In an “enlightened” city such as Madison, there are often offhand remarks made that may not pass as reasonable in the real world.
An example for those of you who may not understand this concept: To comment about the idiocy of the economic policies of the sitting president during the course of a workday is generally counted among the prohibited topics of polite conversation.
Recently, I was presented with just such an occasion. An individual exclaimed without a second thought that something had to be done to send a message to the president. The excuse for outrage on this particular occasion was the issue of the much-publicized tax-rebate checks.
Excusing for a minute the complexity of the immediacy versus permanency tax-relief debate, many individuals are surprised and pleased to see this check coming. Perhaps the most basic motivation underlying this subdued jubilation is that of self-interest. Given that the most popular destination for these checks will be the taxpayers’ own financial interests, it can therefore be called radical when someone suggests the money would be best sent to others in order to send a political message.
Just such a radical notion was attached to the previously described diatribe against the president. The person, thinking how to lash back at receiving money back from the government, declared that this money must be spent supporting “a cause W. would hate”.
I believe there is great irony in this statement. There are likely few things these checks could be spent on that the President would hate.
The reason can be found in what the president has already used as justification for sending the checks out. The president has said he prefers to have individuals decide where money goes, rather than having the government decide.
The wonderful thing about this plan is that it is very flexible. If individuals believe they are less capable of spending their money than the IRS, those individuals are free to send the checks back. I am sure they would be received with a smile, the trademark of the IRS. However, the check has already been sent to you. If you send it back, you are actively making a decision as to where the money goes.
If you decide there is not enough money in American politics and choose to contribute to political causes the president would be likely to oppose, you still do not cause him to lose sleep. Imagine if you had even more of your own money. You could spend lots more on your own political causes the president would hate.
These rebate checks will pay for themselves if they can only serve to remind taxpaying Americans of three simple facts. 1. The government collects a lot of money; 2. A sizable chunk of that money came from me; and 3. Just because the government has collected it, that money does not cease to be mine.
This article was published Aug 30, 2001 at 12:00 am, and last updated Aug 30, 2001 at 12:00 am.