Christmas tree tax tabled by Obama

By TIM MAK | 11/9/11 6:59 AM EST Updated: 11/9/11 7:48 PM EST

The Obama administration learned Wednesday that it is no fun being the town Grinch.

On Tuesday, the administration gave the evergreen light for a new fee of 15 cents on all Christmas trees. But after a day of media attention and widespread criticism, the Obama administration confirmed to POLITICO that they were looking to delay the implementation of the fee.

“USDA is going to delay implementation and revisit this action,” said Matt Lehrich, a White House spokesman, while denying that the fee was a tax.

“I can tell you unequivocally that the Obama Administration is not taxing Christmas trees. What’s being talked about here is an industry group deciding to impose fees on itself to fund a promotional campaign, similar to how the dairy producers have created the “Got Milk?” campaign,” Lehrich said.

The new tax was meant to raise funds for an advertising campaign promoting the benefits of live trees, as opposed to artificial ones. The tax was expected to raise approximately $2 million, according to McClatchy News.

Conservatives had been in an uproar about the new tax.

“Does anyone in America – anyone? – believe that Christmas trees have a bad image that needs taxpayer-subsidized improvement?” wrote Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) on his blog Wednesday. “All I want for Christmas is a free market.”

“The economy is barely growing and 9 percent of the American people have no jobs. Is a new tax on Christmas trees the best President Obama can do?” wrote David Addington of the conservative Heritage Foundation think-tank.

A 12-member board would have been charged with directing the funds toward advertising and research ventures.

The industry was divided on the issue. Grower organizations in 19 states lit up at the prospect of the tax, while Christmas tree growers in Texas and Vermont generally opposed it, according to the McClatchy and the Chicago Tribune.

Indeed, of the 565 comments that were submitted to the Agriculture Department, 70 percent supported the proposal, and 26 percent opposed it.

Nationwide, there are about 12,000 commercial farms specializing in Christmas tree production, with an especially heavy concentration in North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

Fresh tree sales declined from 37 million in 1991 to 31 million in 2007, according to the Agriculture Department. Meanwhile, sales of artificial trees nearly doubled to 17.4 million between 2003 and 2007, according to McClatchy.

Alex Byers contributed to this report.

Sarkozy, Obama Insult Netanyahu

Sarkozy, Obama Insult Netanyahu; Journalists Ignored It Until French Website Broke the News
By ANGELA CHARLTON, Associated Press
November 8, 2011
PARIS (AP) – French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has labored to improve French relations with Israel, said he “can’t stand” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and called him a liar in a chat with President Barack Obama.The conversation between Sarkozy and Obama was overheard by reporters last week at the Group of 20 summit in southern France, via headsets that were to be used for simultaneous translation of an upcoming news conference.Obama, whose remarks were heard via a French translation, was not heard objecting to Sarkozy’s characterization of Netanyahu. Through the interpreter, Obama was heard asking Sarkozy to help persuade the Palestinians to stop their efforts to gain U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state.Several French-speaking journalists, including one from The Associated Press, overheard the comments but did not initially report them because Sarkozy’s office had asked the journalists not to turn on the headsets until the press conference began, and the comments were deemed private under French media traditions.A French website that analyzes media coverage of current affairs, Arret sur images, reported the fragments Tuesday.

Sarkozy’s office would not comment Tuesday on the remarks, or on France’s relations with Israel. The White House and Netanyahu’s spokesman also said they had no comment.

In the remarks Thursday in Cannes, Sarkozy said: “Netanyahu, I can’t stand him. He’s a liar.”

According to the French interpreter, Obama didn’t object, responding only: “You are sick of him, but I have to work with him every day.”

The journalists heard only fragments of the leaders’ conversation.

Since becoming president in 2007, Sarkozy has strengthened French ties with Israel while also seeking to use France’s traditional good relations with Arab allies to encourage peace talks.

His latest comments reflect what his increasing frustration with Netanyahu, and may complicate French efforts toward Mideast peace.

France’s government has not said so officially but appears to see Netanyahu as partially responsible for the deadlock in peace talks. France has repeatedly urged Netanyahu to stop building Jewish settlements in the West Bank and come to the negotiating table, to little avail.

“I think all this must not make us lose sight of the basics — which is to say there’s not a minute to lose to continue to work on the Israeli-Palestinian issue,” French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero told reporters Tuesday.

The overheard remarks by Sarkozy and Obama were prominently covered in Israel, where Sarkozy — whose maternal grandfather was Jewish — is widely perceived as a friend, in striking contrast to some of his predecessors, including Jacques Chirac, whom Sarkozy replaced in 2007.

Israel has had a fraught up-and-down relationship with France. The country was an early supporter of the Jewish state, selling it arms and planes and helping it develop a nuclear reactor. But the relationship soured under Charles de Gaulle, perceived as having abandoned Israel before the 1967 war.

Netanyahu, meanwhile, is a controversial figure even at home. He is widely seen as divisive, and is regularly pilloried by the center-left opposition for preferring settlement construction in the West Bank to peace talks with a relatively moderate Palestinian leadership.

“Obama is wrong,” wrote one reader on the Israeli newspaper Haaretz’s web site. “We’re the ones that have to deal with him every day.”

The often blunt Sarkozy has shown little patience with Israeli hard-liners, and two years ago urged Netanyahu to fire his outspoken foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman. In a private meeting, Sarkozy told Netanyahu that “you must get rid of that man,” according to two officials.

This September, the French leader tried to head off the Palestinians’ request for membership in the United Nations with a last-minute effort to revive peace talks.

But France then surprised Washington and other observers by voting last week in favor of membership for Palestine in UNESCO, the U.N. cultural and educational agency.

Remarks overheard by journalists have embarrassed world leaders in the past. At a Group of Eight summit in 2006, an open microphone caught then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair appearing subservient to President George W. Bush, who greeted him by shouting, “Yo, Blair!”

——

Jamey Keaten in Paris and Joe Federman in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

We’re No Longer Alone: Obama’s Tax Lies Refuted Throughout Media

Do you remember (it wasn’t that long ago) when Barack Obama told the “rich fat cats” on Wall Street…? This is back during the days of the AIG and other Wall Street bonus scandal, and you had all of Obama’s ACORN-type people showing up on the front yards of AIG homes to protest their bonuses. Remember Obama telling the AIG people and all the other, quote, unquote, “rich fat cats” on Wall Street that he was the only thing standing between them and the pitchforks? Well, guess what? Now it is only Obama’s skin color that is standing between him and the pitchforks of the Congressional Black Caucus. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are openly admitting: If this were a white president who had done this economically to their constituents, they would be marching on the White House.   


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