t has all the markings of a classic business title fight, like Gates vs. Jobs. In one corner, Jeff Bezos, lord and master of all commerce, and in the other, the President of the United States. It’s very hard to pick a sentimental favorite here.
It surprises no one to know that the Prez is hitting below the belt, with jabs to Bezos’ most vulnerable body part-- Amazon’s stock price. And that’s also a feint since the Mound from Manhattan doesn’t really care about Amazon. (In fact, it’s just the kind of emerging monopoly that he would naturally favor.) What really irks him is Bezos’ ownership of the Washington Post, which daily has the gall to present the Prez with what he most fears—the truth.
So the Combover Colossus is resorting to—brace yourself here, this is going to be shocking—hypocrisy! Yes, it’s true!
What the Prez says he’s doing is moving to end a purposeful plundering of the United States Postal Service, which is losing money every time it delivers an Amazon package. Again—shocking, given the source--this is 100% wrong. But that’s not news; you’ve probably heard all this. Instead, let’s look at the state of the USPS, which a GOP President is trying so valiantly to protect.
Once upon a time the postman was everyone’s friend. Affection was so deep that the founding fathers granted the Post Office the perpetual and exclusive right to deliver a first-class letter, forever and ever. A mail monopoly. The first postmaster general was Benjamin Franklin.
But as is usually the case, not everyone remains happy forever and ever. By 1971 the Post Office was staffed by union workers, many of whom were minorities. These are two groups the GOP does not particularly care for. So then-President, Richard Nixon (R, Crazytown) signed a bill reestablishing the Post Office as the United States Postal Service, and in effect said, “sink or swim—you’re no longer a part of government.” Which is why, to this day, the USPS does not operate using tax dollars. Libertarians rejoice!
In Act II, the villains arrive—FedEx and UPS. They are leaner, meaner, true businesses. And they’ve come to steal the USPS lunch. They’ll show America how to deliver a package. (However, their “more efficient” claim loses a little impact if you know what the term ‘final mile’ means; i.e., to remain lean and mean, those private guys can’t be bothered driving out to every hillbilly and prepper in the boonies, so they pay the USPS to do that.) But those titans of transports do know how to butter bread, which they do by making sizeable contributions to members of Congress, with about two-thirds of all dollars going to Republicans.
And let me tell you what that buys them.
Of course, villains do evil deeds, so in 2006 UPS and FedEx shoveled over a goodly amount of cash to their goodly Congress-people. They bought themselves a new law that forced the USPS to pre-fund all of its pension obligations for all those good-for-nothing postal workers—FOR 75 YEARS! Yeah, you read that right. Put enough money away to prove they’re good for three quarters of a century. (“Ha!”, sneered the villains. “Let’s see ‘em get past that one. Soon all their package business will be ours!”) To put this in more relatable terms, it’s like your credit card company saying, “over the next 75 years, based on your current spending patterns, we estimate that you, your children and grandchildren will charge total expenses of $700,000—so put that amount in the bank--right now.”
On top of that burden, obviously the USPS is dealing with the fact that email has largely replaced the stamp-and-envelope letter. And FedEx and UPS aren’t exactly idling their engines. So, you add modern technology on top of crushing pension obligations, and you can pretty much guess where things are now.
Well, no, in fact you probably can’t.
Because while the USPS continues to lose some money, it’s meeting those pension targets. Its retirement fund is in better shape than the average for S&P 500 companies…and virtually all other agencies of federal and state governments. Its funding for retirement healthcare is about twice what it is for big private corporations.
In fact, USPS may not need Tweet the Terrible riding to its rescue. The last thing the GOP Congress needs is a President trying to save exactly the agency their favorite lobbyists is trying to slay. In the end, it’s a GOP hypocrisy. This one-party government sputters again.
And somewhere Ben Franklin is smiling.