Other Opinions: Don't blow $42 million on letters
The federal government engages in a lot of foolish and unnecessary spending of taxpayers' dollars. Nothing new in that. But the announcement earlier this week from the Internal Revenue Service that it would spend $42 million to tell Americans wha...
The federal government engages in a lot of foolish and unnecessary spending of taxpayers' dollars. Nothing new in that. But the announcement earlier this week from the Internal Revenue Service that it would spend $42 million to tell Americans what they already know is an outrageous waste of money.
The IRS plans to send letters to an estimated 130 million households to alert taxpayers to expect economic rebate checks as part of the economic stimulus plan passed by Congress and signed by the president. The first mailing will go to Americans who filed tax returns for 2006. A second mailing, which will add to the initial $42 million price tag, will go out later to some Social Security recipients and those who get veterans' benefits -- groups that do not regularly file tax returns.
The outcry has been bipartisan and appropriate. Senators who rarely agree on anything see the wasteful folly in the IRS notification. For example, liberal Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said, "There are countless better uses for $42 million than a self-congratulatory mailer that gives the president a pat on the back for an idea that wasn't even his." Conservative Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said, "There is no need to spend $42 million on a letter to tell individuals they will be receiving a check from the federal government. Perhaps the IRS should also inform taxpayers of their share of the $9 trillion national debt, which today is more than $30,000 per American."
The economic stimulus package was approved by wide bipartisan margins in both houses of Con-gress. It had the enthusiastic support of the Bush administration. It will pump some $168 million into the economy, most of it in the form of tax rebates to individuals and families. The amounts will range from $600 for most individuals to $1,200 for married couples filing jointly.
But the justification for wasting $42 million to alert Americans is weak at best. The rebate program was headline news when it was announced, and will be again when the checks are cut and ready for mailing. Americans know about the rebate. There is no need to send them a letter about it.
While $42 million might not be a lot of money by Washington standards, for most Americans it's one big pile of cash. And while Americans are used to foolish or wasteful federal spending, this one really stinks. -- The Forum