How dumb do you think we are? Erik Wemple seems to think we taxpayers would be reimbursed our $10,000 outlay for Marion Barry’s Asian junket by the spending of a mere $10,000 by Hizzoner’s lone Korean or Chinese visitor here (“How Dumb Do They Think We Are?,” 11/15).
Unfortunately, the District’s tax coffers get back only about 6 cents on the dollar. That tourist would have to buy more than 10,000 of those Hard Rock Cafe T-shirts, not a measly 625, since each T-shirt returns just under a dollar in sales taxes to the District. I’ll let someone else do similar math for those rolls of film and nights at the Willard.
The cruelest joke is that our well-heeled tourist could ride forever on the Smithsonian carousel or buy every poster in every Smithsonian museum and still not yield one penny of payback to District taxpayers: Thanks to the benevolence of our congressional feudal lord, we District vassals get zip, zero, nada in taxes from any commerce on federal property.
That goes equally for posters at the zoo, reprints at the National Gallery, trinkets and tour books at the District’s vast array of Smithsonian gift shops, rides on the carousel, etc. They’re all sales tax-free. Everyday is duty-free time on the Mall and everywhere else in town the feds run their chain of gift shops. Talk about the District having to compete with its hands tied behind its back! Most members of Congress would have fits if the U.S. government competed with private-enterprise constituents in their districts.
And if the argument is that spending those dollars in D.C. would circulate them into our pockets in the form of wages, remember that two of every three wage-earners here lives and pays taxes in Virginia or Maryland: They didn’t pay for Barry’s trip. We did, and we want our money back.