I am no cheapskate, but I do think I am justified in my indignation concerning a piece of legislation currently being debated in Congress, whereby the vast majority of international visitors are to be burdened with a $10 entry tax upon arrival in the US. The tax, which applies to all short-stay tourists who do not require a Visa, would particularly affect European travellers. For a family of six or seven, this would mean parting with a significant amount of money before so much as stepping out of the airport. The mental image of a play-ground bully pummelling a helpless child for his lunch money springs all too easily to mind. Even more disturbing is that payment of the fee will most likely require a credit or debit card, excluding those who do not possess one.p>
However, what is perhaps most infuriating of all is the excuse which the Americans are using to palm off this absurd entry fee. The money, amounting to millions of dollars each day, is to be funnelled into a non-profit organisation aiming to promote tourism to the US! That’s right, tourists to the US will be obliged to pay a sizable amount of money in order to promote tourism to the US; talk about preaching to the converted. I was perhaps naive and overly optimistic in my assumption that this sort of back-ward Bushian logic had been uprooted from U.S. Government.
Boris Johnson recently experienced similar disillusionment, expressing “disappointment” at the decision taken by the US embassy in London to ignore its backlog of fines and congestion charge payments amounting to £3.5 million. It was originally hoped that Louis Susman, Obama’s ambassador to the capital, would reverse the American policy of disregarding the congestion charge. These hopes were dashed with a curt message from an ambassadorial spokesman, “Our policy on the congestion tax is a long-standing policy decided on by Washington. The US government’s position is that this is a tax and therefore is prohibited by various treaties.” I find it almost intolerably churlish, that the largest economy in the world, with an estimated GDP of $14.3 trillion does not deign to abide by local regulations and cough up what it owes.
Still, what can one do in the face of the mighty US? Obama wants change, so y’all better open up your goddam’ pockets.