Conservative Talking Points 537 – Reality 0

Posted: November 9, 2011 in Holidays, Life, Politics

The spin and misinformation started on a blog written by an expert on spin and lies, David Addington, a former Cheney aide and now blogger for the Heritage Foundation. Obama was out to get Christmas. Yes, you see, Obama has just so much free time on his hands that he was personally able to hatch a plan to destroy Christmas. And how was he going to do this Grinch-like thing? Why, Obama announced on November 8th that wanted to tax all live cut Christmas trees.

And, of course, with a nicely inflammatory headline, the blog post was linked by Drudge on his site. And that’s when the spin really began.

Obama hated Christmas.

Obama was waging a war on Christmas.

Obama’s government was going to tax these poor live tree growers out of existence and hurt the economy with this further act of socialism to take money from the working folks and hand it over to the poor and the lazy.

Obama and his government needed to keep its greedy fingers out of the pockets of hard working Americans.

Yes, all this and more was cooked up and spewed out by the usual idiots on conservative talk radio, conservative blogs and the rest of the conservative media. And who could blame them? The Obama administration is putting its foot on the throats of the people growing Christmas trees? Obama wants to tax Christmas trees with the Christmas season coming up? How utterly evil of him!

Well, at least it would have been if it was anything like the truth.

The big flaw in this bogus narrative was that “Obama” was doing anything. There are others. First, this was something done through the Agriculture Department. Second, this wasn’t a tax, but rather a 15 cent per tree fee to pay for an advertising campaign to boost the badly sagging sales on live trees and improve the image of the live Christmas tree. Third, this wasn’t something that the Agriculture Department cooked up and imposed on live tree growers. This was something that they asked for and spent lobbying time and money to get.

One Article covers some of that here: (http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-biz-1109-christmas-tree-wars-20111109,0,2983619.story)

The Christmas tree growers went to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and asked them to help set up an ad campaign along the lines of the many other successful campaigns (such as the “Got Milk?” and “Beef, it’s what’s for dinner” campaigns) that they have coordinated for other industries. As a part of the proposed Christmas Tree Promotion, Research and Information Order, the tree growers would institute a self imposed fee of 15 cents per tree on themselves to fund the campaign. The fee most likely wouldn’t even have been passed on to the consumers in most cases. Several of the largest tree growers had stated that they intended to eat the 15 cent per tree fee.

This was a positive thing. The tree growers, facing declining sales as more and more people buy fake trees, sought out a proven program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help advertise live trees and do a P.R. facelift on the product. But, because Obama is in office, the last 24 hours has been filled with furious spinning by the conservative media about how the evil Obama was trying to tax Christmas trees, hurt the holiday economy and hurt the working man in order to steal from the producers and give to the lazy as per his socialist ways.

Well, guys, as of late November 9th, mission accomplished. You’ve killed the program. (http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/11/09/merry-christmas-agriculture-department-imposes-christmas-tree-tax/)

In the face of the huge backlash created by the fake spin, the Department of Agriculture pulled the program. The tree growers are now, after much work and a lot of time spent in getting this, back to square one. They’re still facing sales in a slump, they’re still facing a bad economy where it’s cheaper and easier in many areas to buy a fake tree or pull out last year’s fake tree and they’re still stuck with doing small local ads that haven’t been working or hiring large P.R. firms that will charge them more than it would be worth to them.

In their orgasmic zeal to attack Obama over anything no matter how much they have to spin or fabricate, the usual suspects have ended up hurting the Christmas tree growers that they spent the last day falsely casting as victims and displaying fake sympathy for. Good job, guys, good job.

And I’ll make a bet with you. I’ll bet you that easily 95% of those people, the ones who knowingly lied and spun and pushed the false narrative as well as the ones who bought the false narrative and then repeated it to their friends via social media and email, won’t even bother to partially undue the harm they’ve now done to the tree growers this year by buying a live tree. And they won’t because they’ve done what they set out to do. They’ve attacked Obama and created yet another false narrative that they can pull out of their asses whenever the mood strikes them. They didn’t really care about the tree growers, the economy, the jobs situation or anything else they spoke of while whining and crying about the evil, Christmas tree hating Obama before, so why should they give a rat’s ass about them now that they’ve won their little battle against Obama?

