Obama administration to "rethink" Christmas tree "fee"

This didn’t take long.  Jake Tapper reports that the Obama administration will, er, rethink its Christmas tree “fee” and promotion board:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is going to delay implementation and revisit a proposed new 15 cent fee on fresh-cut Christmas trees,  sources tell ABC News. The fee, requested by the National Christmas Tree Association in 2009, was first announced in the Federal Registry yesterday and has generated criticism of President Obama from conservative media outlets. The well-trafficked Drudge Report is leading with the story, linking to a blog by David Addington, a former top aide to then-Vice President David Addington, at the conservative Heritage Foundation assailing the president thus: “The economy is barely growing and nine percent of the American people have no jobs. Is a new tax on Christmas trees the best President Obama can do? And, by the way, the American Christmas tree has a great image that doesn’t need any help from the government.”

The White House initially tried pushing back on the notion that it was taxing trees:

White House spokesman Matt Lehrich told ABC News that despite some media coverage, “I can tell you unequivocally that the Obama Administration is not taxing Christmas trees. 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.”

Obviously that argument didn’t work, which is why the White House hit reverse on the Grinch fee.  The reason why it doesn’t work is because the government doesn’t need to be in this process at all.  The National Christmas Tree Association can run its own ads and do its own promotion if it wants to boost the sales of “live” Christmas trees.  Trade groups do this all the time.  The reason that the NCTA wants government to collect the “fee” and run the promotion is to force compliance from tree producers who might not want to shovel money into the NCTA.

Not only is this belated delay the right move, the government should get out of the advertising industry altogether and let producers promote themselves.

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