Shoe Salesmen Lobby Seeks Tax Deduction to Help Stabilize Struggling Industry

April 1, 2008

Today, the National Association of Shoe Salesmen® (NASS) took to Capitol Hill and called on Congress to give much needed relief to the footwear industry. NASS® is calling on legislators to implement a one-time above-the-line tax deduction for those who purchase a qualifying new pair of shoes through the end of 2008.

“Our industry hasn’t been this devastated since the terrible rubber workers strike of 1976,” said NASS® Lobbyist Gary Voiganella. “Help is needed for this industry that is vital to the U.S. economy and part of the American dream, and the best way is through a tax deduction equal to 25 percent of the purchase price for each pair of shoes purchased this year.”

NASS®, which is famous for establishing the unwritten rule that shoe salesmen must receive a 6 percent commission on all sales, said in a statement from NASS® Chief Economist Larry Nuy that this deduction would create 20 million new AMERICAN jobs (emphasis in original), wipe out global poverty, end all prejudice, ensure lasting world peace, and cure cancer.

On Capitol Hill, there is strong support among most congressional Republicans for the deduction. One aide to a senior Republican member when asked whether he’d support the proposal said “it’s a tax cut, isn’t it?” He added, “This is a no-brainer. Cutting taxes on shoes will revitalize the shoe industry by so much that the nation’s economy will grow and revenues will actually increase as a result of this tax cut, not fall.” But that aide also added that this member would only support the deduction under two conditions — illegal immigrants are not allowed to claim the deduction and border agents who use special shoes to run down those trying to cross the border receive double the deduction.

On the other side of the aisle, a spokesperson for one Democratic lawmaker said that while the industry does deserve government assistance, he’s concerned that such a proposal could be tilted in favor of the wealthy that are more likely to buy new and expensive shoes. Spokesperson Mike Wilson said, “In principle, Democrats would be willing to support such a bill because so many of the 47 million uninsured in America don’t have access to quality shoes. But as for this deduction, we can’t allow wealthy Americans who have already benefited disproportionately from the tax cuts over the past eight years to buy six pairs of Gucci loafers and write them off at their higher tax rates, while poor families must purchase shoes at Payless and get a small tax benefit. Give us a refundable credit that was capped at a $150,000 income level and we’d be on board.”

Other Democrats were concerned that the bill did nothing to further regulate predatory shoe salesmen, and they questioned the impact the deduction would have on the U.S. trade deficit, arguing that by not restricting the deduction to “Fair Trade Shoes,” this proposal is just part of a continual assault on the middle class because higher shoe consumption would drive more good-paying, health care-providing American jobs overseas. Some Republicans sang a similar tune, saying that this proposal would do little to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign shoes.

The White House was the most boisterous in its opposition to the proposal, arguing that since Malaysia is a large producer of rubber and at the same time contains a strong Al-Qaeda presence, supporting this measure would allow the terrorists to win. “We can’t play shoe politics with America’s security,” said one White House spokeswoman.

Despite these mixed reviews the proposal is receiving in Washington, NASS® vows to fight on. “Wearing shoes is part of the American dream,” said one shoe salesman. He added, “It’s amazing anyone is buying shoes at all right now in the absence of the tax preference. People right now are just wearing old shoes that are uncomfortable, causing our health care costs to skyrocket. We put in office our elected officials to prevent this type of catastrophe from occurring, and we demand action.”

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