Friday, August 6, 2010

Foreign Spending Begins at the Border

Never underestimate the power of the United States Government to convolve its logic to a level of FUBAR proportions. Consider the following BBC News report, which appeared on their Web site this afternoon:

The US government is to start charging UK travellers $14 (£9) to apply for permission to enter the country.

The compulsory Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (Esta) is free at present, but from 9 September visitors to the US will have to pay for it.

It lasts for two years; people who already have a valid form will not have to pay until their current one expires.

Ostensibly, this is all a matter of "preprocessing," taking care of paperwork that used to be handled at the port of entry:

The Electronic System for Travel Authorisation form, which takes up to 72 hours to be approved, gives air passengers prior approval for entry to the US.

It replaced the green I-94 card which passengers have previously filled in on their flight into the US.

Most people who fill in the form should receive approval from the US Department of Homeland Security within a few minutes.

But British Airways and American Airlines are advising travellers to apply at least 72 hours in advance.

Both airlines have said people without valid Esta forms will not be allowed to board flights to the US.

This seems fair enough; and the $14 covers the actually work behind the processing, right? It turns out that this is not quite the case, which seems reasonable enough when you consider that most of the work is probably being done by software. No, it is that logic behind the financial charge that shifts the domain from the convoluted logic of "Government work" to the domain of chutzpah:

The fee has been introduced to fund a programme which aims to promote tourism in the US and attract foreign spending.

In other words we encourage foreign visitors to spend their money in our country by "warming them up" with a $14 charge just to get into the country! Furthermore, since this is "Government issue," we have no idea which division of the Government came up with the idea or just which part of the Federal budget is responsible for the aforementioned program that will benefit from this "toll booth for foreigners." However, since that is the way our bureaucracy works, let's just make a blanket presentation to the United States Government of the Chutzpah of the Week award.

No comments: