Second Thought: Wednesday, May 8, 2003
Tax Cut, No! Road Trip, Yes!

A plan to have \r\nthe taxman sendeth.


I donít pretend to know a lot about economic theory. I flunked Econ 101 in college because I thought the United States was still on the gold standard, and that tricky supply/demand graph looked the same to me whether it was upside down or right side up. Listening to Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan gives me tired head.

But you donít have to be an economist to realize the Bush Administrationís tax-cut plan is a stupid idea. Whether itís $750 billion (what Bush wants) or $350 billion (what Congress seems willing to sign off on), the tax cut would be strung out over 10 years and net most of us about $25 per paycheck. The Bushies theorize that this 25 bucks every two weeks will spur spending, create jobs, and lift the economy. I donít know about you, but $50 a month for me would be used to pay off credit card bills or help bolster Anheuser-Buschís stock price. I fail to see where the jobs will be created.

I have a better idea. We donít need a tax cut; we need a vacation.

Instead of giving out $350 billion in dribs and drabs, we should send everyone in the country on a government-paid vacation sometime during the next two years. Under my plan, the government would give every man, woman, and child in this country $1,200 each to be used for a vacation. The money would be in the form of nontransferable vouchers for airplane tickets, hotels, rental cars, and restaurants. If you donít use the vouchers, you lose them.

OK, I realize this sounds a bit nuts on the surface. But here are the benefits: Instead of a government bailout of the airline industry, the taxpayers of this country will get a tangible benefit for propping up American Airlines and the others. More importantly, this will put money directly into the economy quickly. And lastly, I think we all really need a vacation. We just spent billions of dollars winning a war, and we deserve a little party time. With current economic conditions, few of us have any savings left. If the government doesnít send us on vacation this summer, most of us wonít go at all.

Itís like in the movie Animal House. What did the Delta House do when it was put on double-secret probation by Dean Wormer? Toga, toga, toga! Our economy is currently on double-secret probation status, and in times like these the nation needs a road trip. The taxpayers have been asked to underwrite a war, look the other way when corporate executives plunder our 401k plans, and play dead while our health insurance rates run through the roof. If anyone deserves a little R&R time, it is the American taxpayer.

Hereís how my plan works: Taxpayers receive vouchers, which can be used only for selected dates and destinations. You pick your top five choices from among cities that are at least 250 miles from your home. From the five, a computer-generated lottery makes the final decision. Hence, you may want to go to Honolulu or Las Vegas, but you could wind up in Tulsa. The computer program will be weighted so that people from New York City will be sent to the ďheartland,Ē and the flyover folks will go to New York or L.A.

One more bit of social engineering in my plan: If you work for a major-media newspaper, magazine, tv network, or if youíre a Hollywood actor or producer, you will be sent to a city that ranks in the bottom 50 of U.S media markets. Hence, Fox Newsí Brit Hume and The New York Times columnist Frank Rich will be sent to Wichita Falls and Ardmore, Okla., respectively. Madonna will be sent to Wheeling, W. Va. Those media elites who fail to use their vouchers will be jailed for one week for being unpatriotic.

There are so many benefits to this forced vacation plan. The economic boost will be immediate. The travel and tourism industry ó particularly the airlines ó will serve the public and not just get a handout. And the American taxpayer will at least get room service, in return for the pillaging of our savings by rogue CEOs. We deserve something. If not a vacation, how about bread and circuses? (Sorry, I just watched Gladiator.)

Iím all set to go to Atlanta or Chicago or even Shreveport, La., if that is what my government wants me to do. I will dutifully patronize the local restaurants, buy souvenirs, and spend my tax-cut money for the good of the country. And if everything works out, Diane Sawyer will spend her vacation at a go-cart track in Panama City, Fla. Iím sure we can all get behind that.

Dan McGraw is a Fort Worth author and freelance writer.

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