President Donald Trump likes to paint Amazon as a negative force for the U.S. Postal Service, even reportedly asking U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan to double shipping charges on the Seattle online retailer and other companies.
But don’t ask economist Larry Kudlow —who was recently appointed by President Trump to lead the National Economic Council — about his views on the matter.
In an entertaining back-and-forth Sunday morning with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Kudlow routinely avoided questions about Amazon and the U.S. Postal Service.
Here’s how things went down on the talk show, highlighting how President Trump often goes his own way on matters, even as evidence counters the president’s narrative.
After Stephanopoulos asked Kudlow about whether it was right to “single out” companies like Amazon, Kudlow bobbed and weaved:
“That’s not in my lane,” he said. “I can’t really comment specifically. I haven’t looked at that.”
Stephanopoulos shot back: “Well, it comes under the National Economic Council, doesn’t it?”
Kudlow: “Well, I suppose so. But, again, I haven’t been involved in that discussion. Look, the president is a man of many of opinions. I think you know that. I think we all know that. It’s up to him. He may be carrying this ball. I can’t comment directly on it. George, I just want to go back to a Kudlow theme, if you will let me for a minute. The American economy is growing very nicely, three percent. They said it couldn’t be done, some of the critics. The tax cuts are working. The roll back of regulation is working. These trade opening deals, if we can effect them successfully, including the technology pieces, that is going to help… Things are going very, very well.”
Stephanopoulos: “There is a lot of good news in the economy, but let me push you on that one more time, because you are the chair of the National Economic Council and as the chair of the Economic Council, when the president’s opinions are at odds with the facts, for example when he said that the Post Office is losing billions of dollars to Amazon, and the taxpayers are paying for it, and when that simply isn’t true, isn’t it your responsibility to advise him of the facts?”
Kudlow: “If he asked me directly, it would be. A lot of people looked at these numbers and there are many different opinions about the validity of many different numbers, George. That’s really all I can say. My plate: taxes, regulations, China trade. I have not been deeply involved in Amazon. Look, the president may feel that there is some unfairness going on here, and, as you know, there has been some back and forth about the role of Mr. Bezos, who I know actually and his Washington Post ownership. I just can’t go down there in specifics. I know you want to dig into it. It’s just not my story.”
Stephanopoulos: “I am going to let you go, but let me make a final point. That’s what a lot of people are concerned about here because they look at the facts and they say that, in fact, Amazon has not cost the postal service any money, and in fact the president is targeting them because Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post, even though that has nothing to do with Amazon. That is what they say is inappropriate?”
Kudlow: “I have seen the figures, offense and defense on that one to be honest with you. I have seen numbers, and you can probably do this on both sides. A lot of numbers, by the way, have not been made available. We will see. All I know is that America is prospering, and if we can fix the technology stealing, which is so important in this China story and we can get these market openings, this will be good for American export sales, and I think it is good for Chinese growth.”
While the Post Office is losing money, Politifact last month tossed water on the theory that Amazon is to blame for the losses, writing that the company is “contributing to its biggest growth sector, package delivery.”
CNN’s Reliable Sources program also addressed the Amazon-Postal Service issue on Sunday morning, pointing out facts which counter the president’s position.
Josh Dawsey, the White House Reporter for The Washington Post who broke the story last week on Trump’s pleas to increase shipping rates on Amazon, said the president is discounting the facts related to the situation. President Trump sees Amazon as having “too lucrative and too sweet of a deal” with the postal service. “That’s up for debate by others, but the president sees that,” said Dawsey, adding that a lot of Trump’s advisors “do not think Amazon is a problem and have told him that.”
Even still, Dawsey said that there have been several meetings in the White House about shipping rates, and Trump is “the main person in the administration who thinks that Amazon is a problem and wants to raise rates on Amazon, and other firms who ship.”
Here’s what Trump posted on Twitter late last year on the matter.
Why is the United States Post Office, which is losing many billions of dollars a year, while charging Amazon and others so little to deliver their packages, making Amazon richer and the Post Office dumber and poorer? Should be charging MUCH MORE!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 29, 2017