Here's the Scoop: July 23, 2008

Ready to spend
Finally, we joined the ranks of those folks receiving economic Stimulus Checks. Or, Hush Money, if you will. Don’t get me wrong, any time someone — especially the government — hands me $1,200, I’m a willing recipient. Even if I have to wait a really, really long time to get the dough.
Sure, it’s easy to complain about the slow pace of government action — so I will. Our check was supposed to be mailed on June 6, according to the schedule. As the weeks dragged by, I called the toll-free number that had been set up to provide status reports on the stimulus refunds.
The simple fact that a “hot line” was necessary for the process was a bad sign. Did the government know that sending out checks was a much harder task than it should have been? Apparently.
In typical “passing the bucks” fashion, the toll-free number was not something terribly helpful. Upon calling this number, it immediately became clear that “taxpayer assistance” was not a high priority. In a desperate attempt to keep callers from actually speaking with someone who could give them straightforward answers, callers to the 800 number were strongly encouraged to go on-line to receive updates on their rebates.
Annoyed, I went on-line. The good news was that the government apparently had no record of me as a taxpayer. This information would come in handy when it was again time to not file my taxes.
A week later, I tried again. Still no me.

Who am I?
A few days passed and I set aside a large block of time during which I could have no interruptions. I dialed the toll-free number. And waited. And pushed countless buttons. Finally, a real person answered. Somehow, I had a vision of this woman sitting in a cramped, cobweb-covered cubicle. I honestly expected her to ask how I had gotten this number.
The bad news was that it turns out the government is aware of my existence. The good news was that I would be receiving my check after all! Sometime.
The slightly bewildered government employee was semi-pleased to tell me that she, or one of the other loyal staff, would be placing my check in the mail on July 4. If she had told me this work was going to be conducted on Groundhog Day, I might have believed her. I had a pretty strong feeling that not many federal employees would be clocking in on that day.
The update got a bit shakier when she said that once the check was mailed, it would probably take a few weeks to arrive, “because you never know what the post office will do with it.” Ouch.
And, so I waited. Before the check arrived, I received a second letter that telling me that the check was en route. The first letter came months earlier. If I’m not mistaken, I believe each mailing cost around $42 million. Hmmm, seems like those funds could have been applied to heftier rebates. Silly me.
When the second letter arrived, I felt like I was playing Treasure Hunt — “You’re getting warmer.” Several days later, the prize arrived. Quite a letdown.
Now the problem becomes how to spend this money. Gas? Fuel oil? Food? Oh, the choices.
Rumor has it, a second round of stimulus checks is being considered. I don’t know about you, but I could get used to one of those checks each month. And I’m fully confident that with regular practice, the government could keep that money flowing with hardly a glitch. That would be a real win-win situation.