Obama’s Christmas Tree Tax – UPDATES

When I saw the headline, I assumed it was from the Onion News Network.

Obama Couldn’t Wait; His New Christmas Tree Tax:

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 . . . 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 . . . [including] efforts to “enhance the image of Christmas trees and the Christmas tree industry in the United States” (7 CFR 1214.10).

You cannot criticize Obama or his Agricultural Department for this. They are taking a huge stand in favor of CHRISTMAS trees; they’re promoting CHRISTMAS trees.

Holiday trees, presumably, are not being similarly taxed.

Come one. This is adorable. Everyone who buys Christmas Trees — because they love them — will be spending an additional fifteen cents to help people understand why they should love Christmas Trees, or better-appreciate the Christmas Trees they are purchasing.

See, this is where Governor Walker made his mistake: If you want to call ‘em Christmas Trees, you have to tax them, first. Then you’re allowed.

UPDATE: Over at Facebook my friend Thomas L. McDonald, who is a dandy writer, wondered puckishly:

Doesn’t this amount to a tax on religious speech? Other questions: will there be a menorah tax? A halal tax? A tax for whatever it is pagans use to do whatever it is they do?

Hmmmm, quite the conundrum, there, since they have in fact called referred to these trees as “Christmas” trees. Perhaps the administration should have called them “Holiday” trees, after all, in order to avoid any and all suggestions that they were unduly taxing religious speech. Then again, “Holiday” does mean “Holy Day,” in which case, the thing might be unavoidable. Perhaps then, they should have referred to taxing “trees used for celebratory purposes on or around December 25.”

UPDATE II: Ed Morrissey says Satire is dead. And so are “live” Christmas trees.

I just thought we were supposed to not use live trees because you know, the environment and global warming.

UPDATE III: Ann Althouse gets serious and makes distinctions involving commerce:

In Wisconsin, we’ve got a tree in the state capitol, the government’s own display. Calling that particular tree a “Christmas tree” adds something to what already is the appearance that the state is endorsing or favoring a holiday that originated with one set of religious groups, the Christians.

In the case of the Department of Agriculture’s new Christmas Tree Promotion Board, the government is involving itself with a particular crop and using the name of the crop that is used by those who are in the business of growing that crop. That is, the Department of Agriculture is going about its usual business . . . and not giving special hands-off treatment to this crop that happens to have an end-use in activities that have some connection to a particular religion.


UPDATE IV: And just like that it’s Ixnay on the Axtay.
Whatever delayed means.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://breadhere.wordpress.com Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

    I am sorry – this is a bad idea, but your headline is irresponsible. It is not like he sat at his desk and thought this up. Your posting of late reminds me of a quote, “Be careful, lest in fighting the dragon you become the dragon.” Friedrich Nietzsche

    [Can we lighten up a little? When did the everyone lose their sense of humor? I think the whole thing is adorable. I mean, I'm amazed that (as Ed points out) media matters is taking this so seriously they need to say bring Bush into it. But then I suppose if Bush had done this, they and others would be excoriating him for it. I'm just trying to have some fun, Fran. No dragons. And the title? He's the president. Who else's tax would it be? -admin]

  • kevin

    Fran, the president is the responsible officer of the federal government in this case. It is his executive department.

    You hear these things and you really do start to wonder about what is going on in this guy’s head. Why the bizarre animosity to Christian symbols? Covering up IHS, omitting “under God,” taxing Christmas trees. I can’t tell if it’s his statist approach to government or a deep rooted hatred of religion.

  • Ellen

    Happily, I live in a part of the country where we use red cedar as the Christmas tree. And I have a cousin who lets me cut them for free.

  • CV

    I think this is all quite hilarious, but sadly it also makes my head hurt.

  • zmama

    I also thought this was from The Onion when I first read it. Truly boggles the mind.

  • Suburbanbanshee

    What kind of idiotic government office would impose a tax like this right before Christmas? Especially since every time adults see the tree, they’ll be thinking about how angry the tax makes them and making complaints about it, for the entire duration that their tree is up?

    You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch — and not a politically savvy one, either.

  • http://www.sherryantonettiwrites.blogspot.com Sherry

    Waiting for the athiests to scream of the coming Theocracy in 3…2…1

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny

    Asinine. Completely asinine. What is there about Christmas trees that we need to study? Can this be for real? Who thought of this? How could they even suggest it with a straight face? This administration needs to go.

    I hope the republicans in Congress stop this with legislation. Let the administration defend a “Christmas tax.”

  • http://obissister.com Obi’s Sister

    I was quite mocking as well. (http://justgrits.wordpress.com/2011/11/09/scrooge-mcbama/)

    These people boggle the mind.

  • G. Sprang

    Fox News confirms the story of the Christmas tree tax. However, they mention it, and the promotion program it supports, is meant to promote fresh trees, as opposed to artificial trees.
    In this light, it sounds like a case of discrimination against the artificial tree industry. I stand with those who say “let the market decide”.

