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Satirical broadcast about new ‘vacation tax’ sets off storm in Germany

July 4, 1997

DUESSELDORF, Germany (AP) _ Germans apparently don’t put anything past their politicians when it comes to raising taxes.

The political TV newsmagazine ``Monitor″ ended its Thursday night show with a tongue-in-cheek report about a new ``vacation tax″ approved at the last minute by the cash-strapped federal government.

By Friday morning, phones were ringing off the hook in Bonn and at airports, airline offices and travel agencies. Some were calling to complain, others wanted to know how they were supposed to pay the 150 marks ($88) per adult and 60 marks ($35) per child.

``Our switchboard was totally jammed,″ Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Erdmann said. The Finance Ministry logged 400 calls before noon.

At Duesseldorf airport, it was more than 1,000.

``Our service hotline is constantly busy and our workers have to listen to the anger,″ said spokesman Torsten Hiermann. ``We really have a problem because of the broadcast.″

The tax was attributed to Finance Minister Theo Waigel, who has made headlines of late with various schemes to bring the budget deficit under control so that Germany can qualify for the planned single European currency.

Klaus Bednarz, editor of the program that aired on the public ARD network, said the reaction proved the satire was right on target.

``The politicians have brought the citizenry to such a point that they take at face value even the most absurd ideas about tax policy,″ he said.

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