"Christmas tree tax" sidelined after uproar
Forest worker Peter Otto carries two fir trees during the official opening of Christmas tree season in Stolpe, northern Germany, on Nov. 9, 2011. / CARSTEN REHDER/AFP/Getty Images
Amid an uproar from conservative critics, the Obama administration has decided to delay implementation of a fee that would have allowed the Christmas tree industry to create a promotional campaign to encourage people to buy fresh-cut pine trees, the White House said Wednesday.
The United States Department of Agriculture "is going to delay implementation and revisit this action," White House Assistant Press Secretary Matt Lehrich told CBS News over email.
The fee, nicknamed the "Christmas tree tax" by its opponents, would have implemented a 15-cent-per-tree charge on Christmas tree suppliers who sold or imported over 500 trees a year, according to USA Today.
The White House was adamant that the White House was not seeking to impose a tax on Christmas trees.
"I can tell you unequivocally that the Obama Administration is not taxing Christmas trees," said Lehrich. "What's being talked about here is an industry group deciding to impose fees on itself to fund a promotional campaign, similar to how the dairy producers have created the 'Got Milk?' campaign."
The USDA said most growers are in favor of the fee because it would ultimately help their bottom line. Agriculture Department spokesman Michael T. Jarvis told FOXNews.com that there are over 20 similar promotional campaigns supported by the department, which have helped their respective industry grow.
"We have good reason to believe it [would] be successful for our industry," Betty Malone, an Oregon tree farmer and president of Christmas Tree Promotion Now, told the Miami Herald Tuesday. "We looked at what other industries have done, and how successful they've been."
But some conservative pundits claimed that the fee was a Grinch-inspired move. Heritage Foundation Vice President David Addington, who wrote about the fee on his blog on Tuesday, claimed President Obama was killing the spirit of Christmas by "taxing" a time-honored tradition, and warned that the fee could potentially raise the prices of trees - even though the National Christmas Tree Association insisted that the fee would not be passed on to consumers.
Criticisms of the fee swept across the conservative media landscape Tuesday night, landing the lead spot on the influential "Drudge Report" and prompting outrage from numerous conservative-leaning blogs.
According to Addington, one of the largest concerns was that the "Christmas tree tax" proved just how much Big Brother was controlling our lives. By allowing the Christmas tree industry to promote their own products, he argued, the government was creating an unfair market advantage against plastic tree resellers.
"If it's one thing I think the free market could handle, it's letting people decide what kind of tree they want to buy for Christmas," Addington told FoxNews.com.
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