Photograph by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images.
Was President Obama really trying to ruin Christmas with a now-sidelined plan to impose a 15-cent fee on fresh cut Christmas trees?
Depends on whom you ask. News of the so-called "Christmas tree tax" prompted an uproar on Twitter and on a number of conservative-leaning websites, with at least one Republican lawmaker (Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana) throwing around the word "Grinch."
The effort, which was scrapped by the administration on Wednesday, the same day it was set to go into effect, would have imposed the fee on most American growers for each fresh-cut Christmas tree sold this holiday season. ABC News explains that the proposal was backed by the very growers that would have had to pay the fee, and that the money would have gone to a new marketing board set up by the tree growing industry, much like the "Got Milk" dairy marketing campaign or the beef industry’s "What’s for Dinner" commercials.
Some of Obama’s most vocal critics, unsurprisingly, saw things a little differently. The Heritage Foundation, for one, argued that the 15 cents would be passed onto consumers. "The economy is barely growing and nine percent of the American people have no jobs,” David Addington, who previously served as Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, wrote on the group’s blog. "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."
White House spokesman Matt Lehrich had this to say in response to the whole thing: "I can tell you unequivocally that the Obama Administration is not taxing Christmas trees. What’s being talked about here is an industry group deciding to impose fees on itself to fund a promotional campaign."
The growers echoed that sentiment. "The program is not expected to have any impact on the final price consumers pay for their Christmas tree," the National Christmas Tree Association said in a statement.
Regardless, the White House said Wednesday afternoon that the Agriculture Department was delaying the implementation of the new fee and would take another look at the issue before making a final decision.