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Published: Monday, 12/25/2000

Libertarians' Grinch is government

Merry Christmas.

In the midst of another holiday season comes a cheery news release from those purveyors of glad tidings, the Libertarians, who want to inform us about the real “Grinch” just as millions visit distant relatives.

Governments, they say, “gobble up 41 percent of your travel costs.”

“For most Americans, Christmas is a season for giving,” said Steve Dasbach, the national director of the party. “But for politicians, it's a time for taking things away. Their hidden travel taxes take away nearly half your buying power, making politicians the real-life Grinches trying to steal Christmas.”

Seizing on a new report from the D.C.-based Americans for Tax Reform, Mr. Dasbach reports that “a $400 airplane ticket would cost just $240 without the taxes.

“A wide variety of levies, including a federal excise tax, passenger facilities charges, fuel taxes, arrival and departure taxes, air traffic control surcharges, Customs, Immigration, and agricultural inspection fees, combined with taxes paid directly by the airlines, adds 40 percent to the cost of the ticket,” the release said.

What is unclear is why the Libertarian Party has a problem with these fees. They are based on usage. That is, only those who use the airports and airlines pay them - something Libertarians typically favor. They usually protest being compelled to pay taxes for services that go to somebody else. There is an easy way to avoid paying these taxes: Don't fly.


The news release also beefs about the added 43 percent that travelers pay to stay in the average hotel. According to the report, an $80 hotel room would cost just $45.60 without the taxes.

Some of those taxes go to pay local property taxes and taxes that pay for tourism advertising. The premise is that hotel occupants should help pay to promote the local area, so that hotels can stay in business to serve people who visit the area and stay in hotels.

Without such promotions, hotels would presumably have fewer guests and would be forced to either charge a lot more money, or close their doors. Either alternative seems less appealing than the current system.

The news release also mentions the cost of food in restaurants and gasoline, where “a $20 tank of gasoline would cost just $9.80” with no taxes. It decries 43 different taxes added to gas, most of which go to pave roads on which cars with gas tanks drive. Without road repairs, car repairs to fix damage caused by driving on bad roads would more than make up the difference in savings from not paying gas taxes.


Bill Ballenger, the publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, has come up with a post-election theory as delicious as they come.

In the wake of Republican Sen. Spencer Abraham's nail-biting loss to Democratic challenger Debbie Stabenow in the Nov. 7 election, Mr. Ballenger supposes that, maybe, the Michigan GOP should have treated one of their own a little better about six years ago.

In a blistering review of the Republican Party's actions this year, Mr. Ballenger writes that, in the 1994 GOP senate primary between Mr. Abraham, a compliant if dull party insider, and boisterous-bordering-on-raucus Ronna Romney, the staid party powerbrokers probably should have gone with Ms. Romney.

She is beyond control, but she is a real firecracker with a background in media and a sharp mind.

If she had been the incumbent Republican this year, Mr. Ballenger contends, she would have had a much better chance to win against Ms. Stabenow.

It seems right. Ms. Romney never would have agreed to run the scorch-and-burn campaign of Mr. Abraham, which probably angered just enough swing voters to pitch them into the Stabenow camp.

And she probably wouldn't have listened to party leaders who advised Mr. Abraham to do so. As it stands now, Ms. Stabenow goes to Washington for six years, having knocked off yet another GOP conservative congressman who first went to Washington as part of the Republican Revolution of 1994. Her other victim was U.S. Rep. Dick Chrysler, who was put out to pasture by Ms. Stabenow in the 1996 election.

Fritz Wenzel covers politics for The Blade. Email him at fritz@theblade.com.



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