  • http://breadhere.wordpress.com Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

    True enough about lightening up – point taken, understood.
    It is not as if any president sits around and thinks of things to tax and just does it with a wave of their hand; that is unless I missed something in civics class. After all (insert humor here) – I did study a long, long time ago!

    [I happen to agree w/ Sandra Day O' Connor that we need to re-institute civics classes. - admin]

  • dennis

    hey I goot neat idea……let’s apply a beauty Tax on all ribbon,bows and wrapping paper….a real compassionate thing to do………

  • friscoeddie

    As cat lovers both Elizabeth and I know cats run up trees and need help to get down.
    But Elizabeth has run up the Cain tree and now has topped out on the Christmas tree . Two trees two days.. fire dept says ‘get your own cat down.’
    as TMR points out there is no tax.. it’s a three year old industry idea.

    ““The program is designed to benefit the industry and will be funded by the growers at a rate of 15 cents per tree sold,” the release states. “The program is not expected to have any impact on the final price consumers pay for their Christmas tree.” these guys are upset too many are going for artificial trees and they need an ad fund.
    So the one tree you all need to back down on is ‘Obama wants 15 cents’ tree
    The Cain tree should hold you all… till all four blonds have a joint conference.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Yes! I say we all just wait until all four blonds (or is that “blondes”?) run up the Cat lovers’ artificial Christmas tree, from China—or maybe buy a tinfoil tree from Herman Cain, that devious soul!

    Meanwhile, the Fire Department says, “Stop running up that tree! And stop bashing Barack Obama! That’s against regulations!” Or maybe it was the Department of Blondes (or brunettes) who said that. Anyway, it has never happened in the history of business that, when taxes were raised on a product, businesses passed the cost along to the consumer. These guys need a tax fund, so why shouldn’t taxpayers pay for it? Anyhoo, Cain’s probably the one really responsible.

    Meanwhile, check in for further memos from the Department of Redheads!

    (friscoeddie, your point was. . . . ?)

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Not to joke, dennis!

    I’m sure something like that’s coming next. To help the ribbon industry. Or something.

  • Peter in Mpls.

    My distant relative – Baron General Von Riedesel – brought the tradition of Christmas Tree from Germany to North America. He also fought as a Hessian mercenary with the British against the Americans in the Revolutionary War. He’s probably thinking to himself as he rolls in his grave about this latest Christmas tree news: “Wasn’t that what the shooting was all about there in America – over such things as ridiculous taxes like that?”

  • cathyf

    Well, as the saying goes, “follow the money…”

    – Government collects millions with the express purpose of giving the money to public relations firms.

    – Elected government officials (aka “incumbent politicians”) distribute money to PR firms.

    – Incumbent politicians will very soon have need of the professional services of PR firms.

    – PR firms who received Christmas tree program money can express their gratitude to the incumbent politicians by giving them discounts on their political work.

    (Gee, can you tell that I’m from Chicago?)

  • NBW

    What a grinch! Taxing NOT the solution. It seems as though Christians are being singled out. What’s next?

  • kenneth

    First off, “Christmas trees” and the winter holiday they help celebrate, are about as Christian as Stonehenge.

    Second, these sorts of agriculture programs, for better or worse, are not new in any way. These sorts of taxes are not randomly imposed upon producers by politicians. They are the results of heavy lobbying by the producers themselves. It’s a self-imposed tax, although of course not all producers concur. To the extent the resulting ad campaigns convince more people to buy fresh trees, it will probably put some dollars in American hands, for a change. Essentially all artificial trees come from China these days. As far as the tax burden involved, 15 cents for an annual purchase is truly a pittance. Even in a poor neighborhood you can find that much lying on the pavement within a short time. Almost every food item you have in your Christmas dinner spread – ham, beef, dairy products, all have or at one time had similar marketing related USDA programs.

    If you want to see some real rip-offs in agriculture policy, take a look at sugar price supports sometime. The protectionist measures associated with domestic producers ensure that we pay two or three times the world price for sugar. They have cost more jobs than they have saved, but the program has been untouchable, and no wonder. The sugar industry donated more to both parties than the rest of the food-related industry groups combined.

    http://www.dailymarkets.com/economy/2011/10/20/lets-end-the-antiquated-job-killing-sugar-shaft/

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Just becauseproducers lobby for things, doesn’t mean politicians have to give in to them.

    And do we really need to give people incentives to buy Christmas trees? I didn’t realize they were so unpopular! (LOL!) And, isn’t it kind’ve a bad idea to slap on this tax right before Christmas—and during a very bad economy, when people are cutting back on presents, decorating, etc.? Because tree sellers are going to cover the tax by charging more for their trees.

    And it sounds as if the money’s just going to go to create another bureaucracy, not help businessmen in any way.

