Paul Jacob

Still, a doubter, one Jim Harper of the Cato Institute, had to get hyper-technical. He floated a question, and provided the answer: “Do Christmas tree farmers go to jail if they refuse to pay? Yes. It’s a tax.”

Some sticklers for adherence to our relic of a Constitution might wonder how the USDA has the power to impose a tax. That’s Congress’s prerogative. But Congress is so quick to hand its powers off to the executive that USDA officials may have been merely driving by the capitol when a document granting them to power to levy taxes on whole industries floated in their window.

But is it really a tax when businesses are imposing it on themselves?

Well, it does stand to reason that imposing a fee upon oneself is not a tax. And we all do it, from time to time. I know I often charge myself a toll to walk from room to room in my house, always dutifully coughing up the required payment. I certainly do not consider it to be a tax, for heaven’s sake!

Moreover, even though the Christmas tree growers and importers and sellers all want the fee imposed on them by our federal government, the ones who do not support it refuse to shut up. Everyone agrees, except for those who don’t.

Not surprisingly, some in the industry have been trying to pool advertising money for years, but could not persuade enough businesses to voluntarily contribute, so they went to the federal government to get their way by force.

“If the large wholesale growers want it, fine,” Robert Childress of the Texas Christmas Tree Growers Association argues, “but they can pay for it without reaching into the small growers’ pockets. I feel that marketing for my products is my responsibility, and I choose to rely on my efforts.”

But Mr. Childress may not understand that everybody’s doing it. The big milk and beef producers have been shaking down the little guys for years now. Does he also not see the dire emergency U.S. agriculture faces? The people of these United States seem to prefer artificial trees over real trees. While sales of “fresh” trees have fallen significantly over the last decade or so, artificial tree purchases have nearly doubled from 2003 to 2007.

This is renegade citizen decision-making devoid of any measure of control by experts in Washington. It must be stopped.

Just wait until after the next election: then we’ll see the real, freshly-elected Obama and not the current artificial fellow.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.