Sequester and border fees have me rethinking U.S. travel

Posted on April 22nd, 2013 by Laura Byrne Paquet in News

Statue of Liberty small

Photo by Laura Byrne Paquet.

I rarely write political rants on this blog, but two news stories this morning combined with a weekend trip have me fuming, so please forgive me.

I just got back from a fantastic family getaway to New York City, when we introduced our daughter to one of our favourite cities on the planet for the first time. We spent a day at the Bronx Zoo, shopped at toy stores, ate at restaurants, stayed in a hotel–in short, we did our part to contribute to the local economy.

Our flight home from LaGuardia was delayed by an hour. The weather was clear and there were no mechanical problems with the plane. The issue, I learned this morning via an Associated Press article, was that there were fewer air traffic controllers available because of the sequester. And we were lucky–a friend travelling on a U.S. domestic flight encountered a three-hour delay.

“Hmm,” I thought. “This problem isn’t going to go away soon. Maybe the next time we go to the U.S., we’ll drive.”

Then I read another piece of travel news, this time in the National Post: the U.S. government is considering slapping a border crossing fee on all cars and pedestrians crossing the land border between Canada and the United States.

Oh, great.

I sympathize with the American government on this score. I really do. Some voters have decided they simply don’t want to be grownups and pay their taxes. OK, but air traffic control and border security aren’t frills, and they cost money. The government has to get the money from somewhere, whether they do so by cutting jobs (aren’t the anti-tax people the same ones worried about the unemployment rate?) or by soaking a few extra dollars out of tourists.

However, I can’t see that the anti-tax folks are doing themselves or anyone else any favours by squeezing the government dry. I’ve been to the U.S. more times than I can count, and there are so many parts of it I love, from theĀ  hills of Vermont to the beaches of California.

But I know I’ll think twice about going to the States on my next vacation. Like many travellers, I have a big world to choose from. I can go to a country that penalizes visitors just for coming in the door, and then makes it tedious and frustrating to get home, or I can go somewhere that says, “Hey, come on in! We want you here, we won’t soak you to make up our tax shortfalls and we want your trip to be a great experience!”

If thousands or millions of people start thinking the same way, those cash grabs at the border and the dollars saved by putting some air traffic controllers on furlough might not be enough to make up for the money unspent by people who choose not to see a Broadway show or go to Disney World or golf in Scottsdale this year. And that’s something that should give the Tea Partiers pause.

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