Hey, Big Spenders

I don’t know who they are, but I’ve got to hand it to them. I’m too cynical to do what they do.

I speak of the Americans who, every year, donate money to pay down America’s national debt.

The Bureau of the Public Debt — part of the Treasury Department — began allowing such donations in 1961. According to Title 31, Chapter 31 of the U.S. Code, any citizen is free to give a “gift” to Treasury, under the condition that the money will be used only to pay down the debt.

irs form 1040 taxes

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Last year, the government received $3 million in such gifts. Who are the gift-givers? Nobody knows for certain.

Mckayla Braden, senior adviser at the Bureau of the Public Debt, told me that all the bureau does is tally the totals. It keeps no records on the number of individuals who give or the average amount.

Braden was able to share some interesting details and anecdotes with me:

. Gift-givers generally mail in checks — rarely do they include a note of any kind.

. Sometimes they donate their tax-refund checks, after signing the checks over to Treasury.

. Occasionally, someone leaves a large portion of his or her estate to the government. That happened in 1992, when the largest gift on record, $3.5 million, was received.

Over the years, Braden was able to learn about some of the givers.

In the early ’90s, a teacher sent in a large jar of dimes and nickels. The teacher explained that she’d conducted a class exercise on the national debt. Her students had contributed what they could.

Braden remembers one gift-giver who mailed a small money order from a convenience store.

She remembers another fellow who mailed in $10 or $20 every payday. He did so for years.

Though little is known about the gift-givers — it isn’t entirely clear what motivates them — Braden got a sense that most are patriotic people who want to do their own small part to help their country.

“Small” is, unfortunately, the right word.

For the past decade, Treasury has received between $2 million and $3 million in gifts every year. But our debt, growing a few trillion a year, now stands at $13 trillion.

If our debt remained fixed at $13 trillion — and if we applied $3 million every year to pay down that debt — it would take 4.3 million years to pay it off.

And that is with zero-percent interest.

Besides, the gift donations technically aren’t paying down the debt anyhow. All the donations are deposited to the receipts ledger of Uncle Sam’s general fund.

Since we’re running large deficits, the donations simply reduce the amount of money our government will borrow.

The last thing I want to do is give our spendthrift government an opportunity to spend even more.

Nonetheless, I wish more people were as thoughtful as the silent givers — particularly the people who are so eager to expand our government and raise our taxes.

Hey, big spenders, here’s your chance to put your money where your mouth is. You can send your own money to Treasury right now. Just go to www.pay.gov.

How about it, big spenders.

Hello?

Just as I figured.

No wonder I’m such a cynic.

©2010 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, a humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. For more info contact Cari Dawson Bartley at 800 696 7561 or email [email protected] Visit Tom on the web at www.TomPurcell.com or e-mail him at [email protected]

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The Republican 20 Percenters

During the long cold winter of January 2009, Republicans were dreading the impending thaw of an Obama Administration. It was just after the massive “compassionate conservative” bank bailouts, the economy was hemorrhaging millions of jobs and yet a CBS/New York Times poll reported President George W. Bush still had a 22% approval rating.

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It was the end of a disastrous second term, a bitter end to a bitter era. It was back when the best thing anyone could say about Bush was, “He showed some great reflexes when he dodged those shoes, huh?” So one could guess around 22% is pretty much the core of the Right. The die hards. The ones who will forgive anything (i.e. Katrina, no WMDs, children left behind etc.). Biker gangs have their “one percenters” ““ Republicans have their 20 percenters. They too should get a patch. Republicans like leather, right?

Speaking of respectable Republican cloth coat’s, even President Richard Nixon had a 27% approval rating months before he resigned, of course that was a more polite era ““ less slander more assassinations. The point is, the nucleus of Republicans is absolutely committed to their guys regardless. Twenty percent is the baseline number ““ the base.

Put a necktie on a German Shepherd who’s strong on defense and hates taxes and if he’s a Republican he will get at least a 20% approval rating nationally (as long as he’s not openly gay or Mormon). He doesn’t even have to be running for anything. Just wearing something that has a flag pin attached so people will know he loves freedom.

Last year an Associated Press-GfK poll found only 21% of adults now identify themselves as Republicans. This is much smaller than just a couple months prior at 28%. And since the now sainted and intellectually irreproachable President Ronald Reagan said the 11th Commandment is “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican,” the party now has tons more Americans they can speak ill of. They are less than a quarter of adults currently; leaner and meaner.

So it is not surprising to hear a Gallup Poll report that 28% of Americans support the Tea Party. One can assume that it’s mainly Republican support and so it’s not a coincidence the devout of the GOP hovers around that same number.

What is surprising is to hear is Republicans or Tea Partiers calling themselves the “silent majority,” a throwback to the some Republican Revolution rhetoric back when family values House Speaker Newt Gingrich was still on his second wife. Now “silent majority” is a double misnomer due to their decibels and their numbers. Even if no Tea Baggers were Republicans and vice versa, if you added the two groups together currently, according to the data, they would still not be a majority of Americans.

The majority of Americans voted for Barack Obama. They did. By an overwhelming margin. He was the better candidate. Our economy was in a freefall. They voted for a policy wonk. They voted for the candidate who won the debates. They voted for a dude whose middle name is the same as an evil dictator’s last name we took out because it wasn’t relevant. That’s the actual majority.

According to a Winston Group study that came out this month, 86% of the Tea Partiers are over 34 years old. Are they the “new” GOP? For the most part they put the “old” in the Grand Old Party. They’re older Americans who are upset their candidate wasn’t good enough. They’re angry. They’re afraid of “change” but like to threaten revolution and secession. They get so much press because of the novelty of America’s crotchety great-aunts and uncles shaking their Medicare covered fists at The Man. It’s like the soda ads where old people drink Pepsi and start acting like crazy teenagers. But it’s tea!

But no matter how much attention they receive, they are still the 20 Percenters.

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Tina Dupuy is an award-winning writer and the editor of FishbowlLA.com. Follow Tina on Twitter @TinaDupuy.

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