Posted by: Joshua Green on November 29, 2011
Not long ago, the Obama administration briefly got caught up in what looked to be a hilariously tone-deaf bit of Fox News bait: the U.S. Agriculture Department was planning to impose a 15 cent-per-tree fee on Christmas trees, which was — immediately and inevitably — dubbed a “Christmas Tree tax” by gleeful conservatives. The fee/tax had the added feature of playing into the whole Fox News War-on-Christmas nonsense, so you pretty much knew how this was going to end. Sure enough, on Nov. 17th, the White House halted the fee.
If you looked beyond the Drudge Report headline, though, the story turned out to be a bit more complicated. The National Christmas Tree Association had actually requested the fee in order to fund an intensified marketing campaign to “enhance the image of Christmas trees and the Christmas tree industry in the United States.” Per the Federal Registry (via ABC News), the NCTA had in mind a “program of promotion, research, evaluation and information designed to strengthen the Christmas tree industry’s position in the marketplace; maintain and expend existing markets for Christmas trees; and to carry out programs, plans, and projects designed to provide maximum benefits to the Christmas tree industry.”
I confess to having read about this at the time and wondered, “Why on earth do Christmas trees need a promotional campaign? What’s impinging on their market share, Hanukkah?”
It turns out the correct answer is: China. Specifically, China’s cheap, fake Christmas trees, which are increasingly threatening our own authentic, domestic-grown trees and the patriotic Americans who labor to supply them. I was alerted to this threat by a great article from Caitlin Webber in Bloomberg Government (subscription required) that includes this choice quote from Pam Helsing of the NCTA about the looming menace of Chinese Christmas tree hegemony: “The ‘fake-tree companies have increased their advertising and gone on the attack against real Christmas trees.’” BGOV kindly let me reproduce the above graph that illustrates the problem.
Hence the need for a marketing campaign. And now that that’s been killed (or, in Washington parlance, “delayed for further study”), the Obama critics have actually succeeded in aiding the perfidious fake-Chinese-Christmas-tree industry at the expense of the real Americans they profess to be defending. If there’s any justice in the world, someone’s getting coal in their stocking.