Welcome to the newest battle in the so-called war on Christmas: The Department of Agriculture wants to impose a 15-cent fee on each fresh-cut Christmas tree produced or imported by large domestic Christmas tree companies — which proposed the fee themselves as a way to fund a new marketing campaign designed to boost sales in a sagging economy. The fee was supposed to take effect Wednesday, but Team Obama is reportedly delaying implementation after a massive uproar from conservatives. Was this so-called tax really a "knucklehead move"? Here's what you should know:
Christmas tree growers wanted this fee?
Yep. By charging 15 additional cents a tree, growers are hoping to raise $2 million a year to help promote holiday sales, says the Chicago Tribune, especially as more and more recession-battered consumers opt for artificial trees. The growers want to ape other industry-wide ad blitzes, such as the dairy concern's "Got Milk?" campaign and the beef industry's "What's for dinner?" commercials.
So Obama isn't behind this?
No. "It has absolutely nothing to do with Obama," National Christmas Tree Association spokesman Rick Dungey tells Talking Points Memo. And "it's not a tax." Growers have been planning this initiative "for three and a half years." The government is just implementing it. It's unfortunate that someone is trying "to smear" us. All we growers want is to pool our money to promote our crops.
And conservatives are still angry?
You bet they are. "Just because the Obama Administration has the legal power to impose its Christmas Tree Tax doesn't mean it should do so," says David S. Addington at the Heritage Foundation's Foundry blog. "And, by the way, the American Christmas tree has a great image that doesn't need any help from the government." Yeah, "what kind of a country is this turning into?" asks Steve Flesher at Conservatives 4 Palin. Since when do "we need a government to tell us how to 'enhance' our Christmas trees?"
But the tree industry needs the help, right?
Apparently so. American tree growers still market "an estimated 17 million fresh-cut Christmas trees each season," says Ann Compton at ABC News. "But the real Grinch for them is the artificial holiday tree, for which [annual] sales have topped 17.4 million."