Once again, mission accomplished, guys. You’ve proven that your talking points mean a lot more to you than reality and you don’t care who you hurt so long as you can score cheap political points. Well done.

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Comments
  1. Middle Ground View says:

    I don’t think that Obama hates Christmas. I think he is just desperate for more money to spend.

    • jjchandler says:

      Which, in the context of this story, is an utterly ridiculous comment. First, again, this wasn’t a deal that was being put in place by Obama himself. Being that this actually followed the mundane route that anything else like this that the Department of Agriculture deals with would follow, it’s actually very likely that Obama didn’t even really know about this until it was a done deal.

      Beyond that, what you’re saying is ridiculous here because the money that would have been collected via the 15 cent per tree fee wouldn’t have gone into anything that Obama could spend. It would have gone into the fund to do exactly what the proposed Christmas Tree Promotion, Research and Information Order stated it would do; it would be used for the P.R. and ad campaign that the tree growers wanted. The basic campaign they would be setting up is the same thing that has been done for others before and it’s very easy to check on what gets collected and where it’s spent under this setup.

  2. Bill Mulligan says:

    I agree with a lot of what you have here–no question the whole thing was overblown–but I have a few reservations.

    1- I suspect the 15 cents would be passed on to the consumer, probably by rounding things up to 25 cents or a cool half buck. I’ve never seen a hike in the gas tax that didn’t get immediately passed on to me.

    2- It wasn’t exactly the tree growers that wanted this. It was the tree growers organization. Do all tree growers HAVE to belong to this organization? If so, why not just increase the dues?

    3- Which is sort of my main problem. The tree growers can do as they wish, charge what they think they can get, believe that some ad campaign will reach those heretofore unaware of trees consumers…but keep the government out of it. The government is too involved in business as is. The tree growers should work this out amongst themselves.

    4- Anyone at the Ag dept who didn;t think this was going to unfold exactly as it did is living in a dreamworld. I hereby offer my services as Official Guy We Run Ideas Past To See If They Are Going To Get Us In A World Of Hurt, for a (by government standards) reasonable fee, plus dental benefits.

    • jjchandler says:

      #1 – It may well have been. But I still doubt anyone would have noticed it. The price of trees will have likely gone up this year from last anyhow. Do you really think anyone would have noticed the 15 cent difference from last year’s prices VS this year’s? Besides, how would it have been different if they increased the price 15 cents or (more likely) more to handle a commercial ad campaign?

      #2 – I’ve been trying to look that up. Not sure if they have to join or not. As it stands, it does appear that the majority of the growers were in support of it though. As to why they didn’t raise the dues – From what I was able to find, they’ve been facing diminishing sales and profits over this last decade. Most national campaigns done through a commercial firm would have cost significantly more than this program (since an ad firm is working on a for-profit basis) and they would be facing far greater costs VS returns. This program has a proven track record and it’s designed to help industries without costing them an arm and a leg.

      #3 – They could do that, but, again, could they really afford it at this point? That’s an iffy thing. The government getting in on this… I have some issues with. Right now however, I’m more in the camp of seeing the government do something useful to help keep and save jobs than I am in seeing them not do so; especially when it would ultimately cost the tax payer very little and likely less than another addition to the unemployment lines right now.

      #4 – I’m of two minds on this. Someone should have foreseen the immediate twisting of this based on who was in the White House right now. But the flip-side to that argument is that they likely didn’t think that anyone would be so desperate to score points that they would take trying to help/potentially save the live Christmas tree industry in this country and present it to the public as trying to destroy it and hating Christmas. My experience with a lot of people in government departments is that they know about politics, but the rank and file really don’t think politically.

