AZ Sen. Martha McSally Gonna Give You $4,000 For Your COVID-19 VACAY!
Polls show that Arizona Sen. Martha McSally will soon take a permanent vacation from Congress, but before that happens, McSally wants to send us all on a corona-cruise. Monday, the senator introduced the American TRIP Act, which will incentivize Americans to "spend money on lodging, entertainment, and other expenses related to travel in the United States and its territories."
According to Bloomberg's Steven Dennis, McSally proposes giving taxpayers $4,000 each for their quest for fun. Couples would receive $8,000 in McSally bucks, plus $500 per child — although it's not really a vacation if your kids come along.
Travel and tourism are key drivers of Arizona's economy, so the coronavirus shutdowns have hit the sector especially hard. The unemployment rate was more than 34 percent in May.
MCSALLY: Arizona has lost billions in revenue this year alone due to the pandemic. My legislation will help boost domestic travel and jumpstart the comeback of our hotels, entertainment sectors, local tourism agencies, and the thousands of businesses that make Arizona one of the best places in the world to visit. It will also encourage Americans to safely get out of their homes and discover or rediscover Arizona along with the rest of the amazing destinations our country has to offer after a difficult several months stuck inside.
States are just starting to re-open, so folks might want to consider a thrilling staycation where they put on pants that no longer fit, venture outside the house, and pump money into the local economy. However, McSally's TRIP bill requires travel at least 50 miles from our “principal residence." (Of note: It also specifies that you can use your $8000 in fun money to transport yourself to your second home, and buy some Scotch and steaks once you get there! Isn't that nice for the second homers?) It also restricts travel to within the United States, but it's not like other countries will have us.
Oh, and it didn’t require people to travel during a pandemic.— Stephanie Kelton (@Stephanie Kelton)1592914474.0
McSally's plan is similar to the “Explore America" tax credit that Donald Trump mentioned during a recent roundtable with restaurant executives. The president often says stupid things at tables, regardless of their shape. The US Travel Association loves the idea, but economists are less excited.
Mark Gertler, Henry and Lucy Moses Professor of Economics at New York University and a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, told Newsweek: "A tax credit for tourism strikes me as crazy. The best way to help the economy would be to bring the virus under control. Encouraging tourism would seem to do just the opposite. Aid to state and local governments, along with streamlined extensions of unemployment insurance aid to small businesses strikes me as a more efficient use of stimulus funds."
We're not normally fans of big, expensive, regressive tax cuts, but this one also seems like a public health hazard. It's not safe yet to pack up the family truckster, and it's hard to imagine anyone willingly traveling to Arizona right now. The state is a COVID-19 hot spot with 54,767 reported cases and 1,354 deaths. Washington state, which was the epicenter of the outbreak, has 30,443 cases and 1,277 deaths, but its governor knows what he's doing. Jay Inslee also isn't dumb enough to host campaign events for the president.
Trump plans to tour the border wall today in Yuma, but the more serious threat is Arizonans leaving the state with corona-stuffed luggage. There are more confirmed COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents in Arizona than there are in neighboring California.
About one in four Americans don't have vacation time at all, and more than half of workers with paid time off don't use it. This number is likely to increase with recent mass layoffs. Most Americans are still better served with money for food, shelter, and other necessities. We haven't yet reached the mai tai stage of our battle with COVID-19.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."