 225954 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @09:29AM (#56430507) Homepage

      They (Amazon) do pay. Trump is (or was) apparently under the impression that selecting "Free Shipping" for your purchases from Amazon meant that the Post Office didn't get any money for delivering that package.

    • by guruevi ( 827432 )

      Yes, but they're paying a LOT less than what regular folks pay. The postal office rates for the rest of us are set up not to make a huge profit but also not to make a huge loss, Amazon and others have been able to 'negotiate' lower rates than that with the only chip that Amazon and co has to put up is: well, if you don't take our packages, you have to lay off 10-20% of your workforce - now take the packages and lend some money from the government to pay for it ($15B in the last decade according to their own

      • I worked for FedEx Office for a number of years. So, in addition to running copies and such, I also had to process packages that customers dropped off at our store.

        Guess what? FedEx offers deep discounts too, depending on how much you ship. There was a guy who came in once or twice a week just during my shifts who was sending multiple packages each time. And his discount was something like 20%.

        Hell, as an employee, I could get a 75% discount on anything I shipped via FedEx.

        My point is, the Post Office is ha

      • by ledow ( 319597 )

        Erm...

        If you're giving large companies that use your service a discount on your service that means you can't profit from them... YOU'RE the idiot. Not them. Raise the prices.

        Fact is, though, that it's just not true. At best, they can't compete with others offering the same service for a lower price. Again - YOU'RE the idiot, if you're unable to compete, USPS.

        If the only alternative is layoffs (which is bollocks, but let's roll with it)? Guess what... you're already on the knife-edge. If the alternativ

      • by anegg ( 1390659 )
        I used to work for a large company that had offices all over the United States, and a contract with Federal Express for overnight package delivery. The discount was so good that it was cheaper for me to ship my Christmas gifts back to my family by Federal Express "Next Day" service (through my company) than it was to send them via UPS or the USPS via ground shipping. Deep discounts for a guaranteed high volume of business are not unusual, and are not by themselves an indication of an unfair/money-losing d
  • either you blame them for destroying brick and mortar stores or for destroing USPS - it can't be both. It it is both USPS in modern e-commerce model is doing something really inefficient.
  • by Doctor Device ( 890418 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @09:48AM (#56430625)

    what do we think the odds are that the audit will come back saying "the USPS has a massive pension they are required to fund, fixed infrastructure and payroll costs, and declining revenue due to the prevalence of digital technology supplanting many of their services." versus coming back "Jeff Bezos is actually a secret Chinese agent working for the deep state to import Mexican rapists and their families into the country illegally to spread fake news."?

  • What? (Score:4, Funny)

    by bigdavex ( 155746 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @09:57AM (#56430677)

    In other news, Amazon is using Starbucks as their coffee boy, Seattle City Light as their electricity bitch, and various product manufacturers as their production slaves.

  • Art of the Deal? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ripvlan ( 2609033 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @09:59AM (#56430699)

    Seems strange that a guy who has claimed previously that he's "The Best" at making good deals, and has suggested that those who fail to make good deals are stupid, would beat up Amazon for making a ... good deal !

    So while the postal service needs an overhaul in this modern world I have to doubt the motivation. UPS and FedEx are doing terrific due to online orders. So hasn't the postal service benefited as well? Could it be they were last to offer Tracking of packages? Had mandates that conflicted with growth? Didn't invest and see the future?

    It is a gov't service. So it runs rain or shine. Where as business can change and decide what markets they want to service.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It is a gov't service. So it runs rain or shine.

      which is why amazon, and other retailers, and even ups and fedex, uses the post office... letter carriers go by nearly every address, every single day, anyway, whether their trucks are empty or full.

      amazon gets lower rates because they label and size packages for automated sorting and because they tell the post office ahead of 'mailing' where packages are going from and to. any business with the volume of amazon could get the same rates if they did the same t

    • The USPS has one big advantage over every other delivery service: legally, they are the only people that can put anything in anybody's mail box. They also have another advantage that all their real estate infrastructure was paid off years ago, so their capital costs are lower than any newer delivery service. Their big disadvantage is huge debt for an overly generous retirement plan, but then GM has the same problem.
  • Do the audit! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @10:45AM (#56431055)
    When the results come out, it will prove Trump is a dotard that has no idea what he is talking about. And the anti-Trump media will be certain to publicize that. I expect the report will come out right before the 2018 election.
  • by Rick Schumann ( 4662797 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @10:48AM (#56431083) Journal

    WAAAH! Jeff Bezos is richer and a more successful businessman than I am, WAAAH!

    This is what Trump looks like when he's talking about Jeff Bezos [giphy.com]

    Donald Trump acts like a spoiled-rotten narcissistic 5-year-old most of the time already, but you confront him with someone who is clearly and objectively richer, more successful, and a better overall businessman? He loses his shit and lashes out in a childlike temper-tantrum like this, which is going to cost you, the U.S. taxpayer, as a totally unnecessary 'audit' of the USPS is conducted. Meanwhile there are matters vitally important to the Nation as a whole that are being ignored in favor of Trumps' ego and vanity. Isn't enough enough already? Trump voters: what were you thinking!?

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