The ‘Christmas Tree Tax’ that wasn’t

‘Obama’s New Christmas Tree Tax’ blasts a Drudge Report headline. ‘Merry Christmas? Agriculture Department Imposes Christmas Tree Tax’ reads a … Continued

Obama’s New Christmas Tree Tax’ blasts a Drudge Report headline.

Merry Christmas? Agriculture Department Imposes Christmas Tree Tax’ reads a Fox News headline.

John Dunham


Bill Thompson hangs bows on a 20-foot Christmas tree Monday, Nov. 7, 2011, in Owensboro, Ky.

The Christmas wars have come early this year.

Despite the provocative headlines and the outrage from some in the conservative blogosphere, it was not the Obama administration that initiated or imposed the newly announced 15-cent tax on fresh-cut Christmas trees; rather it was concocted by the Christmas tree industry itself.

(Update: 2:57 p.m: White House spokesman Matt Lehrich told Fox News Wednesday afternoon that the implementation of the program was being put on hold in light of the controversy.)

Rather than this being a case of the government trying to suppress religion, it is actually an unusual example of the government working with private industry to promote what many see as a religious symbol.

From the Heritage foundation’s blog:

The Christmas Tree Promotion Board will take the fee, charged to tree importers and producers and run a campaign (similar to the Got Milk? ads) to promote the merits of fresh-cut trees to the public. In an interview with Fox News, Agriculture Department spokesman Michael T. Jarvis “insisted the fee does not count as a tax, since the industry is effectively ‘assessing themselves.’” The fresh-tree industry has been hurt by the growing popularity of artificial trees.

In modern America, Christmas trees have been identified by the Supreme Court to have both secular and religious meanings. “Although Christmas trees once carried religious connotations, today they typify the secular celebration of Christmas,” wrote Justice Blackmun for the majority in County of Allegheny v. American Civil Liberties Union, Greater Pittsburgh Chapter, a 1989 case on religious displays. But for Christians, the tree has been traditionally seen as “an ancient symbol of life in the midst of winter,” writes Christianity Today.

Elizabeth Tenety
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  • ReindeerDippin

    If Obama or the tree industry is concerned about promoting Christmas trees — just have every tv in America programmed to “A Charlie Brown Christmas” on one of its two airings this December. (Hey, they did it today with the emergency broadcast system, so why can’t they do the same for Charlie Brown’s tree? Of course, my tv left the test and suddenly tuned to the Home Shopping Network … what a brilliant plot to kickstart the economy.)

  • Reverend_Jim

    A tax on xmas trees would essentially be a tax on christians……I wonder what the outrage would be if Obama attempted to tax menorahs or prayer rugs…..

  • midanae

    I disagree. While the number of Christians that don’t use Christmas trees may be negligible, there is a significant number of people who are not Christians that do use Christmas trees. This does not equate to a tax on Christians. A Christmas tree is not comparable to a menorah or prayer rug because the latter items are almost always used only by people who observe the associated religion.

  • tinalouise1

    no job, no money, no tree

  • njg45

    Oh please. We have to have ads for Christmas Trees now? It’s enough to make Scrooge smile.

  • Reverend_Jim

    That would be called a “Holiday” Tree………not a “Christmas” tree…

  • vadata060440

    Why not just tax the air we breathe; tax every bit of joy we manage to eke out
    of life, (despite the barrages of misery and anxiety from the media worry-warts)–tax beautiful sunrises and sunsets. How mean-spirited! It is said that everybody has a price, and the Christmas Tree Promotion Board was bought for the anticipated $2 million that will be frittered away on this and that.
    Perhaps just an all-purpose quality-of-life tax that could encompass all modes
    of happiness, so it wouldn’t exploit just those who celebrate Christmas.

  • truly1

    A nonsense issue ginned up by ridiculous conservative commentators to distract people from what really matters.


  • crete

    Church I went was opposed to Christmas tree, something about pagan origins, mistreatment of flying reindeer, and indentured servitude of elves. Maybe ReverendJim can point out the biblical reference to Christmas trees.

  • dmays58

    truly1 – rest and be assured it was NOT a conservative ginned up tax or surcharge. You cannot have it both ways Truly – You cannot verbally attack conservatives for “never seeing a tax they don’t want, yet blame them for creating a new tax when defending the Big O’s ability to add taxes, surchrges, mandatory purchases (ObamaCare), more taxes, etc”…It just won’t fly!

