Tag: agriculture department

Yes, Virginia, There Is a Christmas Tree Tax

Via Heritage’s “The Foundry” blog (and the outraged Facebook posts of former Cato interns), behold the Christmas Tree Tax.

It’s an announcement from the Agriculture Department’s Agriculture Marketing Service that it will be levying a fifteen cent tax on Christmas trees, payable to a new “Christmas Tree Promotion Board.” The tax will raise about $2 million from Christmas tree farmers and importers directly. That money comes indirectly from you.

As noted at The Foundry, the Ag Department claims the fifteen-cents-per-tree “assessment” is “not a tax nor does it yield revenue for the Federal government.” This claim fails both informal and formal analysis.

Informal: Do Christmas tree farmers go to jail if they refuse to pay? Yes. It’s a tax.

Formal: Is it a “non-penal, mandatory payment of money or its equivalent to the extent such payment does not compensate the Federal Government or other payee for a specific benefit conferred directly on the payer”? Bingo. Tax.

The formal definition is from the Taxpayer’s Defense Act, a bill I helped write while a congressional staffer after carefully researching the distinction between taxes and other government revenues, such as fines, legitimate fees, and such.

The Taxpayer’s Defense Act would have barred agencies from establishing or increasing taxes without first getting Congress’ approval. The idea was simple: No taxation without representation. And that idea is violated by the Agriculture Department’s new Christmas Tree Tax.

Your Government At Work

Here’s yet another example of government programs that are total nonsense, collectively, if not individually.

First, news that a Federal panel of experts has issued a new report on what you should be eating.

[The report’s] findings: People should consume more vegetables and whole grains, and less fatty meats, salt and sugar…The guidelines in turn will form the basis of the USDA’s updated food pyramid, scheduled to be released in spring 2011. They also determine the nutrition standards for all federal nutrition programs, including the National School Lunch Program, which feeds more than 30 million children a day.[emphasis mine]

I’ve emphasized the “less fatty meats” part because that news comes hot on the heals of this article that hit the wires yesterday:

The U.S. Agriculture Department plans to buy as much as $14 million worth of dark meat chicken products to help producers facing a glut in stocks and decreasing prices, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said on Tuesday…The government purchase… will be used by food banks, school lunch programs, and other food assistance programs….

So let’s get this straight: the Federal government is on the one hand encouraging people to eat fewer fatty meats, but on the other is buying more of said fatty meats to appease a special interest.  And they can’t even use “inter-agency coordination problems” as an excuse.