At the end of last week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on H.R. 1947, the farm bill for 2014. As usual, the agricultural appropriations bill is an opportunity for particular members of Congress to promote their favorite corrupt or silly ideas. A few sensible ideas in a farm bill typically get crowded out by policies that will maintain the dominance of the industries that are at the top o the agricultural food plan… and by just plain weird ideas from politicians who have food issues or conspiracy theories.
One example of the latter category of farm bill additions came from U.S. Representative Jackie Walorski last week, in the form of H. Amdt 214. H. Amdt 214, if approved for addition to H.R. 1947, would have continued a ban on “the Christmas tree tax”.
A tax that specifically targets Christmas trees sounds like a nasty idea, doesn’t it?
Before her amendment was voted on, Representative Walorski warned that, if the Christmas tree tax is allowed to go into effect this year, it would create economic harm to “moms and dads and single parents who are struggling to make ends meet to pay their monthly bills and to pay their mortgages and still have enough left in their budgets to put food on the tables and fill up the gas tanks.”
A tax that specifically targets Christmas trees and harms families who are struggling to make ends meet sounds downright despicable. Even worse, Representative Walorski says that the Christmas tree tax would be forced upon small business owners who don’t want to pay it.
If you’re feeling outraged about this Christmas tree tax right now, let me offer you a quick dose of reality as an antidote. The Christmas tree tax isn’t really a tax that’s being foisted upon the Christmas tree industry. It’s a fee that Christmas tree growers have asked to pay, which would go into a fund to pay for the marketing of natural Christmas trees (as opposed to artificial Christmas trees, most of which are made in factories in Asia, and shipped all the way across the Pacific Ocean).
The fee-for-marketing arrangement is a replica of a model that has been successful in other agricultural areas, such as cotton, beef, and dairy. Remember the Got Milk? advertisements? They were paid for through a similar, government-sponsored, industry-paid, mechanism.
Representative Jackie Walorski hasn’t complained a bit about the similar programs for other agricultural products. She has only raised objections about what she calls the “Christmas tree tax”. Why?
Well, the concept grabs attention, doesn’t it? The idea of taxing something related to Christmas sounds almost Communist, and forcing a new expense upon hard-working people at Christmas time, when they’re struggling most sounds not just heartless, but dramatically heartless. Drama seems to be what Representative Walorski is most in need of.
The economic burden of the Christmas tree marketing fee, however, is nominal, if it exists at all. It’s 15 cents per tree. So, even if a family went tree-happy and got five Christmas trees per year, the economic burden for that family would still be less than one dollar.
Furthermore, the idea of the marketing program is that it’s an investment – one that the Christmas tree industry is eager for. They’re hoping that, as with most marketing investments, they’ll get a larger return than what they’re paying out to begin with. So, there’s a possibility that the so-called Christmas tree tax could even prevent price increases on Christmas trees in the years to come, providing a tiny economic benefit for hard-working American families.
Representative Kurt Schrader stepped up to the House floor and carefully explained these details to his colleagues. He patiently pointed out Walorski’s misperceptions and distortions. Still, when Walorski’s amendment came to a vote, 197 members of the U.S. House of Representatives still couldn’t grasp these basic concepts through their heads. These 197 voted for Walorksi’s amendment. They are…
(Among them are Representatives Dan Maffei and Jared Polis. I especially note these Democrats as people who ought to have known better. You’ve got some explaining to do, guys.)