If we’re being led by idiots, but they give us money, will we care?


The following essay was originally sketched out back in May of 2006. It is being presented here as a From the Backpack special, but…

I haven’t been able to track down any records showing it was posted on the In My Backpack web site, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that it was. On a few occasions there have been some changes and updates made around The ‘ville. Some involved computer issues, some general redesigns and overhauls. The end result has been that a few pieces—intentionally and unintentionally—were once posted and are not today.

The last notes I can find for dates list the most recent version before this, effectively the final draft version, as being saved on May 1, 2006.

I have gone over the material from that older draft and re-written a large portion of it for this posting. In some places, I did need to remove the original links that had been included as they no longer lead to active material on internet sites. I have tried to include enough references and information to allow you to both understand what was involved and where it had been found.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This may be the single most upsetting thing our government has done in years.

Use the link… read the story… come back and find out why I’m ticked off by it…

“Every American taxpayer would get a $100 rebate check to offset the pain of higher pump prices for gasoline…” is how the article starts. And right there… here I’ll italicize it for you: “Every American taxpayer would…”… right there is where my problems begin.

Three quick questions…

Number one – Does every American taxpayer drive?

Number two – My wife and I pay our taxes, but file a joint return. Do we get one check or two? (Article seems to say one.)

Number three – Does every American drive the same distance every day? Or, more broadly offered… does every American have the same demands on their driving? And by that, think… style of car… ride sharing… personal demands (ones that could be set aside) versus necessary demands (such as getting to work)… and so on. Do we all suffer equally?

Look those questions over, and I think you’ll see where I’m going.

This $100 check plan is so ill-conceived and stupid I can barely believe I’m typing even semi-rational thoughts. And I’m way, way, way beyond slightly ticked off before we even begin to think about the amount of the check and how the plan is being tied to drilling in Alaska. I’m so insulted by it that… well… (one… two… three… ten… deep breath… ok…)

Let me tell you about my great uncle.

While he may not have the most outgoing of personalities, my great uncle is a fine American. Served his country in World War II. Pays his taxes. According to the “every American taxpayer” proposal, he’ll be getting a check for $100.

Little side note. Hardly important to the story. To my knowledge, my great uncle has never, ever, in his entire life, driven a car as far as three feet. I don’t know if he has a driver’s license or a different type of photo identification.

I have never seen him drive. I don’t know if he has even handled car keys at any time in his life. Doesn’t matter… check could be on the way.

Mom commutes to work five days a week. Her round trip… round trip… can’t possibly exceed fifteen minutes and wouldn’t reach ten miles. I know. I used to work in the same building. And its door is about four miles from Mom’s driveway.

Compare that to Tigg and I. We commute together, driving over twenty-five miles in each direction.

My great uncle, doesn’t own a car. Mom for work, at most, drives forty to fifty miles per week. Tigg and I for work, ride together for more than fifty miles each day.

Not every American taxpayer is being hit equally by this gas-price problem. And since this $100 check doesn’t take into account so many important and obvious factors, I can’t believe how crazy it is.

Some people are conscious of the price of gas and how it impacts them… compact car. Some people use their vehicle for work or perhaps don’t care… sports utility vehicle. Each… a $100 check.

Some people commute great distances and share rides with their friends and spouses to work. Some don’t commute as far and drive alone. Each… a $100 check.

State to state… taxes differ. Everyone… all together… a $100 check.

Now that said… my hat is off to Senator Bob Menendez. One of his solutions would be to suggest a tax-free period of time. (MSNBC link no longer available.) That would balance things out a bit more, though not iron out all the wrinkles.

But I’m not here to rant on and on and on about the reasons why this is so dumb. Many people I have mentioned it to in the past 24-hours yelled that the amount of was the truly stunning part, being so insignificant in consideration of the situation that it was insulting. I haven’t even hinted about that until this paragraph, but it’s true too.

Instead, I want to call this check exactly what it is.

A bribe.

A smokescreen.

Elections are being held this year. Go figure… the Republican Party, currently staggering under an amazing string of unfavorable events and public opinion, are the start of this possibility.

Considering the way all politicians act (although, heck, the Republican Party and Fox News are the two biggest sources of misguided, unreliable and flat-out incorrect information in the country), in future years you can expect to hear all about how (my words): “we tried to give the taxpayers of this country a break during a time of energy concerns and financial hardships.” Of course, in 2012, you won’t hear about how they wanted to tear up Alaska to get a rate of return on that check they will claim to have tried to mail out.

Oh sure, let’s give people some credit. It is a discussion and it is an option and it is something. Even if it is dumb, it does at least acknowledge there is an issue.

Still, I can’t quite say that these senators and representatives see it as a true problem. I don’t believe they care how higher gas prices change your life or mine. Especially when so many of them have cashed a check or two of their own over the years… perhaps from the account(s) of an oil company. But I do believe they care about how it might change the re-election campaign for this fall.

The thing is, this just stinks right out of the gate. It isn’t the amount of the check or any of several other issues that are valid concerns. No, the primary thing is that these politicians don’t appear to be truthfully talking about helping the people and services that are hurting because of increased gas prices. Instead, they are offering money to potential voters.

Hey… I’m not an idiot. And I’m not proud. If a $100 check or two shows up from the American government to help ease the pain of rising gas prices, I’m going to the bank and making a deposit. I was even the person that noted in other efforts that my political opinion could be influenced by something like a check for $400. (My exact words: “I don’t know if I am a Republican or a Democrat. I think most Americans today feel the same way. We have no specific loyalty to a certain party, but instead, if we even decide to vote, believe we can tell the difference between candidates and decide which one will do the best job for us… What do I know then? Two summers in a row George Bush told me he was fighting for the United States government to send me a check. And, two summers in a row, they did. Yeah George!” That quote is out of context, but I’m willing to admit I said it.)

Let’s just not pretend this check thing is fair, well-conceived, and designed to address the purpose it says it is addressing. Nope… nope… and nope.


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com