The Dec. 8 Style section was full of material pointing out the overwhelming desirability of being invited to a dinner at the White House, such as the one for Mikhail Gorbachev. I have often wondered why invitees, who are generally rich and famous (just check any White House dinner list) are not charged for the privilege of attending such occasions. These days, the cost per plate for such a dinner, counting the fantastic food, china, orchestra, flowers and other decorations, must be well over $500. This is footed by the taxpayer. It does not seem appropriate for a democratic country to entertain its elite and affluent at the expense of the taxpayer.
I hasten to assure the reader I do not oppose state dinners. I wish someone would invite me. What I object to is their financing by the average taxpayer who is never going to be invited to Washington to sit down. I imagine there are about 25 such dinners each year, and I don't know how many more at the State Department at our expense.
I propose that a practice be instituted for guests (not the foreign dignitaries, of course, who are the true guests) to be charged for their proportional cost of the shindig. Not only could no one possibly mind, but the president who adopted such a practice would be universally commended. It should not be overlooked that Americans who are invited are more in the role of host than guest and should share in the defraying of expenses.
I imagine there might be the rare occasion (really rare) when the White House invited someone who could find it a hardship to raise the money to attend. For these cases, I have no doubt something would easily be worked out.
I would like to see this nation show its democratic mettle by instituting this notion, setting an example for other governments all over the world.