Welcome to America; $10, please
Scripps Howard News Service
Even though more people want to visit the States than the U.S. can handle, the federal government is planning a $10 fee on visitors that will be used to attract even more of them.
The fee is part of a bill awaiting President Barack Obama’s signature and is one more of the hassles that Washington is imposing on visitors, especially from the European Union countries, who once came to the States simply by boarding an airline.Now, visitors from the “visa waiver” countries must register online, providing considerable personal information, 72 hours before departure and renew that registration every two years. Airlines must provide the names, addresses, travel itinerary and credit-card information of visitors. When the visitors arrive, they are fingerprinted. Welcome to the land of the free.
Adding $10 on top of these hurdles is somehow intended to promote travel to the United States. Not surprisingly, the EU finds the idea crazy.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, clearly no foe of bigger government, defends the fee this way to the EU: “Unlike many of your countries, the United States does not have a separate agency to promote tourism and travel, and so the goal of this is to use that to actually fund and help tourists and travelers who wish to come to the United States.”
First, every state and big city has a convention-and-visitors bureau that aggressively markets their charms to would-be visitors, including foreigners. Governors and mayors are always off on junkets to salubrious foreign destinations to “promote trade and tourism.”
Second, the travelers being hit up for the $10 are people who have already decided to visit the United States, and with no prompting from our government. They are in effect being taxed on a decision they’ve already made.
If the federal government wants to attract new visitors and spread good will, it could give every first-time visitor a crisp new Alexander Hamilton and tell them to go wild with it ó right after we take their prints and mug shot.