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Michael Hiltzik: Trump again attacks the U.S. Postal Service with lies

Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

Of the myriad pathological fixations swirling around President Trump's approach to governing, perhaps the oddest is his unrelenting hostility to the U.S. Postal Service.

Trump was at it again during a news briefing Tuesday, when, prompted by a question from a reporter, he hared off after the Postal Service and one of its most important customers, Amazon.com.

In his usual style, Trump disavowed responsibility for the Postal Service. "I'll tell you who's the demise of the Postal Service," he said. "It's these internet companies that give their stuff to the Postal Service -- packages." He asserted that the Postal Service loses money "every time they deliver a package for Amazon or these other internet companies that deliver."

He said that if the Postal Service raised prices "by actually a lot they could make money or break even." He claimed he had no authority over the service, because it's run by independent boards "appointed by other administrations."

There's a lot of misinformation to unpack there, so let's roll up our sleeves and get started. Let's keep in mind that Trump is attacking a government service specifically designed to provide universal delivery, binding together a nation from the remote Aleutian Islands of Alaska to Key West, from Lake of the Woods in frigid northern Minnesota to humid Brownsville, Texas.

Postal services are specifically enumerated in the Constitution (Article I). Put it all together, and the notion that they should be offered only at a profit or even at break-even costs is unsupported by law or tradition.

 

We don't operate the military at a profit, or schools or any other public service; the notion that the Postal Service should be "run like a business," as inviting that is to conservatives, is code for undermining a public good and letting private enterprise saddle up.

Trump blew up at the reporter's repeating an assertion she attributed to Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va., that Trump killed a provision in a coronavirus rescue measure that would have given the Postal Service an emergency appropriation of $25 billion.

In the latest rescue package, the Postal Service only received a government-backed loan of up to $10 billion; postal officials have said it needs more to guarantee its continued operation past June.

As for Trump's representations, although it's true that the Postal Service is overseen by an independent board of governors, they're all subject to presidential appointment. Currently the board has two vacancies and five members. Every one of the five was appointed by Trump.

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