Good Grief: Debunking The Myth Of The Obama Christmas Tree Tax

Nov 09 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Fox News and right wing media have claimed that Obama is taxing Christmas trees, but according to the National Christmas Tree Association there is no tax, just an industry regulated fee used for marketing and research.

Here is Gretchen Carlson on Fox and Friends spreading the false Obama Christmas Tree Tax meme:

Carlson claimed that Obama was adding a Christmas tree tax for the holidays, and that the government was grinching fifteen cents out of your pocket on the sale of each tree.

This may come as a surprise, but none of Carlson’s claims are true. Media Matters did some digging and found that the Christmas tree industry is starting their own Checkoff program.

Here is how Christmas Trees Magazine described the industry supported program,

Under the authority of the Commodity Promotion, Research, and Information Act of 1995 the USDA oversees the formation of Checkoff organizations. The purpose of establishing a Checkoff is to promote the agricultural commodity with the intent of expanding markets and increasing demand. Checkoff programs also provide funding for research.

Examples of other agricultural commodity Checkoffs include the egg, beef, pork, mushroom, milk, and honey, etc. industries. We’re all familiar with the Dairy industry’s ad campaigns; “Milk Does a Body Good” and “Got Milk.” “Pork: the Other White Meat,” “Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner” and “The Incredible Edible Egg” are recognizable slogans developed and funded by Checkoff programs. These four ‘big guns’ collect between $45 and $91.2 million in assessments annually.

Funding for promotions and research comes from within each industry. Fees could be assessed for example, in the Christmas tree industry, on a percentage of the selling price, per cut tree or per seedling basis. The amount of the assessment, who would participate, how the fees would be collected and how utilized, would be determined by the industry taskforce with the input of growers and attendees at the National Convention. Fresh imports (mainly from Canada) would be assessed at a comparable rate.

The live tree industry is advocating for this fee so that they can compete against imported cheap artificial trees, “Keeping the Real Tree industry viable in the face of imported fake trees is the challenge. A National marketing program with increased funding available for industry research is promising. If not through a Checkoff Program, then how?”

The industry is starting their own fund for research and marketing. The only role the government has is one of oversight. The fifteen cent fee goes to the private sector, not the government. Uncle Sam doesn’t see a dime. By smearing this fee, the right is attacking one of the traditional symbols of the holiday that they claim the left is out to destroy. Right wing media is willing to hurt one of their beloved private sector (holiday) job creators in order to attack Obama.

The right is apparently opposed to a private sector industry being allowed to set their own fees and prices so that they may compete with foreign imports. What is most interesting about this is that discussions about the Christmas tree checkoff program began in February 2008 during the presidency of George W. Bush.

In summary, Obama’s Christmas tree tax is not really a tax at all. The government doesn’t get any revenue from it. It is a private sector program like the “Got Milk?” campaign, which has its roots in the time period when Republican George W. Bush was president.

In pushing this false meme, right wing media may actually discourage Americans from buying live Christmas trees this year.

Merry Christmas, GOP. You blockheads!!

Image: One Page Wonder

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