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Why President Obama’s Amazon speech drew fire from GOP, booksellers

Published: Tuesday, July 30 2013 4:08 p.m. MDT

President Barack Obama walks from Marine One, across the South Lawn of the White House to the Oval Office, Tuesday, July 30, 2013, in Washington, as he returns from Chattanooga where he spoke about the middle class and the economy.

Carolyn Kaster, AP

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President Barrack Obama delivered an economic address Tuesday at an Amazon.com warehouse in Chattanooga, Tenn. His remarks angered two distinct groups for very different reasons: Republicans were upset about the substance of what Obama said, and booksellers objected to Obama’s explicit endorsement of Amazon.

Obama’s speech, Politico reported, outlined his economic proposal that “attempts to redefine the term ‘grand bargain,’ which has traditionally been viewed as a comprehensive deficit reduction package that includes entitlement spending cuts, tax reform and increased revenues.”

“As any middle-class family will tell you, we’re not where we need to be yet,” Obama said, per the prepared transcript of his remarks. “Even before the crisis hit, we were living through a decade where a few at the top were doing better and better, while most families were working harder and harder just to get by.

“Reversing this trend must be Washington’s highest priority. It’s certainly mine. But for most of this year, an endless parade of distractions, political posturing and phony scandals have shifted focus from what we need to do to shore up the middle class. And as Washington heads towards another budget debate, the stakes could not be higher.”

But as David Jackson wrote for USA Today, “Republicans quickly denounced Obama's idea as a new collection of old ideas, including higher tax revenues to pay for jobs programs of questionable validity. ‘The tax hike it includes is going to dampen any boost businesses might otherwise get to help our economy,’ said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. ‘In fact, it could actually hurt small businesses.’”

As for the American Association of Booksellers, the Los Angeles Times’ Carolyn Kellogg reported, “President Obama, who faithfully shops at independent bookstores when given the chance, has angered the American Booksellers Assn. … The appearance is ‘greatly misguided,’ ABA Chief Executive Oren Teicher wrote in an open letter to the president. That's because the online retailer has caused a net loss of jobs, the organization argues, while President Obama's goal is to promote his plan for a stronger economy.”

Salon.com’s Daniel D’Addario penned a piece Tuesday that pointed out how Obama’s endorsement of Amazon is somewhat undermined by the fact Amazon hasn’t turned a profit in 18 years.

“This visit comes at a time when Amazon’s clout in the book world, in Washington and on Wall Street seems increasingly unstoppable,” D’Addario wrote. “Obama’s speech is the exclamation point on a whirlwind several weeks in which Amazon has consolidated its position. Barnes & Noble looks increasingly shaky. Amazon lost $7 million in the second quarter, but Wall Street yawned again, sending Amazon shares higher. …

“The investment in Tennessee that Obama is hailing is particularly notable, coming as it does as the result of an agreement between the corporation and Republican Gov. Bill Haslam. … The agreement, struck in spring 2012, allows Amazon some twenty-one months of material advantage over bricks-and-mortar retailers in the state, bound to collect sales tax and thus charge higher prices for books.”

EMAIL: jaskar@desnews.com

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