They all want my tax rebate check.
Everywhere I go, somebody has his eye on that $600 check. Even my wife, for some reason, thinks half of it is hers.
Walk into most stores these days, and there's a sign that says something like: "Don't wait for your check to arrive! Spend it now! We can help!"
I saw a cartoon in which a couple opens their mailbox to discover their check. "Look, hon," the husband says, "We won the Republican Clearinghouse Sweepstakes."
And that's exactly what it is.
It's the Super Megabucks Lotto Jackpot Irish Sweepstakes all rolled into one. The prize adds up to $38 billion, but (almost) everybody has to share it.
It's like we bought the winning lottery ticket along with 92 million other people.
The idea is that we all take our checks and spend them immediately on whatever segment of the economy we think needs help the most.
"We've got good news for you," says the Internal Revenue Service. (They're from the government, and they're here to help us.)
"All you have to do is sit back and wait. That's right. This is the no-fuss, no-muss advance payment check. You don't have to write. You don't have to call. You don't have to do a thing."
Well, you did have to file a tax return. Pity the poor tax rebels who decided this was the year to say, "Heck with the IRS. It has no authority to collect a national income tax, because there's no such thing in the Constitution. I'm not filing a tax return. They can come to my door and drag me off to federal prison, I don't care."
Those folks are going to miss their chance to raise the Gross National Product.
Clearly, this is what the IRS has in mind. In its chipper message to taxpayers (see the accompanying illustration), the new, friendly IRS even has some ideas for how to spend your check.
"Let's see - new barbecue, early holiday shopping," enthuses the IRS. "You get the idea."
Hmmm. I already have a barbecue, and there's no way I'm going Christmas shopping in August to spend my IRS rebate check on somebody else. Especially if there's a chance somebody else is out there spending their IRS rebate check on a Christmas present for me.
Others are suggesting we may want to put that $600 check into savings. What!? And go against the wishes of the president, the IRS and Kmart? I don't think so.
From what I've read, the last time the federal government issued a tax rebate in 1975, most people did simply plop it into the passbook savings account. It didn't really help the economy, and it didn't help keep Jimmy Hoffa from disappearing forever or the Boston Red Sox from losing the World Series.
So, let's not make that mistake again.
The great thing about a $600 tax rebate is that it doesn't really help rich people.
Nobody's running out to buy a Mercedes, install a swimming pool or hire another butler on a $600 rebate check. So, if the Republicans don't mind me saying so, it's a very democratic tax rebate.
We can all go out and find something on which to spend $300 each.
Newsweek provided some examples this week: Two round-trip airline tickets for a quick getaway. A gym membership. Twenty CDs. More than two years's supply of toilet paper at Costco. Two weeks worth of groceries. A heavy-duty power drill.
Or three outfits, a backpack and a pair of shoes so the kids can go back to school in style.
I feel sorry for the folks realizing who is really going to get the benefit from the IRS rebate. The kids.
The checks are coming just in time to spend your money so your children can go back to school with a Jurassic Park III lunchbox, a Britney Spears blouse and a Nike on each foot.
No matter the kids didn't pay any income tax whatsoever. No matter they didn't fill out the IRS forms back in April. No matter they couldn't even vote for George Bush.
It's the future taxpayers of America who are going to reap the windfall, who are going to revive the economy on their way sixth grade.
The parents, well, maybe you can ask for an allowance