Thanksgiving isn't even here yet, and already America is enduring the first volleys in the annual faux war on Christmas.
Every year around this time, some conservative group or another invents a controversy to sell the concept that liberals or government or some evil eggnog-hating force is out to ruin Christmas.
The early Grinch candidate this year is President Barack Obama.
No, the secret Muslim from Kenya didn't cancel Christmas and replace it with Eid al-Fitr, though out on the furthest right wing of the Republican Party, that meme might sound plausible.
The president's U.S. Department of Agriculture did, however, institute a tax on Christmas trees — or so the conservative Heritage Foundation would have you believe.
The reality is quite a bit different than the headlines that appeared all over the Internet this week after former enabler to Vice President Dick Cheney and Heritage blogger David Addington wrote a piece titled "Obama Couldn't Wait: His New Christmas Tree Tax."
In fact, the so-called tax is a self-imposed fee of 15 cents per tree proposed by the very industry that would pay it.
After watching the share of natural Christmas tree sales fall to artificial ones over the past decade, a group of tree farmers petitioned the USDA in 2009 to start the process of approving a promotional board to help the industry sell its goods. The National Christmas Tree Association, located in Chesterfield, supported the petition.
Such boards are authorized by a law Congress passed in 1996. Two of the Senate cosponsors of that law were Missouri Republicans John Ashcroft and Christopher "Kit" Bond.
The law specifically directed the USDA to create new promotion boards for popcorn, kiwi and canola oil. This is the same program that brought us the beef checkoff promotion ("Beef, it's what's for dinner") and the "Got Milk" promotion.
According to National Hog Farmer magazine (we keep our copy next to The Economist), similar programs are authorized for watermelon, sweet corn, olive oil and blueberries.
These programs exist not because of government intervention but because specific industries wanted to pool their resources to work hand-in-hand with the government to … wait for it … create jobs.
That's not quite the story reverberating in the right-wing echo chamber more fixated on fabricating conspiracy theories to discredit Obama than seeking the truth. That's why Rich Dungey, who does public relations for the tree association, is inundated with calls and emails this week wondering why he's the Grinch who taxed Christmas.
The whole "War on Christmas" is an apparition, a ghost if you will. The fact is shopping malls are decorated for the season. Some radio stations already are playing holiday music. Activists will soon be pressuring school boards to change "holiday break" to "Christmas break" on official calendars.
Dungey's group merely is trying to sell more Christmas trees by using a law Republicans passed to benefit industry. Following recent patterns, unfortunately, the Obama administration collapsed like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree weighed down by too many ornaments. It's putting a hold on the fee the industry hoped would invigorate the slumping real Christmas tree market.