Got my notification today. I owe the US government $600 less than I would have normally. Since I’m employed on contract, and pay my taxes directly to the government, I don’t actually get a check, but a “credit” that will be applied to my second quarter payment. Whatever. I guess it all comes out in the wash, but it’s a lot easier to spend money that you’re given, not that you don’t have to pay.
See, that’s the whole point of this advance rebate: to stimulate the economy. So, I hope that you’re not thinking about doing something foolish with your rebate, like paying credit card bills or beefing up your 401(k). No, no, no. This thing is only going to work if we all go out and spend the entire amount on frivolous items. It’s what real Americans are going to do.
In The West Wing episode “Stirred,” Charlie gets upset that his tax refund is several hundred dollars less than he is expecting. When Leo explains that the rebate he got the previous year had to be paid for, he correctly labels it as an advance, not a rebate. Leo scolds him, saying, “That doesn’t sound like very patriotic talk to me, Charlie,” to which Charlie replies, “It’s not!” Leo asks Charlie what he did with his “rebate” check.
Charlie: I paid down my Visa bill.
Leo: We’d have preferred you ate in a restaurant or traveled.
Charlie: Me, too.
[Bartlet walks in]
Leo: He used the rebate to pay his Visa bill.
Bartlet (to Charlie): A trip to Banana Republic would have killed you?
Later, Charlie asks Bartlet if the plan to stimulate the economy worked.
Bartlet (sighing): No, most people did what you did, put it in the bank or paid down debt.
Charlie: We don’t want people to save, or reduce their personal debt?
Bartlet: We do, but when the next guy’s president.
Charlie: Why not just wait until people were supposed to get the money?
Bartlet: The economy might have improved on its own by then.
Charlie: Which would have made the whole thing pointless to begin with.
Charlie: Economists just kind of make it up as they go along, don’t they?
So it turns out the whole thing was a political ploy to spend your money to give back money that you were entitled to anyway, several months before you were entitled to it, in order to take credit for an improving economy that probably would have improved without government interference anyway.
Is life imitating art here? We’ll see. If McCain declares the stimulus program a success and Obama a failure, we’ll have our answer.
“Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?”
George Denis Patrick Carlin, 1937-2008
Thanks for the laughter, and the absurdity.
An invisible man marries an invisible woman. The kids were nothing to look at either.