The new $10 tax on foreign tourists, and how it could cost you, too

Congress is soon to vote on a new law that would make every foreign visitor to the United States pay $10. Why? To encourage them to come!

That's right. The government, in a bipartisan effort, wants to create a public relations branch that works to convince international visitors to come spend their euro and pounds here. The U.S. collects some $1.3 trillion from tourism a year, and 8.3 million work in the industry. The act's sponsors point out that since 9/11 international visitorship to the United States has plunged 17% despite the fact that worldwide, travel has increased.

It's not because we're turning away more people; it's that people would rather not cut through the thickening wads of red tape that come with every airplane ticket here. We've lost 200,000 jobs because of that. Our attitude at the border is clearly costing us. So we'd create a new non-profit group to sell our destination, and to fund it, everyone who comes to see us would pay another $10.

Most in the travel industry, including the U.S. Travel Association, think we need this new effort. Curiously, the Heritage Foundation, the famous conservative/Reaganist think tank, agrees that we need a better tourism promotion, too. But it's opposed to the Travel Promotion Act of 2009 because it would be a federal project.