The war on Christmas started early this year, with a post from David Addington — yes, the same David Addington who participated in the vindictive outing of a CIA agent to score some political point, and authorized warrantless wiretapping of American phone lines without congressional oversight — charging that President Obama just “couldn’t wait” to impose a $0.15 per tree tax on live Christmas trees. Because Lord knows our
Muslim President loves nothing more than messing with Christians.
Pretty tone-deaf, right? At least, it would be, if Addington’s story were true as written. Addington spins the “tax” as another instance of senseless, anti-business regulation from a White House oblivious to the real causes of unemployment; and as further proof that the President either doesn’t “get” or simply doesn’t care for America’s Christians. Except the program was created at the request of the live Christmas tree industry, to help them compete with the artificial-tree industry, whose market share “increased 655 percent from 1965 to 2008,” and as such, threatens to crowd out traditional “choose-and-cut” growers. The order itself offers a full explanation, which Addington apparently overlooks in his haste to spin the American President as (somehow) un-American:
The Christmas tree industry has tried three different times to conduct promotional programs based on voluntary contributions. Each time, after about three years, the revenue declined to a point where the programs were ineffective. The decline in revenue is attributable to the voluntary nature of these programs. Therefore, the proponents have determined that they need a mechanism that would be sustainable over time. They believe that a national Christmas tree research and promotion program would accomplish this goal.
Like all federal regulations, the announcement takes pains to list and explain those comments received both for and against the proposal. Naturally, Addington’s specific objections were presented to the USDA, and specifically rejected. At the Christmas tree industry’s request:
Another commenter stated that the proposed rule should be withdrawn as it was an inappropriate use of government power citing free markets, limited government, and individual freedom. The Proposed program was presented to the Department by an industry wide group of producers and importers who requested that such an industry-funded program be implemented. USDA has concluded that a research and promotion program for fresh cut Christmas trees is within the scope of its authority under the 1996 Act, and therefore is establishing this industry supported program.
Can a regulation be anti-business, when it’s written and implemented by the very businesses it burdens? I suspect not. And it’s pretty tough to be anti-Christmas when your stated goal is preserving the idyllic Christmas-tree-buying scene depicted to the left, in Watterson’s classic example of Christmastime Dad-trolling. In fact, the fairer argument is that the Obama administration sold out to “Big Natural Christmas Tree Agribusiness” to save the pleasant, bucolic live tree tradition from modern, insurgent, blandly technical artificial tree-makers. If there’s a story about government abuse here, it’s that the Obama administration put its finger on the scale of the free market to preserve the sight, smell, and feel of Christmas as Watterson and Norman Rockwell imagined it. To save rather than steal Christmas.
But that’s not the story Addington (or Heritage) want to tell. Instead, they want to convince you that America’s sitting President has it out for both America’s beloved traditions, and for America’s “marginalized” Christian majority. They want to use religion to cultivate a persecution complex, deepen the culture wars, and set brother against brother at a time when we’re supposed to learn to love and come to terms with our enemies. It’s hard to spin that choice as anything but naughty. For the Heritage Foundation’s sake then, let’s hope — as in Calvin’s rhyming dream sequence — that Santa’s decided to reward rather than punish such petty mendacity.