By David S. Addington
President Obama’s Agriculture Department Tuesday 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.
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).
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.
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.
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 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.