Retailer lobby retaliates against White House Christmas threat

Neil Munro | White House Correspondent

The National Retail Federation issued a thinly veiled rebuke of President Barack Obama’s latest political gambit Monday, saying “we need leadership from policymakers in Washington, D.C. and a detailed plan based on fact, not fear … on reality, not rhetoric.”

The association’s statement responded to a Nov. 26 White House report that claimed the nation’s retailers would be hard hit if Republicans obstruct Obama’s proposal to raise taxes.

That report, titled “The Middle-Class Tax Cuts’ Impact On Consumer Spending & Retailers,” declared that “if Congress does not act on the President’s plan to extend tax cuts for the middle-class, it will be risking one of the key contributors to growth and jobs … at the most important time of the year for retail stores.”

The report buttressed its claim by citing the National Retail Federation’s forecast that Christmas sales will rise 4.1 percent this year. (RELATED: Disagreeing with Obama can ruin Christmas, says White House report)

But the trade group responded by demanding that Obama and his aides look past the immediate “fiscal cliff” negotiations and grapple with the nation’s larger fiscal problems, including the ballooning debt.

That debt has grown by roughly $1 trillion per year since Obama’s inauguration in 2009, and now stands at roughly $16.3 trillion.

The so-called fiscal cliff is the long-expected arrival in January of various scheduled spending cuts and tax increases that could suck $500 billion per year from the economy. Roughly 23 million Americans are already unemployed or underemployed.

“To resolve the larger problem with a stagnant economy, Congress and the Administration must take whatever steps necessary to not only avoid the looming ‘fiscal cliff,’ but to reform the tax code, fundamentally and structurally address federal spending and reduce the nation’s deficit,” said a statement from the retail lobby’s president, Matthew Shay.

Shay didn’t named Obama or either the Democratic or Republican party.

But his statement is a dig at Obama, who has repeatedly claimed that the country’s fiscal problems can be solved with a combination of immediate, large tax-increases, continued high spending and economic regulation, plus modest spending cuts that would trim government spending in several years.

“Just kicking the can down the road by cherry picking reforms only serves to reinforce the well-placed fears of American consumers and retailers that the status quo will once again rule the day,” Shay warned.

“If brinkmanship overtakes bipartisanship, we will continue to see less capital investment by retailers large and small, stifled job creation, and dampened consumer confidence, which will ultimately lead to lower retail sales and potentially another recession,” he predicted.

Shay also sits on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s “Committee of 100,” which has pushed back against Obama’s agenda of increased spending and regulation.

Prior to joining the National Retail Federation, Shay was president of the International Franchise Association, whose more than 1,100 companies are vulnerable to ambitious federal regulations on energy, health and employment.

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