Trillions of dollars from nowhere
In the United States, the biggest scam is not the one that comes in the mail
I have learned to be wary and sometimes even rude in my response to the special offers that flood my mailbox, the internet, and the phone line. But when a purportedly personalized letter from President Joe Biden arrived, it didn’t even cross my mind that there might be something nefarious and slippery going on.
“I am pleased to inform you,” the letter (dated April 23) said, “that because of the American Rescue Plan a direct payment of $2,800 was issued to you by direct deposit.”
This is legitimate, I thought. After all, the news media had been full for several days about the administration’s zeal to fill the checkbooks of millions of Americans with hundreds of billions of dollars in government support. I didn’t like the program—not at all. Nor were Carol and I in what might be called a “needy” category. But if my rejecting the payment meant that the next family down the street would get our $2,800 and be free to spend it on whatever they wanted, well, that didn’t seem right either.
There was at least one other issue. The letter from the White House said plainly: “If you haven’t received your payment within 7 days of receiving this letter, please check the status of the payment by visiting the IRS website or calling the IRS phone number listed at the bottom of this letter.” It had already been 11 days—and no money had found its way to my account.
Then an already complex scenario turned a bit knotty. I was talking with one of my married daughters. “Dad,” she said, “this sounds like a scam to me. Didn’t you say they asked you to call an 800 number? I hope you didn’t give them any bank account numbers!”
I hadn’t. But Alice is a savvy observer in such matters, so I dropped what I was doing and retrieved the White House “letter” to double check my first impressions. This time through, every word and phrase carried a slightly different nuance. What if, I wondered, this was a subtle trap?
In the end, however—at least as of this writing in mid-May—the Biden letter seems to be genuine in its intent. Its senders meant to send me $2,800. Their system just wasn’t quite up to their promise. But there was apparently no crime involved.
Meanwhile, the real crime or ethical breach may be the one that’s taken place right out in the open. The scam we may live with the longest is the anything-but-quiet transfer of hundreds of billions of dollars from a virtually unknown source into the bank accounts of accepting citizens like ourselves. With our massive level of national debt, where do those dollars come from?
This started sometime last year when former President Donald Trump authorized the first two “stimulus” packages to counter the sobering economic effects of COVID-19—the $2.2 trillion CARES Act and then its $900 billion December follow-up. The effort accelerated when new president Joseph Biden, trying to make good on his campaign promises, added his support to the $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan.”
When it comes to this kind of spending, the political label doesn’t seem to matter. Republican or Democrat—who’s going to say, “Stop! You can’t put that money in my account! It’s phony money!”
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