Obama’s Christmas Tree “Tax”. Come on people.

November 9, 2011

I don't typically get political on this blog, but I feel I need to say something on this topic. Bear with me.

So if you watch a lot of Fox News or read a lot of Drudge Report, then you’re probably getting absolutely enraged about the “OBAMA CHRISTMAS TREE TAX” that is going to be levied against all you hard-working Christians this year. How dare he…who does he think he is?? Gosh darn Jesus-hatin’ freak. Jim Hoft stated that “Barack Obama hates Christians.” Um, really? I hate to tell you guys, but most “Christians” are buying fake plastic trees from China these days…get your fact straight will you?

Now, really folks, let’s use our brains here. I know these kinds of things are really fun for people like Sean Hannity and Jim Hoft to latch on to in order to generate false outrage which in turn generate big ratings for them and thus personal profits. It’s how they make their living. But we’re all much smarter than this, I truly believe it. But I realize that for those of you not in the green industry, like Sean Hannity and Jim Hoft, this new fee that’s being collected may not make a lot of sense to you or them. As someone who is in the industry (an industry that has allowed me to be gainfully employed as a productive tax-paying member of society for 20 years) let’s see if I can provide to you a rational explanation for what is actually going on.

Firstly, this is a 15 cent per tree fee paid to USDA by the Christmas tree growers and importers (who grow or import more than 500 trees a year). It’s not a “tax” on you. The fee will be collected by the growers in order for the USDA to provide collective national marketing messages about the benefits of buying US grown live Christmas trees as opposed to buying fake trees. This is a fee was actually proposed by the private industry during the Bush administration. It’s not new and it wasn’t generated by the Obama administration. Let’s try and focus on some facts here.

Why would the industry need the help of the USDA on this one you ask? Well, why would any struggling US industry need help in this economy…because Americans are putting their consumer dollars into foreign made product, that’s why.  I sell live American grown Christmas trees at the garden center I run. Christmas trees make up the majority of my sales for the entire month of December. The Christmas tree growing industry is a large and important part of the overall green industry. It can and should provide more than 100,000 American jobs annually (not including the jobs created at the retail level who are selling trees as part of their assortment), but that is declining severely. Why? Because Americans are choosing to buy petroleum based plastic xmas trees made in China en masse. This has resulted in a $6-7 million dollar sales decline in the last couple of years. That decline only continues to grow. Trust me, I know. The industry is hemorrhaging not only dollars but jobs…and it goes all the way down the supply chain to the people I either can or can’t afford to continue to employ based on our sales.

Most likely, the growers will pass that 15 cent cost on to me, the retailer. Now, more than likely, I will just absorb the cost (which I'm actually happy to do if the marketing helps increase my sales of trees), which I've continued to do on Christmas trees for the last 4 years, despite the fact that my costs have continued to rise. You as the consumer haven’t had to pay me a cent more for your Christmas tree during this entire economic recession even though I’ve lost profits…and thus the ability to increase wages for my staff. Now, at some point, I’m going to have to recoup that cost increase. At the most you might see a $.15 -.30 increase in the price of your fresh Christmas tree. You’ll pay this in order to support an American industry that provides a renewable American grown product that provides American jobs. So, what exactly are we all bitching about?

Everyone seems to constantly be screaming at the “government’ to create jobs for us. Personally, I don’t feel it’s the government’s job to create a job for me, or anyone. The government’s job is to provide infrastructure, so we can all do business, and provide some level of security and stability for all citizens, regardless of their income levels.  So, we’re screaming at them to save jobs…that’s why they are stepping in on this one…to save American jobs. And they aren't doing it by taxing you, they are collecting fees from the industry, as compensation for marketing. Make up your mind folks, you either want them involve in jobs or you don’t.  And if you’re going to hold them responsible for creating or saving jobs, then don’t “outraged” when they try to do just that.

Overall, we’re talking about around $2 million dollars that will be collected from the private industry to promote their product.  We spent billions of our hard earned tax dollars to bail out the big private banks and financial institutions, which were not only poorly run and managed but who were engaging in outright fraud…who then went on to give out millions in bonuses, but now won't extend funding to these kinds of businesses. Did you know that Bank of America started pulling its credit lines for growing industry operations all over the country in the last two years?  This has hit many growing operations hard and put them out of business, costing job after job. I’m losing vendors…business that were providing outstanding American grown products and providing American jobs. I’ve lost a big chunk of sales as a result of losing these vendors. So, we’re willing to bail out private banks with inordinate amounts of tax dollars actually collected from individual’s paychecks. But we aren’t willing to accept the Christmas tree growers are going to contribute $2 million dollars to the USDA to help promote sales of their product, thus re-fueling their industry and hopefully helping to hold on to American jobs? I don’t get it. Maybe we should all be asking What Would Jesus Do.

Look folks, almost ALL industries in this country have organizations they belongs to, and pay fees to, in order to collectively promote their products or sponsor research for. Be it technology, health care, automobiles, you name it. Because that collective marketing power is stronger than individual marketing efforts. Maybe we should be just slightly more outraged at the dollars that get thrown at the government via lobbyists to buy votes, for I don't know, the Pharmaceutical industry? Eh, call me crazy.

And why shouldn’t we be collectively promoting fresh Christmas trees?  Fresh trees are a greener option than all those petroleum plastic based trees made in China that most Americans are buying these days. Christmas trees are a renewable American resource. They also absorb carbon dioxide, create oxygen, are biodegradable, can be recycled as mulch and provide refuge for wildlife. Again, the U.S. Christmas Tree industry creates as many as 100,000 U.S. jobs each year. To ensure a constant supply, tree farms plant up to 3 new seedlings for each tree harvested. Plus, fresh trees and greens will never sit in a landfill for centuries after disposal.

I totally understand the argument that the government shouldn’t be getting involved in promoting private business. As a retailer, I have to spend a big chunk of cash on marketing and advertising to support sales of my product. But I could never afford to pay for a national campaign to promote the benefits of home gardening. Could your business afford to do that?  Again, you guys didn’t seem to mind when we bailed out private banks so you could keep raking in your hedge dividends and their executives to get their “well deserved” bonuses.. Realize that small to mid-sized businesses in this country are suffering. If the Christmas tree industry has collectively agreed that they think the USDA can help them improve the image of their product nationally, better than they can do on their own, then what’s the problem?

If you don’t like this 15 cent fee on Christmas trees, then you have the power to get rid of it. It’s called buying an American grown live tree this Christmas, instead of buying a crap plastic tree made in China sold at Walmart this year. Americans have the purchasing power to put Americans back to work. So if you don’t want the government involved in your capitalist economy, then put your money where your mouth is. Go Fresh this year, Not Fake. I firmly believe that you get what you pay for. That goes for your economy too. Your choice.


Just for the record, I’m not a “Democrat” or a “Republican”. I’m an Independent voter. I’m a proponent of business and of personal accountability and responsibility. So  I am calling out “Conservatives” on this one that are claiming  “Obama Hates Christians”…I think this is what was actually meant by "don't take the Lord's name in vain"...They are getting it all wrong, and they are intentionally mis-leading you. I think rather that this rhetoric of theirs is really “anti-jobs”. Maybe they are the ones that really “Hate American Workers” with real jobs.

Alright, that's my rant for the day...Peace and love!

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