Journalism teachers often instruct students that the best formula for a good analytical article is to (1) inform readers what you're going to tell them, (2) tell them, then (3) tell them what you've told them.
Somebody in the federal government, be they in Congress, at the White House or some other Washington bureau, must have decided that is also a good way to handle the recently approved economic stimulus package. The only problem is that in their zeal to get things moving and to make themselves look good, bureaucrats will be spending millions of dollars, our dollars, allegedly to let the populace know what is happening.
One Internal Revenue Service mailing already has been sent out, at an estimated cost of almost $42 million, "informing" taxpayers that some 130 million of them are going to be getting rebate checks of $300, $600 and even $1,200. And this first missive says there will be another notice later to focus on what is happening (and that means more millions of dollars in cost).
It isn't as though the well-orchestrated stimulus package didn't get enough coverage when officials were trying to depict themselves as saviors in arranging for the payouts. Says the IRS:
"We are sending this notice to let you know that based on this new law the IRS will begin sending the one-time payments starting in May. To receive a payment in 2008, individuals who qualify will not have to do anything more than file a 2007 tax return. The IRS will determine eligibility, figure the amount and send the payment." How thoughtful of the IRS!
General rules of allocation then are outlined with emphasis on the fact that people to get the money must file tax returns.
The stimulus effort has its merits. With the economy slowing in many sectors, more spendable income in more American hands is likely to boost activity. While there are critics of the stimulus program, those who believe it is needed are in the majority, by far. They believe the billions due to be circulated may well create some valuable activity.
All well and good, but why spend the millions it takes to let people know what they already know due to a big publicity campaign about the stimulus package?
So the government has told people, will tell them again, then will send out the money. Can we expect still another mailing after the handouts to bring things full circle: Tell them it's coming, tell them again, send the money and then - hopefully not - let them know it's been sent?
This, again, is a terribly frustrating event at a time when the millions being used for the handout mailings can be used for so many worthwhile ventures. It's another example of "your tax dollars" at work, too often, by the government to make itself look good.