December 2011

The Christmas Tree Tax: A Symbol of President Barack Obama’s Administration

By John Hendrickson

In early November it was reported that the Department of Agriculture “will impose a new 15-cent charge on all fresh Christmas tress — the Christmas Tree Tax — to support a new federal program to improve the image and marketing of Christmas trees.”[1] David Addington, who serves as Vice President of The Heritage Foundation, described the details of the Christmas Tree Tax when he wrote:

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 expand 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).’[2]

In order to pay for this new program by the Department of Agriculture promoting the Christmas tree industry, the government will impose “a 15-cent fee on all sales of fresh Christmas trees by sellers of more than 500 trees per year.”[3] “And, of course, the Christmas tree sellers are free to pass along the 15-cent federal fee to consumers who buy their Christmas trees,” noted Addington. The Christmas Tree Tax is just another example of the current Administration’s push to increase taxes on a weak economy with high unemployment.

An editorial in the Investor’s Business Daily noted that the Department of Agriculture would raise about $2 million in fees to support the Christmas Tree promotion board.[4] Investor’s Business Daily also noted that the Christmas tree industry “has been losing market share to the artificial tree industry,” and the Christmas Tree Tax would “help pick its industry as a winner over its artificial tree rivals with this board and its tax.”[5]

Since the story of the Christmas Tree Tax made national media, a public outcry has forced President Barack Obama and his Administration to delay the implementation of the tax.[6] Although this is a small victory for taxpayers, it is also a symbol of the nature and philosophy of President Obama and his Administration with their preference for tax increases and more regulation over the economy. “The economy is barely growing and nine percent of American people have no jobs. Is a new tax on Christmas trees the best President Obama can do,” asked Addington?[7] President Obama, after the $850 billion stimulus failed to stimulate the economy, proposed his American Jobs Act, which called for more stimulus spending. In addition, the hostile class warfare rhetoric, increases in regulatory policies, along with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act have created an albatross of uncertainty hanging over the economy.

The Christmas Tree Tax may be tabled for the time being, but it is one more unfortunate example of why the nation needs to return back to constitutional limited-government principles. What is needed to restore the economy is across-the-board tax reform, spending reductions, and regulatory reform, which will create economic growth. It is time to seriously answer the question posed by Senator Barry M. Goldwater in his landmark book, The Conscience of a Conservative, when he asked: “How did our national government grow from a servant with sharply limited powers into a master with virtually unlimited power?”[8]

John R. Hendrickson is a Research Analyst at Public Interest Institute. 

The views expressed herein are those of the author and not necessarily those of Public Interest Institute or Tax Education Foundation.  They are brought to you in the interest of a better-informed citizenry.

[1] David S. Addington, “Obama couldn’t wait: His new Christmas Tree Tax,” The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation, November 8, 2011, <http://blog.heritage.org/2011/11/08/obama-couldnt-wait-his-new-christmas-tree-tax/> (accessed on November 10, 2011).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Editorial, “The Grinch Tax,” Investor’s Business Daily, November 9, 2011, <http://news.investors.com/Article/591177/201111091859/The-Grinch-Tax.htm> (accessed on November 10, 2011).

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Addington.

[8] Barry M. Goldwater, The Conscience of a Conservative, MJF Books, New York, 1990, p. 13-14.