      Hell, technically you’re a government employee. Your favorite pastime activity could be politically troublesome enough for you and your employer if a political organization wanted to use it to raise hell down there one political year. And your pastime just crossed over into your work life a few weeks ago. You like political debate and discussions, but did it ever cross your mind that someone out there might use the play in question as something to raise a stink about in a culture war political moment? Likely not and it’s a long shot, but it’s something that can be done and, as we saw a few years back with students getting in trouble for writing stories about zombies attacking their school, doable if the wrong people apply the right pressure even in this day and age.

      Granted, it’s a lesser deal politically, but I work around a lot of people in my state’s Dept. of Health and VDOT. They come up with stuff all the time that qualify as good ideas that could be twisted in the political game. Most of them never think about that. They just want to do their jobs, they’re not interested in playing the political angles even if they should be aware of them.

  3. Bill Mulligan says:

    But if the government came to me and said “Hey, we’re going to ask for a $1 fee on each of your students to fund an ad campaign praising teachers.” I’d probably beg them not to do it, for some of the reasons above. There is no way this wasn’t going to play badly. If it had happened under Bush there would have been editorial cartoons with him as the Grinch. The story,fair or not, writes itself.

    I’m prepared for anyone to go after me as a teacher/zombie filmmaker. have a pretty speech and letter to the editor all lined up. Hopefully won’t be needed. I wonder if the attack would come from the right or the left?

    • jjchandler says:

      Okay, but what if the local student body organization voted on the matter and the majority of the students voted to do so and to use a state or federal program available to them?

      And maybe they would have gone after Bush and maybe they wouldn’t have. But this commodity checkoff program has been responsible for various programs in the past including “Milk Does a Body Good,” the Got Milk? milk moustache series, “Pork. The Other White Meat”, “The Incredible, Edible Egg”, and “Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner” campaigns among others. None were used before to attack a sitting POTUS. Actually, most became pop-culture staples and did help improve the image of the product and helped sales. Like I said, rightly or wrongly, I think that’s what most the people involved with this at Agriculture were looking at. They weren’t looking at the political games end of it and they had no historical reason to.

      As for who would attack you guys… I was going to say that the Left would be the ones doing it. Makes sense on the face of it given the Left’s greater involvement in going after things like the music and movie industry in recent history. However, it dawned on my that your region still has a stronger Conservative, Fundamentalist Christian political machine than even we do. Given that, I thin it’s a 50/50 game of guessing.

  4. Bill Mulligan says:

    I also wanted to add, I am opposed to taxation by anyone other than elected officials. I don;t think a department should be able to just tax away. Let elected officials make the case and put their name on the vote for the tax, to get the credit or blame, not some faceless pencil pusher.

    • jjchandler says:

      But is it a tax? That’s something I thought about before writing this. I call it a fee and not a tax and I think it’s not merely a matter of semantics.

      I pay a lot of taxes. I don’t remember actually asking the government to tax me over any of these things. I might agree with the need for some of them, but, even with some of the newer ones from my lifetime, I didn’t go and ask for any of them. These guys went to Agriculture and asked for this program to be set up with them and they agreed to what the fee rate should be.

      It was voluntary, they could kill it in three years if they wished to, it didn’t go into the big tax slush fund and it was a fee that would be, unlike any tax you can name, used for their one purpose and that one purpose only. It would have been no different if they raised the price of the trees and put the difference into a bank fund for use in such an ad campaign. Well, there may have been two differences.Without the program, they might have had to pay more and without the program’s reduced costs they might have had to increase the price more.

      For me, this entire thing was just somewhat insane. There are a lot of things that the government does badly, but this isn’t one of them. This has actually done some good and been beneficial to American businesses (and I’m sure a few others as a side benefit) and jobs. To attack under the guise of defending jobs, businesses and the economy is not only disingenuous, but harmful to the very jobs, businesses and people that the attackers are claiming to be defending. And, honestly, the twisting of this and the use of it as a weapon tends to lend more credibility to the idea that a lot of Republicans and conservatives out there are more than happy to hurt jobs, businesses and the economy right now so long as it allows them to hurt Obama.

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