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No Taxpayer Left Behind

BY RICH HERSCHLAG
05.12.2008 | POLITICS

Iraq got you down? Plummeting real estate values? Bad credit? Soaring fuel prices? Impending recession? Fear not. Your six-hundred dollar or so tax rebate check is on its way. Time to pay off the bogus internet charges on your cell phone bill. Time to finish decorating the trailer. Time to get that Fender Strat out of hock. Don't spend it all in one pawn shop.

Six big ones will keep us in our overleveraged homes for weeks and our kids in college for days. It may even cover a lab fee or two, which will come in handy when you and Junior open that crystal meth factory you've been dreaming about.

Six hundred dollars will get you a few minutes with Ashley Alexandra Dupree. And not even prime minutes. Speaking of which, Eliot Spitzer never got full credit for his own stimulus package. A new independent study says idle hookers are bad for the economy.

Unfortunately, however, the entire six hundred will be in dollars. I asked for mine in Euros, but the Treasury Department website says I'll have to make the conversion on my own. In the time it takes for the check to travel from the Beltway to my mailbox, the dollar will have fallen another three percent against the ruble.

We may have won the Cold War, but we're losing the lukewarm one -- the one that requires intelligent long-term planning, wise use of natural resources, efficient application of emerging technologies, sound fiscal policy, and voluntary self-control of consumer spending. Not gonna do it. Wouldn't be prudent at this time.

Let's hear it for noblesse oblige and an economic stimulus package that doles out less than the cost of the reflective coating on the front end of an intercontinental ballistic missile. Bushies always feel better about themselves after leaving a nice tip. Ask W what Jenna's wedding gown set him back. Six hundred wouldn't cover the veil.

As for me, I'll need a separate stimulus just to pull my check out of the mail slot. My idea of a stimulus package is a hit of Ecstasy and a Girls Gone Wild DVD. I slipped a note in with my 1040 asking the IRS to send my check straight to ExxonMobil. The fact is, a superfluous, ill-conceived, pandering, half-assed, drop-in-the-bucket tax rebate just doesn't go as far as it used to.

The 2008 tax rebate brings back memories of when as a man in my early twenties struggling with my first job and first apartment, Grandma gave me a check for five dollars and asked me what I was going to spend it on. I could never bring myself to tell her it was going into a general fund from which I paid my outstanding parking tickets.

But go ahead, enjoy your rebate and try not to dwell on how your six hundred dollars was borrowed in full from the People's Republic of China. If you've ever dealt with the Asian mob, you know they'll want it back with points. A few other words of advice. In the coming days, look closely at the return address before throwing out any envelope with the rest of the junk mail. Steer clear of the inevitable national debate over whether illegal immigrants should get the tax rebate too. And most important of all, wait till the check clears.

About the Author
Rich Herschlag is the author of a new book, Before the Glory: 20 Baseball Heroes Talk About Growing Up and Turning Hard Times Into Home Runs (HCI, 2007). His other books include Lay Low and Don't Make the Big Mistake (Simon & Schuster, 1997) and Women Are From Manhattan, Men Are From Brooklyn (Black Maverick, 2002).

Also an engineer, he runs a consulting business, Turnkey Structural, that specializes in the rehabilitation of residential and commercial buildings. Also a radio commentator, he can be visited at RichsRant.com.

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