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Jewish World Review July 18, 2001 / 29 Tamuz, 5761

Mark Lane

Mark Lane
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Consumer Reports

Mailbox filling with buildup to tax rebate -- I RECEIVED a very official looking envelope last week. The first of many, I'm sure.

It was a sturdy government-style manila envelope stamped "CONFIDENTIAL" in discrete letters. It warned me it contained important "dated material." The return address was from the "Dept. of Communications." No doubt this is the public information arm of the Federal Bureau of Unbelievable Savings.

It suggested I might already be a winner. And not merely because of my well-known, winning attitude. I would, however, need to rush to a car dealership, envelope in hand, to claim my prize. Lucky me.

Already the $1.3 trillion tax cut passed by Congress in May is proving an economic stimulus. It is helping the junk-mail industry. Usually this kind of official-looking junk mail appears only at tax-refund time. Now they get a second wave.

And it's helping bring dollars into Florida, too. An outfit in Boca Raton sent official-looking postcards around the country promising to estimate your refund and "assure proper delivery" all for $12.95, $14.95 for "rush service." This is just the shot in the arm that Florida's economically depressed mail-scam industry urgently needs.

Something else will be coming in the mail, too. Also in an official-looking envelope.

"We are pleased to inform you that the United States Congress passed -- and President George W. Bush signed into law -- the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001," it will say.

The check, this helpful missive will tell us, soon will be in the mail. Nothing to fill out. Just go forth and be economically stimulating.

For even further economic stimulation, this mailing will cost the government $20 million in postage.

Cynics might dismiss this as a bit of taxpayer-funded propaganda for the Bush administration and incumbents in Congress. Not so. Internal Revenue Service spokesmen said they need this mailing. They must warn people like me who normally toss their mail out unread that we must be on the alert lest a U.S. government check end up as compost.

Maybe it's just me, but using the mail to tell people not to throw out their mail seems a tad futile. It reminds me of when I used to work in a high-rise office where every so often a monotonic yet piercing woman's voice would break out of the loudspeaker saying, "Anyone who is unable to hear this announcement should call Extension 2459. Thank you."

I often wondered if anybody ever called her. I was tempted call the extension and ask, but that would risk hearing her voice again.

Even without the mailing, the IRS certainly has got my attention. As a head of household earning a five-figure income, I may expect to receive $500. Most of which will go to riotous living. Unfortunately, due to the miracle of credit cards, it will all be riotous living I accomplished in the 1990s.

As economic stimulation goes, I think only a Chinese restaurant and one of our better domestic breweries will feel much of a boost from my check.

And like all free money offered me in the past, I suspect I'm going to end up earning this check. I'm actually going to need to sort through and read all the official-looking envelopes that will land in my mailbox for a month or more.

Per hour, that might just earn me the minimum wage.

Comment on JWR contributor Mark Lane's column by clicking here.

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© 2001, M. R. Lane