Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Very Mis-informed Christmas

This is a political post
Oh Christmas Tree....

A "friend"....okay, a guy I went to college with who I reconnected with on FB, posts a link. He's upset and hot. But then, I'm fairly confident he's got a end of the Obama Administration countdown app on his iphone so, there's that. It seems the USDA has decided to place a 15 cent tax on Christmas trees to fund the Christmas Tree promotion board. The article, at the conservative site I read it on, blames it on Obama ( because obviously the President has nothing better to do) and uses this as more proof the administration is "out of control" and attacking "real" American values. 

I thought at first...really? But then you read down further and see it's only 15 cents per tree, not 15 the article's supposition is this increase will be swept under the rug by the mainstream media. Then I look at it a little closer, and something doesn't look right. There is no link to the actual law or regulation so I put the cite in Google and the only place it pops up, are in articles that mention this "new tax".

So I look at cite again - 7 CFR 1214. But that cite isn't for the Federal Register, that's the cite for Code of Federal Regulations. Okay, a little skeptical now, but  I figured maybe the government has had a rule change, so lets look at the original rule. Only 7 CFR 1214 deals with Kiwi fruit...not Christmas Trees. So now I'm a little confused. 

So I check the Federal Register at There, you can look up things by all kinds of ways, so I check the cite again, and nothing. No hits. So I look up the word "tree", and turns out the actual cite is 76 FR 69094. So wait, this true? Could the conservatives be right? So why not cite it properly so people could find it, since it is actually here. Hmmm.  

So I start reading. The Christmas Tree Promotion Board is made up of 12 members - 11 producers and one importer. So, now I'm even more confused...this is an industry board, made up of members of the private sector.  Next it goes through all the legal authority and justifications, processes, explaining notice and comment, etc, then to the history.

Now, the original article had started out with how outraged we should all be at this insult to Christmas, and how the Christmas tree industry doesn't need any help. I wonder if the person that wrote that actually read the background section, because the people they think it will injure - i.e., the Christmas Tree industry - are the proponents of the plan. The Christmas Tree producers are the ones who asked for this!

It turns out sales in the "live" Christmas Tree industry have been on the decline for thirty years while "artificial" Christmas trees sales are on the rise. The "live" section of the industry is asking the government to enforce a tax on them, so they can organize to improve their sales.

Voluntary taxation? Unthinkable.

Then I got to page 9 of the lovely PDF that happens with the correct cite, and there I found some odd language. Just so you know, the process of making a rule involves notice - the government notifying people they're going to change the rule in say, the Federal Register - and a period of comment - where people can tell the government their views and suggest changes and even ask questions. Page 9 is where they finally got to answering the objections, and someone already questioned the constitutionality of the "tax".  There the government answered with a succinct " However, the assessment provided for in this type of program is not a tax nor does it yield revenue for the Federal government. These producer and importers funds raised by producers and importers are for the benefit of producers and importers."

So it's not a tax. By definition. Says so right there in the document.

Nor does this unfairly promote the live tree industry.  It also doesn't violate the establishment clause. They even take a moment to remind Texas they're one of the 50 states.

So what was the point? Why the outrage? Why the screaming?

Then I realize where this originally came from, and then who it's targeted at. It's just to rile up people who already don't like the President. But then when you don't like someone, everything they do is offensive.

Today I read that the tax has been "scrapped" due to outcry. Outcry from who? The only people affected would have been the producers...who wanted the "tax" in the first place. Of course the judicious use of the word tax out in front of all the comments probably didn't help.

When did actual reading and gathering your own facts become unfashionable?

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