President Donald Trump hit out at Amazon again today, calling its business deal with the US Postal Service to deliver packages a money-losing agreement that hurts US taxpayers.
In tweets today, Trump said "the U.S. Post Office will lose $1.50 on average for each package it delivers for Amazon. That amounts to Billions of Dollars."
He added: "If the P.O. 'increased its parcel rates, Amazon's shipping costs would rise by $2.6 Billion. This Post Office scam must stop. Amazon must pay real costs (and taxes) now!"
Amazon has been a consistent recipient of Trump's ire. He is sore in part because its founder, Jeff Bezos, owns the Washington Post, which Trump has labeled "fake news" after the newspaper reported unfavorable developments during his campaign and presidency, reports the Daily Mail.
Earlier in the week, Trump took a similar aim at Amazon, again over Twitter.
An Axios report midweek revealed Trump's plot to put strict new regulations on the company sent Amazon's stock into free fall, whacking off billions in value for shareholders, including Bezos.
Trump did not deny the Axios report and even suggested it was true when he copped to a years-long belief that the e-commerce behemoth is behind retail store failures and US Postal Service problems.
"I have stated my concerns with Amazon long before the Election," he said. "Unlike others, they pay little or no taxes to state & local governments, use our Postal System as their Delivery Boy (causing tremendous loss to the U.S.), and are putting many thousands of retailers out of business!" the president tweeted.
Amazon lives and dies by shipping, and an increase in the rates it pays could certainly do some damage. Amazon sends packages via the post office, FedEx, UPS and other services.
But while the post office has lost money for 11 years, package delivery - which has been a bright spot for the service - is not the reason.
Boosted by e-commerce, the Postal Service has enjoyed double-digit increases in revenue from delivering packages, but that hasn't been enough to offset pension and health care costs as well as declines in first-class letters and marketing mail.
Together, letters and marketing mail make up more than two-thirds of postal revenue.
In arguing the Postal Service is losing money on delivering packages for Amazon, Trump appears to be citing some Wall Street analyses that argue the Postal Service's formula for calculating its costs is outdated.
A 2017 analysis by Citigroup did conclude the Postal Service was charging below market rates as a whole on parcels. Still, federal regulators have reviewed the Amazon contract with the Postal Service each year and determined it to be profitable.
An independent agency, the Postal Service does not use taxpayer money for its operations.
The post office does not break down what is driving its growth, but online ordering from retailers, particularly Amazon.com, has revolutionised the way goods are bought and delivered.
The Postal Service reached new highs this year in holiday package delivery; more than 850 million US parcels were delivered from Thanksgiving to New Year's Eve, according to figures compiled by industry tracker ShipMatrix Inc.
Amazon has taken some steps toward becoming more self-reliant in shipping. Last year, it announced it would build a worldwide air cargo hub in Kentucky, about 13 miles southwest of Cincinnati.
The White House said, at a news conference at the end of the week, that helped to fuel a moderate recovery in Amazon's stock price, that there were "no specific policies or actions" that would apply to Amazon's business model that it was currently considering.
But Press Secretary Sarah Sanders also noted that Trump is "always looking to create a level playing field for all businesses" and his interest in pursuing an internet sales tax "is no different".
After the White House press briefing, at which Sanders was repeatedly asked about Amazon, the company's stock closed 4.38 percentage points down.
At its low point, Amazon took a US$53 billion ($73.2b) thrashing. At day's end, losses had been reigned in to US$31b.
Axios drove the market down midweek with a report based on the word of five sources that indicated Trump was pondering ways to knock Amazon down a few pegs.
"He's obsessed with Amazon," a source said told the news website. "Obsessed."
Trump's desire to further regulate Amazon has been inflamed by his wealthy friends' complaints that lax internet commerce rules were killing their businesses, Axios reported.
The president also believes Amazon's thriving business model is hurting mom and pop stores that are owned by people who voted for him.
A source told Axios Trump also blamed Amazon for losses suffered by the US Post Office.
"The whole post office thing, that's very much a perception he has," the source said. "It's been explained to him in multiple meetings that his perception is inaccurate and that the post office actually makes a ton of money from Amazon."
Bezos founded Amazon nearly 25 years ago in 1994. For the past 11 years, the US Postal Service has had giant losses, and is expected to suffer more.
The government division ended the 2017 fiscal year US$2.7b down.
Postmaster General Megan J Brennan said in a cry for help that the service's "financial results will continue to deteriorate and likely at an accelerated rate" because it "cannot generate enough revenue or cut enough costs" to pay its bills.
A PBS Newshour report at the end of the last fiscal year detailed the post office's attempt to raise revenue by introducing a double-digit increase in the cost to ship packages.
A drop-off in traditional letter mail is where the Post Office took its licks, the report said, as mail volume fell by 5 billion pieces, which amounts to 3.6 per cent.
Letter mail had made up 70 per cent of the US Postal Service's revenue. If anything, the report indicated, it was the advent of email that was killing the government service.
As Brennan said at the time: "No other shipper delivers as many e-commerce packages to the home."
Speaking out on the matter at the end of the week, Trump claimed Amazon was causing "tremendous loss to the US" postal system. He also claimed the company - the eighth largest employer in the US - was "putting many thousands of retailers out of business".
Trump mentioned the fact Amazon paid "little or no taxes to state & local governments" in his tweet, hinting at a desire for Congress to hit the company and other online retailers with an Internet sales tax.
A source told Axios Trump was also seeking to come after Amazon using anti-trust or competition law.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told the House of Representatives' tax-writing committee in February the administration "feels strongly" that internet sales should be taxed.
At a July appearance before the US Senate where he was asked about the internet sales tax, Mnuchin singled out Amazon.
"I am encouraged that Amazon is now charging tax, I believe, on their own sales but not the marketplace," he said. "I'm not sure I understand the consistency on that, but I respect the states' ability that there's an awful lot of money that's not being collected."
Traditionally conservative organisations like Americans for Tax Reform that are typically on the Republican president side have staunchly opposed the administration's push to introduce new taxes on e-commerce.
ATR president Grover Norquist told DailyMail.com on Thursday after the Trump tweet that his organisation was "100 per cent opposed" to an internet sales tax because it "would allow politicians to impose taxes and regulations across state borders".
"An online sales tax hurts small businesses and consumers, not Amazon, because Amazon already collects sales tax nearly everywhere," Norquist said. "An online sales tax would entrench big box stores and stop Mom and Pop competitors dead in their tracks."
Norquist further posited that an online sales tax would actually help Amazon - "because then they can sell tax collection services."
Amazon's stock share fell by as much as 7.4 per cent on Wednesday, Reuters said, after the damaging Axios report ran. After a late-day rally, shares were trending downward again on Thursday morning following Trump's latest slam.
Bezos is also the owner of the Washington Post, which Trump has labeled "fake news" because of the stories it has done on him that he says are false representations.
A June 28, 2017 tweet dubbed the two companies - which have totally separate leadership structures - the "AmazonWashingtonPost" and described the newspaper as the "guardian" of the retail division and the reason that Amazon does not have to pay an Internet sales tax.
"Which they should," he stated.
An August 16, 2017 tweet claimed ''Amazon is doing great damage to tax paying retailers.
"Towns, cities and states throughout the US are being hurt - many jobs being lost!" he said.
Throughout his presidential campaign, Trump made similar assaults on the Post, Amazon and Bezos, who attended a meeting last June for the tech industry at the White House.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Rah Shah insisted on Fox News that the tweets and the president's desire to tax Amazon were nothing personal.
"This is really about policy," he said. "You have a huge company that's done amazing things ... and really tax policy and other policy has to catch up with that."