I'm disappointed with the new fee as well - the fees are not good for either America or Argentina in my opinion, as they dissuade tourism for no gain.
I did quite a bit of research on this topic and you all may be interested in some of what I learned:
1) Yes Argentina did get removed from the waiver program in 2002 due to the financial crisis and concerns over visa overstays.
2) The $131 fee is not a money making scam, but rather reflects the cost of processing visas. US law required the Dept of State to recover the costs of visa processing through application fees. In fact, they proposed 2 weeks ago increasing the fee to $140 because $131 is no longer recovering the costs. HOWEVER, the fee is the same for every country, which means a low risk country like Argentina faces the same cost as a high risk country (say, Guyana). So in effect Argentine citizens are forced to subsidize the costs of applicants from places that have more scrutiny of visa applications.
3) Since the EU expanded in 2004, the list of countries on the Visa Waiver Program increased quite a bit, due to political pressure to include all EU countries.
4) In 2007 there was a proposed law, called the Secure Travel and Counterterroism Act which proposed loosening the existing requirement that countries on the waiver list have less than 3% visa rejections, to make it 10%. This law was not passed but I think the entire bill was included in a large bill called the "Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007." So now there are 32 countries, including Argentina, that are eligible for the waiver program under the new standard. However, the law only allowed for 5 countries to be added as a pilot.
In late 2008, the program added Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Republic of Korea, and the Slovak Republic to the list of countries (under various laws - either as EU countries, or the new pilot program law, etc). Looking at the tourist visa rejection rates from 2007 I see:
Malta - 2.7%
Estonia - 4.0%
Argentina - 4.4%
Republic of Korea - 4.4%
Czech Republic - 6.7%
Hungary - 10.3%
Latvia - 11.8%
Slovak Republic - 12.0%
Lithuania - 12.9%
So from this it seems to me that there's no good reason why Argentina shouldn't be part of the program. The rejection rate for visas is one of the lowest in the world if you scan through the whole list of countries. I actually wonder if adding the reciprocity fee is an effort to light a fire under the State Department to undergo/finish whatever process is necessary to add Argentina. Anyway, as an American I think I'd like to write to my congresspeople and encourage them to look at this issue. If they start asking questions of the leaders at the Department of State in private meetings or in hearings, priorities will be adjusted. Maybe it won't help, but if people don't complain they definitely won't bother to make a change.