The tax, however, wasn’t the Obama administration’s idea. It was the Christmas tree lobby’s creation. Real Christmas trees have been steadily losing market share to artificial trees, so growers and retailers lobbied the Department of Agriculture to institute a checkoff tax and use the funds to promote real trees. The USDA has similar programs for a number of commodities, e.g. “Got Milk?” and “Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner” The feds are authorized to raise revenues for such programs under the Commodity Promotion, Research, and Information Act of 1996.
Needless to say, there is no problem in the Christmas tree market that necessitates this program. I haven’t seen any poll numbers, but I’m going to go ahead and assume that Americans are satisfied with the currently available types of Christmas trees, and that their choices of trees are reasonably informed.
The Christmas Tree Tax is not part of some larger War on Christmas, it just represents the successful lobbying efforts of Christmas tree growers. But their struggles are not the public’s problem. If they want to fund a promotional campaign for their product, they should do it themselves, without involving the USDA.
That goes for all similar checkoff taxes, such as the ones for beef, milk, soybeans, etc. There’s no reason the federal government should be involved in shaping consumer preferences. The Christmas Tree Tax has done something useful in reminding us that the Commodity Promotion, Research, and Information Act of 1996 is a dumb law.
Update: Beef slogan corrected.