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Remarks at Macy's Fulfillment Center, Martinsburg, West Virginia

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank
Remarks at Macy's Fulfillment Center, Martinsburg, West Virginia

Thank you, Jim, and thanks to everyone here for the tour of this wonderful new distribution facility.  It’s great to be here in Martinsburg.

For the past four years, President Obama has put a top priority on promoting jobs and growth, helping to get this country out of the worst economic recession since the 1930s.

While we still aren’t where we want to be and unemployment is still too high, we are at a much better place than four years ago. The housing market is moving again, consumer spending is up, exports have risen strongly, manufacturing is growing, and–most important–over the past 32 months, we’ve created nearly 5.5 million new jobs.

To support this, the president has cut taxes for middle-class families and small businesses time and time again. In fact, a typical family making $50,000 a year has received cuts totaling about $3,600 in his first term.

Moving forward, we need to build on the growth we’ve seen as a result of the Administration’s policies.

We want to see companies like Macy’s–and their many suppliers–adding to American job growth. We want to see them building on the employment growth we’ve seen in the retail industry.  Since the recession ended (June 2009), the retail sector has accounted for almost 10 percent of all employment growth.

We want American businesses to stay busy this holiday season–and beyond–so that they can continue to make big investments in communities like this one.

The president talked about this in his meeting yesterday with the Business Roundtable–and it’s why I’m here today.

One of the best ways we can build on the job growth we’ve seen is by addressing the fiscal cliff issue in a balanced and equitable way.  

Right now, there is nothing more important to our continued economic growth than ensuring that middle class families in places like West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland–including workers here–feel confident that their families can count on stable jobs and a steady income, so they can buy things they need and want. 

After all, consumer spending accounts for about two-thirds of the U.S. economy. So it’s important that Americans don’t face a big hit to their wallets next year.  If we do nothing, taxes on the average American family will rise by $2,200 next year. That isn’t going to make shopping easy.

We must make smart choices that protect these families. After all, our economy grows from the middle out, not the top down.

That’s why all of us in the administration are directly reaching out to the American people to talk about the consequences of not reaching a balanced and equitable resolution to our current budget issues.

We can ensure that taxes won’t go up on middle-class families–right now–if Congress adopts the president’s plan. There’s no reason to wait.

So, let me be clear about what the president is proposing. Taxes will stay low for the first $250,000 of every American family’s income. And taxes won’t go up at all for 98 percent of America’s families and 97 percent of small businesses who make less than that.

Furthermore, the President has proposed a set of balanced budget changes, involving both increases in revenue and cuts to spending, that will reduce the government deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade. We know that we need to lay the foundation for long-term growth by reducing the deficit. The president’s plan would build on the $1.1 trillion in spending cuts that he has already signed. And we look forward to working with both Republicans and Democrats on a balanced approach to further reduce the deficit.

If Congress doesn’t act, it’s estimated that–next year–consumers could spend nearly $200 billion less than they otherwise would. Companies like Macy’s don’t want that to happen, the workers I met today don’t want that to happen, and the 15 million people working in the retail industry across the United States don’t want that to happen, either.

Instead, we want to provide businesses like Macy’s with the certainty they need to plan for the future.  

I think Macy’s CEO said it well: “With the election now behind us, it’s time for our elected representatives in Washington to come together to address our country’s most pressing problems.” He said, “These are not Democratic or Republican problems—they are American problems that affect every individual and industry, including fashion and retailing.”

I agree. Congress needs to give the middle class confidence–especially at this critically-important time of year when we’re all inclined to give the economy a little extra boost with our holiday shopping.

The president is committed to working collaboratively with leadership on Capitol Hill to find a solution. But he has been very clear that any effort must be balanced. It must include both revenues as well as budget cuts. We can’t just close loopholes and deductions for the wealthy to achieve the level of deficit reduction we need. Rates will need to play a role. Deductions are not enough to both reduce the deficit by $4 trillion in a balanced way and protect the middle class. And–furthermore–no one wants to eliminate things like charitable deductions that support churches, hospitals, and organizations that help needy families. Instead, we can continue to reduce our deficit while still investing in things that strengthen our American competitiveness and drive innovation–such as education, R&D, and infrastructure.

Americans are speaking up about their concerns regarding the potential tax increase that they will face, and calling on Congress to get this situation resolved.

For example, some of them are using the “MY2K” hashtag on twitter to talk about how that $2,200 they might lose in taxes would help them make home improvements, pay for their kid’s college, or even buy a new car.

Overall, we need to create a stable economic environment in which we can expect long-term and strong economic growth.  

Now is the time to make sure that both consumers and businesses like Macy’s remain confident about the strength of America’s economy and ability of our government to resolve problems.  Let’s get this done–the sooner the better.