Analysis

Trump's remarkable war on Amazon

Are Trump's attacks on the retail giant a fair use of presidential power?

The smartest insight and analysis, from all perspectives, rounded up from around the web:

It's been a "remarkable use of the presidential bully pulpit," said Michael Shear at The New York Times. For much of the past week, President Trump has aggressively attacked Amazon, labeling the nation's largest e-retailer a "tax cheat and a job killer" and accusing it of profiting at the expense of the U.S. Postal Service. Amazon "pays little or no taxes to state & local governments," Trump said in one tweet, adding that it "uses our Postal System as their Delivery Boy (causing tremendous loss to the U.S.)" and has put "thousands" of retailers out of business. People close to the president say he is "obsessed" with Amazon and has hinted that he wants to "use the power of his office" to rein it in. That possibility has "spooked investors," tanking Amazon's market value by about $75 billion. The president's war "is personal," said Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair. He believes that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who separately owns The Washington Post, uses that paper's coverage "as a political weapon" against him. It doesn't matter that Bezos has no newsroom involvement. The president is intent on causing "further damage" to Amazon, perhaps by pressuring the Post Office to increase the company's shipping costs.

It's simply "not true" that Amazon is killing the Post Office, said Lisa Marie Segarra at Fortune. No less an authority than the Postal Service itself has said it profits from delivering the company's parcels, especially as revenue from first-class mail has shrunk dramatically in the internet age. Nor is it accurate that Amazon dodges taxes; it now collects a sales tax on its own products in all 45 states that have one. Trump's right about one thing, though: "Amazon is much too big," said Damon Linker at The Week. And its exponential growth, from modest bookseller to $700 billion juggernaut, "has been greatly aided by its avoidance of taxes." To this day, third-party vendors on the site often do not collect sales tax, and last year, Amazon reportedly paid zero dollars in federal taxes. It has undeniably used its massive size to ruthlessly squeeze competitors. Liberals never want to give Trump an inch. But it's shocking they've become "obsequious defenders" of such a rapacious company in the process.

Spare me, said Rich Lowry at the National Review. "There are many scourges in American life. Amazon isn't one of them." Its rise has been a boon for consumers, offering more choice and convenience at a lower cost. Yes, Amazon can be "sharp-elbowed and aggressive," but nobody "is forced to buy from it." What's shocking is that the president would harass such a classic "capitalist success story." It's tempting to chalk up these attacks to Trump just being Trump, said Yascha Mounk at Slate. But that would be a dangerous miscalculation. For an economy to grow at its full potential, "economic rather than political facts need to determine which companies thrive." That's not possible when a would-be strongman "can punish corporations at will," especially when it's an attempt to curb negative coverage of him. Trump's Amazon rants are a "political scandal of the first order" — and should be treated as such.

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