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09 November 2011

Repudiation: Accusation of Fake New Tax Hurts Christmas Tree Farms

Several years ago, during the administration of President Bush (43), the National Christmas Tree Association decided that they should endeavor to promote themselves as the dairy industry does with the "Got Milk?" campaign.  The way the dairy campaign works is that milk producers chose to contribute three cents for each gallon of milk that they produced to jointly market their product.  One could call this a voluntary tax; it was certainly not imposed on any dairy farmer.

David Addington wrote a blog article on 8 November at the Heritage Foundation decided to blame President Obama for a new tax, which resulted in undermining the efforts of the National Christmas Tree Association and hurting farmers of Christmas trees in the long run.  Here are the lies of Mr. Addington and my responses to parts of his lies.

President Obama’s Agriculture Department today announced that it will impose a new 15-cent charge on all fresh Christmas trees—the Christmas Tree Tax—to support a new Federal program to improve the image and marketing of Christmas trees.

Nope.  There was not going to be a tax "imposed".  It was to be voluntary, like dairy producers.

In the Federal Register of November 8, 2011, Acting Administrator of Agricultural Marketing David R. Shipman announced that the Secretary of Agriculture will appoint a Christmas Tree Promotion Board.  The purpose of the Board is to run a “program of promotion, research, evaluation, and information designed to strengthen the Christmas tree industry’s position in the marketplace; maintain and expend existing markets for Christmas trees; and to carry out programs, plans, and projects designed to provide maximum benefits to the Christmas tree industry” (7 CFR 1214.46(n)).  And the program of “information” is to include efforts to “enhance the image of Christmas trees and the Christmas tree industry in the United States” (7 CFR 1214.10).

That's right, a "Christmas Tree Promotion Board" like the Milk Processor Education Program. This was to be an effort supported by the Christmas tree farmers to help market Christmas trees.  What a radical notion.

To pay for the new Federal Christmas tree image improvement and marketing program, the Department of Agriculture imposed a 15-cent fee on all sales of fresh Christmas trees by sellers of more than 500 trees per year (7 CFR 1214.52).  And, of course, the Christmas tree sellers are free to pass along the 15-cent Federal fee to consumers who buy their Christmas trees.
Imposed is the wrong word.  It was what Christmas tree farmers requested.  Yes, that fifteen cents would probably have been passed on to consumers, despite what was said in a Fox News article today, The industry itself further rejected the claim that the fee would be passed onto consumers. The National Christmas Tree Association said in a statement that the program "is not expected to have any impact on the final price consumers pay for their Christmas tree." 

Acting Administrator Shipman had the temerity to say the 15-cent mandatory Christmas tree fee “is not a tax nor does it yield revenue for the Federal government” (76 CFR 69102).  The Federal government mandates that the Christmas tree sellers pay the 15-cents per tree, whether they want to or not.  The Federal government directs that the revenue generated by the 15-cent fee goes to the Board appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture to carry out the Christmas tree program established by the Secretary of Agriculture.  Mr. President, that’s a new 15-cent tax to pay for a Federal program to improve the image and marketing of Christmas trees.
The Acting Administrator had the temerity to tell the truth!  Guess what?  The Christmas tree industry wanted to do this!  This was not a proposal of President Obama, who the Heritage Foundation would love to accuse of creating new taxes.  This was from the tree farmers.

Nobody is saying President Obama doesn’t have authority to impose his new Christmas Tree Tax — his Administration cites the Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act of 1996.  Just because the Obama Administration has the legal power to impose its Christmas Tree Tax doesn’t mean it should do so.
The Obama Administration was not going to impose anything.  Mr. Addington is lying.

The economy is barely growing and nine percent of the American people have no jobs.  Is a new tax on Christmas trees the best President Obama can do?
This is nonsensical.  President Obama is not trying to place a tax on anyone here.

And, by the way, the American Christmas tree has a great image that doesn’t need any help from the government.
Please, Mr. Addington, explain that to the National Christmas Tree Association who felt that they did.  If you look at their blog entries, they are waging a quiet war against fake trees.  They want to do a better job of marketing their trees.

Following Mr. Addington's lies, Congressman Steve Scalise of Louisiana decided that he had to stop the imposition of this supposedly unwanted tax.
"It is shocking that President Obama tried to sneak through this new tax on Christmas trees. He might have thought nobody would realize what he did, but I will fight to prevent President Obama from becoming the Grinch who taxed Christmas,” Scalise said. "At a time when hard-working families are struggling in a tough economy, it is hard to believe that President Obama would single out Christmas as a time to break his promise that he would not raise taxes on middle class families. This new tax is a smack in the face to each and every American who celebrates Christmas, and may be the best example to date of President Obama's obsession with taxing and regulating hard-working American families.  A new tax on Christmas trees is something not even Dr. Seuss' Grinch could imagine, yet now it exists on the books in America unless we can reverse it quickly.  President Obama has pledged repeatedly not to raise taxes on those earning less than $250,000, but this multi-million dollar tax does just that - hitting hard-working middle class families squarely in their wallet at the peak of holiday season.  I'm calling on President Obama to stop acting like the Grinch and repeal this absurd tax."
Thank you, Mr. Addington and Mr. Scalise.  You have told lies that make each of you a real grinch for the Christmas tree industry.  Shameful lies that hurt business.

Thanks to Talking Point Memo for the heads up.

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