By Bob Barr
Last Wednesday, September 9th, the US Senate moved off the front burner issues such as record deficits, rising American casualties in Afghanistan, and the Obama Administration’s plan to take control of America’s health care. These matters were cast aside temporarily in favor of taking up and passing the “Travel Promotion Act of 2009.” This legislation, which is also pending in the House of Representatives, sets up yet another bureaucracy, this time as an officially-sanctioned “independent non-profit corporation” — the “Corporation for Travel Promotion.” This new bureaucracy would be directed to “counter and correct misperceptions regarding US entry policy [whatever that means] and promote US travel.” Reflecting the prevailing Washington view that “two bureaucracies are always better than one,” the bill also would set up a new office within the Department of Commerce to similarly “promote” travel to the US.
Apparently the Senate had concluded that the multi-billion dollar US travel and tourism industry is incapable of promoting travel to the United States on its own. To help the industry do what most people understand the industry is doing already — that is, promoting travel to the United States by people in other countries – the bill authorizes the new, government-sanctioned corporation to collect fees from persons entering the United States. One suspects this was the primary reason the tourism industry lobbied in support of the bill.
South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, who voted against the measure, estimates that the fund to be set up will total some $400 million. It will include also a $100 million federal “matching fund.” Sen. DeMint derisively calls the new government tourism agency, “Fannie Travel.” The measure, coming at a time of record, massive deficit spending, however, is not a laughing matter and those Senators who voted for it are not funny.