Tom Vilsack, the man who presumptive president-elect Joe Biden has chosen to lead the Department of Agriculture, once implemented a tax on Christmas trees while working for the Obama-Biden administration.
Vilsack was chosen to head the department for a second time two weeks ago. That decision has been panned by Democrats and others over apparent conflicts of interest between the former governor of Iowa and the new job.
Writing for The Guardian, activist George Goehl summarized the left’s gripe with Vilsack, who served as agriculture secretary from 2009 to 2017.
“Vilsack’s nomination has been roundly rejected by some of the exact people who helped Biden defeat Trump: organizations representing Black people, progressive rural organizations, family farmers and environmentalists. If the Biden team was looking for ways to unite the multi-racial working class, they have done so – in full-throated opposition to this pick,” Goehl wrote.
“We remember when Vilsack left his job at the USDA a week early to become a lobbyist as the chief executive of the US Dairy Export Council. He was paid a million-dollar salary to push the same failed policies of his USDA tenure, carrying out the wishes of dairy monopolies. Despite being nominated to lead the USDA again, he’s still collecting paychecks as a lobbyist,” he added,
It’s safe to say Biden and those who are around him are digging deep into the swamp when seeking people they think will help them to undo four years of policies which put Americans first. Biden’s growing list of appointees are the kinds of people who have bounced around Washington for years and decades — profiting from government while never really helping to move the needle for Americans.
But at least in Vilsack, there is a unifying issue for the country: Nobody likes him.
In November 2011, he sought to impose the tax on all domestic and imported live trees.
“The initial assessment rate will be $0.15 per Christmas tree domestically produced or imported into the United States and could be increased up to $0.20 per Christmas tree. The purpose of the program will be to strengthen the position of fresh cut Christmas trees in the marketplace and maintain and expand markets for Christmas trees within the United States,” stated a USDA proposal archived by the Federal Register regarding the so-called “Christmas Tree Promotion, Research, and Information Order; Referendum Procedures.”
Then-GOP Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina was arguably the most ardent critic of Vilsack’s bonkers Christmas tree tax, which would have affected Christmas tree producers and importers, calling it “the stupidest tax of all time.”
The Florida Times-Union quoted DeMint as asking, “Does anyone in America — anyone? — believe that Christmas trees have a bad image that needs taxpayer-subsidized improvement?”
GOP Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana was also particularly critical of the Christmas tree tax.
“It is shocking that President Obama tried to sneak through this new tax on Christmas trees. He might have thought nobody would realize what he did, but I will fight to prevent President Obama from becoming the Grinch who taxed Christmas,” Scalise said in 2011, according to the Free Beacon. “This new tax is a smack in the face to each and every American who celebrates Christmas.”
The tax would have attempted to raise $2 million to advertise the benefits of live trees instead of artificial ones. Politico reported at the time the Obama administration faced widespread criticism for attempting to play the Grinch while Americans were still pinned down by the administration’s anemic economic growth.
Vilsack was successful in getting the tax implemented, but his war on Christmas was short-lived. After only a day, the Obama administration rescinded the unpopular tax, while denying that it was even a tax in the first place. (The fact that even an establishment media outlet like Politico referred to it as a “tax” should tell you everything you need to know about how badly the Obama administration botched the entire affair.)
The idea of a Christmas tree tax was retired quickly. Sadly, its chief proponent, Vilsack, continued working as agriculture secretary until he was replaced in 2017 by President Donald Trump’s pick, current USDA head Sonny Perdue.
But what kind of a guy wants to tax Christmas trees? The answer to that question, sadly, is the man who likely will soon once again lead the USDA back into the depths of the Washington swamp.
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