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Waste of the Day: Throwback Thursday: IRS Wastes $42 Million On Postage

March 07, 2024

Topline: In 2008, Congress sent stimulus checks to most Americans to try and avoid the impending recession. The move made news around the country — but apparently not enough that the IRS felt satisfied.

The government spent $42 million to send letters informing Americans that their stimulus check would arrive soon in a separate letter, costing $60.2 million in 2024 dollars.

Open the Books
Waste of the Day 3.07.24

That’s according to the “Wastebook” reporting published by the late U.S. Senator Dr. Tom Coburn. For years, these reports shined a white-hot spotlight on federal frauds and taxpayer abuses.

Coburn, a U.S. Senator from Oklahoma, earned the nickname "Dr. No" by stopping thousands of pork-barrel projects using the Senate rules. Projects that he couldn't stop, Coburn included in his oversight reports.  

Coburn's Wastebook 2008 included 65 examples of outrageous spending worth more than $1.3 billion, including the $42 million postage expense from the IRS.

Key facts: President George W. Bush signed the Economic Stimulus Act in February 2008, sending payments of up to $600 to almost everyone in America.

The IRS — gentlemen that they are — did each taxpayer the personal courtesy of sending a letter to let them know their stimulus check was on the way.

The notice gave taxpayers the vital information that they did “not have to do anything” to receive their stimulus check as long as they had a Social Security number.

The only real purpose of the letter would have been to warn those who did not file a 2007 tax return that they could miss out on the stimulus check, but an additional letter was sent to members of that group.

Critical quote: “There are countless better uses for $42 million than a self-congratulatory mailer that gives the president a pat on the back for an idea that wasn’t even his,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told the Associated Press at the time.

Coburn, who voted against the stimulus bill, added that "If 10,000 Oklahomans call the White House today and said this is stupid, fix it, we might get something happening."

Supporting quote: IRS Spokesperson David Stell offered this defense of the letters: "That's a decision that was made in our Washington office based upon the best minds that were there to think about the best way to inform the public about this."

Summary: The wait for an exciting piece of mail can indeed be agonizing. But not at the cost of $42 million of taxpayer money.

The #WasteOfTheDay is brought to you by the forensic auditors at OpenTheBooks.com

This article was originally published by RealClearInvestigations and made available via RealClearWire.
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