Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The "Christmas Tree Tax"

The Obama Administration announced the imposition of a new fee on the sale of every Christmas tree in the nation. The new levy was first announced in the Federal Register yesterday. It is being imposed to fund a public relations campaign to “enhance the image of Christmas trees and the Christmas tree industry in the United States.”

Opponents popped up immediately. One opponent said “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? And, by the way, the American Christmas tree has a great image that doesn’t need any help from the government.”

But the Administration is adamant that the new levy is not a tax — it is a fee. The White House has sent out its spokesmen to push this assertion. In one instance, White House spokesman Matt Lehrich told ABC News that “I can tell you unequivocally that the Obama Administration is not taxing Christmas trees. What’s being talked about here is an industry group deciding to impose fees on itself to fund a promotional campaign, similar to how the dairy producers have created the ‘Got Milk?’ campaign.”

I guess it can't be a tax since it's being done by an executive department and not by Congressional legislation. But this White House statement is quite dishonest. If it were true, there would be no need for government involvement. And there would be no government involvement. If it were true, the industry groupd would implement the fee, and Christmas tree sellers — at worst — would have to choose between paying the fee or withdrawing from the organization. But this fee is mandatory. It is implemented by the government, to be used for projects managed by the government. And you can bet the first costs paid from the fee will be for the government bureaucrats to manage the program — in this case, the new federal Christmas Tree Promotion Board. That's not "an industry group deciding to impose fees on itself." Especially since a significant number of Christmas tree sellers don't want it and are pretty vocal about saying so.

The only bright spot in this story is that the White House has apparently wised up just a little. It has announced that implementation of the new tax/fee will be delayed, and its existence will be revisited. Since I'm feeling a bit cynical today, I'll guess that means they'll put it through at a time they think people won't notice till it's too late.

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