Just when you thought government spending couldn't get any more out of control, the boys and girls on the hill manage to surprise us one more time. Sure, we all understand why we needed to switch to digital television, and sure, we understand the need for digital converter boxes so analog TVs could be used in the digital age. And who didn't appreciate the government agreeing to send out $40 coupons to help families purchase the boxes. How could they screw up a coupon?
According to a report from Reuters, 16 million coupons have been ordered by consumers, and they started shipping last February. The government allotted $1.5 billion for the coupon program, which should subsidize almost 33.5 million boxes.
How did the government screw it up? They put an expiration date on the coupons — 90 days. So, if you got a coupon and didn't use it in time, you're SOL. Time to request another one. Here's the problem. The government forgot that they would have to put a stamp on the new coupon they send you. The $40 coupon money goes back in the pot, but they need another stamp for the new coupon they send out. According to the National Telecommunications and Information Institute, a division of the Commerce Department, only 42% of the requested coupons have been redeemed. So, for the price of a 42 cent stamp, the digital revolution could be overthrown.
Well, okay, that's a bit dramatic, but how can the government, which owns the postal service, not have enough money for more stamps?
According to the Reuters report, Bernadette McGuire-Rivera, associate director of the National
Telecommunications and Information Administration, said at a hearing
that it was possible the agency "would have to get more money,
basically to buy more stamps to send out coupons." Here's an idea, Berny. Eliminate the expiration date. Why not make the coupon good for a year after the digital switch? What's the point?
I hear that Dr. Laura has discounts on her website for Stamps.com. Send this link to your Congressman. —Leslie Shapiro
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