Joke writers received an early Christmas present this week when the Obama Administration announced plans to levy a tax on Christmas. Actually, the tax was not on Christmas, precisely, but on Christmas trees.
And not on all Christmas trees, just on real, “cut” Christmas trees as opposed to the artificial variety. Seems people prefer artificial trees. Sales of “fresh” trees have fallen significantly in recent years, while artificial tree sales nearly doubled from 2003 to 2007.
So, the folks at the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a 15-cent-per-tree tax on “producers and importers” of 500 trees or more. The money would go into an advertising campaign to promote freshly-cut real trees over artificial ones.
But is it even a tax?
“I can tell you unequivocally that the Obama administration is not taxing Christmas trees,” declared White House spokesman Matt Lehrich. “What’s being talked about here is an industry group deciding to impose fees on itself to fund a promotional campaign . . .”
But Jim Harper of the Cato Institute asked and answered the essential question: “Do Christmas tree farmers go to jail if they refuse to pay? Yes. It’s a tax.”
Once joke writers and commentators and real people (as opposed to the artificial variety) got wind of it, the tax/non-tax was scuttled with an announcement that “USDA is going to delay implementation and revisit this action.”
Don’t bother. As Robert Childress of the Texas Christmas Tree Growers Association posits, “I feel that marketing for my products is my responsibility . . .”
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.