Dec 5, 2018

Postal report puts muscle behind Trump's Amazon grudge

Packages are processed at an Amazon warehouse. Photo: Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images

A task force created by President Trump said Tuesday the U.S. Postal Service should consider increases to the cost of shipping some packages, a move that could hurt Amazon along with other e-commerce companies.

Why it matters: Amazon faces a politically perilous moment. At home, it has become a symbol of the outsized wealth the tech boom put in the hands of the few, and it fields regular attacks from Trump. Across the Atlantic, it is under antitrust investigation.

Details: The task force recommends that the Postal Service separate out commercial packages and mail from more essential deliveries, making them no longer subject to affordability guarantees that come with the service's status as a government-sanctioned monopoly for some offerings.

  • It suggests that the Postal Service determine when a "strong social or macroeconomic rationale exists for government protection in the form of price caps and mandated delivery standards" for packages and mail, as opposed to deliveries that are "commercial in nature" and aren't entitled to similar regulation.
  • It does not single out Amazon, despite the presidential attacks that led up to the creation of the task force.

The other side: "It’s very concerning, and if implemented it would be tremendously damaging to the Postal Service’s bottom line and more importantly to consumers and businesses large and small across America," said John McHugh, a former congressman who works at law firm K&L Gates and leads the Package Coalition, whose members include Amazon, Express Scripts and the National Retail Federation.

The big picture: The Postal Service report comes as Amazon's continued dominance ignites pushback on multiple fronts.

  • Amazon is in the middle of two antitrust investigations in Europe. One, led by the EU's top regulator, looks at the e-commerce giant's data-driven advantage over other sellers on its platform. Germany's Federal Cartel Office launched a separate probe into monopolistic practices last week.
  • Amazon's high-profile search for a second headquarters — which enticed up-and-coming cities all over the country only to settle on the D.C. area and New York, two of the richest places in the world — thrust Amazon into a sometimes critical spotlight.
  • On Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Amazon posted record-breaking sales, but the big shopping days were punctuated by worker-led protests against the behemoth's warehouse working conditions.

Yes, but: Consumers still, by and large, feel good about Amazon. A recent poll from the Baker Center at Georgetown University found that there's only one institution in which Americans have more confidence than Amazon: the military.

  • The report undercut Trump's claims that Amazon deliveries are a massive drain on the Postal Service, instead finding increased package volume hadn't made up for other shortfalls in revenue.

What's next? While the administration says that postal regulators can make many of its recommended changes, expect lawmakers to get involved.

  • "I appreciate Secretary Mnuchin and the Postal Task Force’s effort to accurately assess the Postal Service’s financial reality and propose viable solutions without relying on a taxpayer bailout," said Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson.
  • "I look forward to working with the secretary and his department to put the Postal Service on a long-term, sustainable path," he said.

Go deeper: For Amazon, success breeds enemies

Go deeper

Italy reports lowest number of new coronavirus cases since February

Italy’s aerobatic team Frecce Tricolori fly over Milan in Duomo Square on May 25. Photo: Francesco Prandoni/Getty Images

The Italian government reported 300 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, the lowest daily increase since Feb. 29.

Why it matters: Italy, the first country in Europe to implement a nationwide lockdown after emerging as a hotspot in March, appears to have finally weathered its coronavirus outbreak. Italy has reported nearly 33,000 total deaths, the third-highest total behind the U.S. and U.K.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 5,453,784 — Total deaths: 345,886 — Total recoveries — 2,191,310Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 1,651,254 — Total deaths: 97,850 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,915Map.
  3. World: Top Boris Johnson aide defends himself after allegations he broke U.K. lockdown — WHO suspends trial of hydroxychloroquine over safety concerns.
  4. 2020: Trump threatens to move Republican convention from North Carolina — Joe Biden makes first public appearance in two months.
  5. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks over Memorial Day.
  6. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Charities refocus their efforts to fill gaps left by government.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Joe Biden makes first public appearance in over two months

Photo: Oliver Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden made his first in-person appearance in over two months on Monday to honor Memorial Day by laying a wreath at a Delaware veterans park, AP reports.

Why it matters: Biden, the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee, has taken the unprecedented step of campaigning from his home during the coronavirus pandemic, ever since canceling a rally in Cleveland on March 10.