  • eeterrific

    But why?? Why??? Why did the government feel they needed to do this?

    There’s lots of discussion about corporate cronyism…and how to end it. Doesn’t this smack of that??

    ” the Secretary of Agriculture will appoint a Christmas Tree Promotion Board.”

    So we’ll give some of our “buds” positions on the “Christmas Tree Promotion Board”. That’ll be worth some campaign contributions.

    Stop it! Just stop it!

  • fusillijerry

    Really? Do you think this went in Obama’s inbox?

  • fusillijerry

    Oh boy. Wait til the artificial Christmas tree industry hears about this.

  • fusillijerry

    I doubt the President even knows about this yet.

  • boyleuk

    Many pre-Christian cultured venerated trees as part of recognising that they were part of the natural world that provided them with fire, shelter and food. Let’s stop being so damn PC.

  • Gerholdt

    Am I the only one to notice that 15 cents = a nickle and a dime?

  • waterbirds

    dm … it was the issue that the conservatives ginned up –

    all about 15 cents per tree … the top 1% who buy 20 trees will spend an additional $3.00.

  • waterbirds

    and if someone in the top 1% bought 20 trees – they would spend an additional $3.00.

  • waterbirds

    eet ? did you even read the article?

    It was not the Obama administration that initiated or imposed the newly announced 15-cent tax on fresh-cut Christmas trees; rather it was concocted by the Christmas tree industry itself.

    Now go to the black board and write the truth 10 times.

  • mattsoundworld

    The existance of a Christmas Tree Promotion Board should be clear evidence that the government is WAAAAYYY too big.

  • ontheotherhand…

    As always, the big corporations pass to us the cost of ‘promoting’ their own products. If the industry wants to promote anything, why don’t they pay for it? It is clearly a corporatist state we are living in. The corporations DEMAND less government but only when it is about instituting regulations to prevent them from ripping off the consumers. Otherwise, the function of government, according to these vultures, is to provide welfare for corporations, to provide the money and land and the people’s wealth for their ‘start off’ initiatives, and to absorb the loses and the risks of their ‘ventures’.

    Only a few can be business person with the government back up. The rest has to sell themselves to try open a business that lasts more than 5 years.

  • freetospeakeasy

    Maybe it wasn’t “concocted” by the administration, but they announced a tax imposed for a “federal program,” so they still represent the issue.

    The music industry took a dramatic turn with digital downloads, but you didn’t hear them begging for a funded marketing campaign. They took it upon themselves to adapt. Fifteen cents is no big deal now, but it’s the principle of the thing. If we give this mouse a cookie…

  • charlesmartel17

    Am I the only one who sees the absurdity of this issue? Also, please stop labeling everything liberal or conservative, and when someone does something stupid, name it for what it is, stupid.

    An Administration which has embraced the environmental agenda, is establishing a FEDERAL program not to prevent the destruction of the environment, but to promote the sale of trees.

    And if we want to be political, I’d say that the Republicans must have placed some good moles as advisers in the WH, because this measure looks more like a death wish than like a step to achieve some positive results. It’s plain stupid.

  • charlesmartel17

    Wow! you guys must belong to that special 1% because when I need
    $ 1.00 and have only $ 0.85 in my pocket, I’d sure like to find those extra $ 0.15 in the street.

    There is whole world of need beyond the gates of your mansions, so stop the adoring contemplation of your navel and look beyond the tip of your nose.

  • charlesmartel17

    They will start asking for some subsidies!

  • charlesmartel17

    The industry can request (they did it in 2009 according to the article) the moon if they want, but it takes the GOVERNMENT to establish a FEDERAL program.

    Now, go to the nearest wall and start hitting your head 20 times after you think through this stupid issue. Although wait! There is even a more stupid issue: defending stupidity!

  • charlesmartel17

    The Christmas tree originated with Luther and was later adopted by all of Christianity.

    whby460: I had not thought about this, but you are probably giving them too much credit. I think this issue is a matter of pure stupidity,

  • jen-X

    Oh please. Tax blah, blah, blah… Frankly it should cost more to cut something so precious down in the name of a holiday. Do something environmentally good and get a plastic one that will last you the rest of your life folks. I know, I know, it doesn’t smell as nice but in this economy when you’re complaining about the extra taxes, the money you’ll save on purchasing a tree once and for all will more than make up for it, no?