The ‘idiocracy’ rides still

The ‘idiocracy’ rides still

Why is it that the rule rather than the exception in this still coronavirus pandemic-dominated era has been for elected and appointed “leaders” to seek to implement public policies that are anathema to the public weal?

We have seen this odoriferous malady writ large at the federal level with (but not limited to) massive “stimulus” and/or “recovery” spending that served to limit the economic rebound in the name of expanding the welfare state and, with it, the iron fist of “The State.”

We have seen this pungent indisposition writ large at the state level with (but not limited to) a bum’s rush to impose draconian environmental standards that make the state the final arbiter of energy sources and production, a hubristic (if not socialistic) behavior sure to lead to a literal 21st-century version of the Dark Ages.

And we now see in Allegheny County this acrid disorder writ large with (but not limited to) the latest in a long line of attempts to tax our way back to prosperity.

In an almost incomprehensible exercise in illogicism – defined by one philosopher as, in part, “the ideological form of idiocracy” – VisitPittsburgh, the region’s tourism bureau and chamber of commerce all rolled into one, is proposing a new 2 percent tax on Allegheny County hotel rooms.

That would be on top of the current 7 percent county hotel tax.

The proceeds of the new tax, projected to be $6.5 million a year, would be used to help better market and promote the region, say its backers.

Never mind that a better tack in these challenging times would be to, say, discount hotel rooms by 2 percent (or more) to drum up business, the highly compensated tourism mavens somehow managed to have introduced in the General Assembly special purpose legislation that would enable the tax through a “tourism improvement district (TID).”

As the Post-Gazette reports it, “Before any such district could be implemented, it would require the approval of Allegheny County Council and Executive Rich Fitzgerald. The tourism improvement district itself would be governed by a 14-member board made up of hotel operators and managers.”

That said, the legislation that mocks the axiom that the more you tax something, the less you get of it, might be dead on arrival. But for all the wrong reasons.

The P-G also details how state Sen. Wayne Fontana, who just happens to be chairman of the Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority (SEA) – and gee, no conflict of interest there, right? — opposes the TID.

Not because it is inflationary. Not because it will send tourists to surrounding counties. And certainly not because, well, it’s lousy business and lousy public policy.

No, Fontana has designs on holding any TID approval hostage until the SEA gets its proverbial “fair share.” To that end, the Brookline Democrat wants some of the new TID’s proceeds to be diverted to the SEA in exchange for the TID’s adoption.

That’s so other wards of the taxpayers – the David L. Lawrence Convention Center and the city’s professional sports facilities – can belly up to yet another taxpayer trough.

For, you see, only in the promulgation of new bad public policy is extortion permitted to cover the deficits of prior bad public policies. In fact, it’s worse than that: Fontana wants VisitPittsburgh to be subsumed by the SEA.

A nice, tidy package, eh? And all in the name of catering to the professional sucker fish of society.

More’s the pity that we can’t make this stuff up. And the idiocracy rides again. Sadly, it never has stopped riding roughshod over taxpayers in Allegheny County.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).