    Whether the Christmas tree’s origins are “Christian” or not, doesn’t matter; Christians use the tree to celebrate. They’re part of the Western Christian celebration. Christmas trees aren’t part of Diwali, Ramadan, Eid al Ftr or any Buddhist holiday; so, why are they getting smacked with a tax, instead of, say, prayer rugs, or incense or Wiccan crystal charms? Surely, taxing these things could raise lots of money to do wonderful stuff with the crystal industry, or rugmakers! Or howzabout taxing Kwaanza merchandise, so we can have a committee to popularize Kwaanza?

    And the fact that the sugar industry is handled badly, doesn’t make taxing Christmas trees a good idea.

    However, I’m sure it’s all Herman Cain’s fault. . . (Heh!)

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    I mean if Christmas tree sellers really want to sell more trees, why don’t they do what all the other eeeevil capitalist oppressers do? Hire a PR agency—on their own dime—or come up with newer, and better ways to offer their wares to the public? Have sales! Offer two-for-one deals! A free box of candy canes, with every tree you buy! Cute salesgirls in Santa suits singing, “Santa Baby!” Herman Cain, Romney or Obama pinatas to smack around, depending on your politics. Raffles! Better decorations! Running ads, on local T.V. stations! “Hi, I’m Cal Christmastime, and this is my Christmas tree, Spot!”

    And they’re not even going to get this money directly! The money’s going to go to form a committee to study the problem—and we all know how that’s going to work out! The new committee will travel to Europe, and Tahiti, to study Christmas trees in other lands. Then, they’ll come home and re-decorate their offices, while commissioning a task force to study the history of Christmas trees. Then, three years later, having run out of money, the tax on Christmas trees will go up to .25-cents—cuz they need to study the problem some more.

    Actually, at least where I live, Christmas tree selling is not a full-time occupation; it’s usually a sideline, of farmers and ranchers, who grow the trees on land they don’t otherwise use. So, for these guys, this tax help isn’t going to create new jobs, since they already have jobs. No one can make a full-time living just selling seasonal items.

    (By the way, we’ve been lectured for years as to how artificial trees are so much better for the environment! Are the Greens going to be told to stop this? That’s gonna get interesting. . . )

  • Holly in Nebraska

    I hope they don’t institute standards. We may no longer get to watch Charlie Brown decorate his tree because it gives other trees a bad rap. Not only that, he practically tortures an innocent tree. Mark Shea won’t be pleased. Rudolph’s tree may be starless because using endangered species to decorate trees may become illegal. Congress may pass a law: which is more appropriate–a star or an angel on top?
    (Please. A star.)

  • Greta

    The reason this gets legs is that the Democratic Party loves taxing everything that moves and also have little regard during the last few years for anything that reminds people of Christ or morals.

    I found it interesting that the white house and dems made such a big deal over the Issue 2 in Ohio getting voted down as if this was great news for Obama. However, with the large majority voting it down, you would have also assumed that the anti ObamaCare amendment would have also gone down to defeat but it passed with about the same margin of victory. To me, when you view those two together, it does not bode well for Obama in Ohio. Lets face it, folks were voting for their personal pocketbook and the unions pumped in 30 million bucks outspending the pro issue 2 side by almost 3 to 1. I think issues like this tax on Christmas trees is simply another reminder of what could be expected from a second Obama term where he never has to worry about election ever again.

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny

    @Kenneth:
    “First off, “Christmas trees” and the winter holiday they help celebrate, are about as Christian as Stonehenge.”

    However the ritual started is irrelevant. All cultures share and exchange customs. Culture is a continum, not a discrete phenomena. It’s the contemporary meaning behind the custom that really matters.

  • Suburbanbanshee

    I can’t think of a single Norse or Germanic association with pine trees or other evergreens, except maybe juniper shrubs and berries, the ubiquitous yew, and the tiny Balder-killing mistletoe. Oaks of thunder and ash as a symbol of the multiverse and men, are both deciduous and a lot bigger. They’re not anything like Christmas trees.

  • Suburbanbanshee

    The best info about Christmas tree origins is that they started as “trees of Paradise”, symbols of Eden. They showed up in medieval mystery plays about the Bible as the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, in the form of small evergreen trees with apples tied to their boughs. (Because a tree branch dies quickly, and because nobody is going to waste a productive orchard apple branch on being one prop in a day of Bible drama.)

  • kenneth

    Decorating indoor trees was recognized (and condemned) as a heathen practice even in Old Testament times by Jeremiah, though he didn’t specify evergreens. Decorating one’s home with evergreens around the winter soltice is a well-documented practice associated with Saturnalia – so much so that Tertullian found it necessary to specifically condemn the practice among Christians celebrating Christmas in his writings on idolatry.

    “Let those over whom Hell fire is hanging, fix to their doors laurels doomed presently to burn. You are the light of the world, you are the tree ever green…make not your own house a temple….”

  • SKay

    The Obama Christmas tree tax could backfire on the Christmas tree growers.
    Our nativity scene will be our main Christmas decoration this year.


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