Can President Trump Win A War With Amazon?
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
So how much damage can President Trump really do to Amazon? The president attacked the retailer over the weekend - not for the first time. Amazon's founder, Jeff Bezos, owns The Washington Post, which reports independently on the president and which the president often criticizes. President Trump accused Amazon of evading taxes and taking advantage of cheap delivery by the Postal Service. Forbes contributor Pamela Danziger asked if the president could cost Amazon money. She's on the line. Good morning.
PAMELA DANZIGER: Good morning.
INSKEEP: OK, so bottom-line questions - can the president force Amazon to pay more sales taxes?
DANZIGER: Well, right now, Amazon is paying sales taxes in every state that has them. So, you know, the fact is that this is a nonissue. It is a bigger issue for other e-commerce vendors and retailers because they are really getting significant tax advantages. So from my point of view, that's an advantage that e-commerce should ultimately pay. It's something that should be corrected. But as for Amazon, Trump can't do any damage in that area.
INSKEEP: Oh, because they've been criticized years ago for this problem, and they've corrected it by starting to pay sales tax, as you're saying.
DANZIGER: There's no question. There's no question about that.
INSKEEP: So then the next question, bottom line - can the president force the Postal Service to jack up prices for Amazon?
DANZIGER: Well, you know, the Postal Service - and there's an interesting blog on the Postal Service statement about package delivery - is their growth vehicles. So in a way, to try to make Amazon, you know - to penalize Amazon for using the Postal Service would really not be in their best interest because that is where they're getting their money. That's where they're growing.
INSKEEP: You keep telling me that the things that the president criticizes Amazon for are nonissues. And we also know that Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post. Is there any doubt left about what this is really about?
DANZIGER: (Laughter) I think that that is really - that is where it all comes down to. I mean, President Trump is - you know, he claims to be a counterpuncher. And it seems like that is what he's doing with Bezos. He's picking a fight with him mainly because I think he is irritated by what Bezos is doing and saying in his Washington Post platform.
INSKEEP: And I guess Bezos would argue it's the reporters and the facts that are saying that and not Bezos himself, but here we are.
INSKEEP: Just very briefly - what if the president does find some way to damage Amazon? Who would lose in that case?
DANZIGER: Well, ultimately, if we look at the battle lines on which this war on Amazon is being drawn, the consumers are the ones who are going to suffer the most because Amazon has really responded to what consumers want. And that - they are the ones, as in any war, the citizens, the consumers, are the collateral damage in the war.
INSKEEP: Although I guess we should be clear, there's a lot of retailers who have hard feelings about Amazon putting them out of business.
DANZIGER: Well, my feeling is that retail is better because of Amazon because they had to respond. And Amazon has brought about the change to this - to the retail industry and made it more vibrant and more exciting as a result.
INSKEEP: So much to discuss there. Pamela Danziger, thanks so much, really appreciate it.
DANZIGER: Thank you.
INSKEEP: She writes for Forbes. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
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