I'm not against getting money, and I think our taxes are too high for what we (working Americans) get for them, but anyone who knows even Introductory Economics 101 knows that sending out money the way it's been done recently ("stimulus checks") is a tremendously bad idea, especially from an inflationary standpoint. If government has taxed us too heavily, and has too much of a surplus, it can refund some of that money or lower tax rates, but the feds at least do not have an excess of money. In fact, we're $31 trillion dollars in the hole, and counting.
Even though projections are for deficits for the next couple fiscal years, California has a surplus this year. Pretending they care about average Californians, Governor Newsollini and the state legislature are refunding some of that money to many Californians. We are to get anywhere from a couple hundred to over a thousand dollars each to "help combat the effects of inflation", or some such silliness. Will these
bribes refunds actually contribute to inflation while attempting to ameliorate its effects? Ask an economist.
It may surprise some of my long-time readers to learn that I don't pay a lot of attention to the news, so while I'd heard about these California "Middle Class Tax Refunds", I didn't really know much about them. I just assumed if a couple hundred extra dollars showed up in my checking account, that's where it would have come from.
Several days ago I received an envelope with the return address of "California Middle Class Tax Refund Card" in Omaha, Nebraska. Instantly my el-toro-poopoo detector was activated. I opened the envelope and in it was a Visa debit card. The way it was presented just didn't seem right. Here's the letter:
No indication that the California government sent this at all. A Visa debit card from "Money Network", whatever that is, just doesn't sound legit. Not being sure, I just set it aside to deal with when I had more time.
It's my first day of Christmas break, so now I have more time! I thought I'd see what the search engines could offer, so I typed in California Middle Class Tax Refund and the first hit was the web site of the Franchise Tax Board, California's version of the IRS. This was actually helpful as it explained what was going on, and even showed a picture of the letter and the expected card--maybe this card isn't a scam but is, in fact, from the state. I read on.
MCTR (Middle Class Tax Refund) direct deposit payments for Californians who received GSS (Golden State Stimulus) I or
II are expected to be issued to bank accounts between October 7, 2022
and October 25, 2022. The remaining direct deposits will occur between
October 28, 2022 and November 14, 2022.
MCTR direct deposit recipients who have changed their
banking information since filing their 2020 tax return will receive a
debit card. Debit cards for this group will be mailed between December
17, 2022 and January 14, 2023.
MCTR debit card payments for Californians who received
GSS I and II are expected to be mailed between October 24, 2022 and
December 10, 2022.
I don't even remember if I received those stimulus payments, I probably did, but I've never received a check or a card--any money I get from the state, including my state tax refunds, for example, has always been direct-deposited into the same checking account I've had for a few decades.
So I should have received this money by direct deposit but instead got it via a debit card. That's odd, but not a sure sign of a scam. Everything from the FTB web site matches up with what I received, and this news report from San Francisco makes what I received seem entirely on the up-and-up.
Yet it's still goofy. The 4th largest bank in the country, Wells Fargo, is headquartered here in California, yet the state went through the 47th largest bank in the country, headquartered in New York and one I've never heard of, to issue these cards (I'm still wondering why I received a card instead of a direct deposit). The headline of the news report linked above says, "The state of California turned over data for millions of Californians so companies in New York and Wisconsin could issue the cards and mail them out." Why? Why not just mail checks from the FTB for those who don't have direct deposit?
So I turn the paper over to read the fine print, and whoa, what fine print there is!
Look at all those fees! Why would someone have to pay so much money to a bank in order to access what's supposed to be their own money? I thought that perhaps I wouldn't have to pay, because on the back of the card are the logos for the the Star, Interlink, and Plus networks, and one of those is on the back of my bank ATM card, but that's not good enough, because my bank can charge me a fee for trying to get this money (whether they will or not, I don't know, but it seems ridiculous even to have to find out). I went to www.mctrpayment.com to find an in-network ATM I could use without a fee and typed in my zip code--I guess I can go to the nearby Rite Aid or Costco, as those are shown on the map, but no banks are shown. Doesn't that seem odd? I know it can be expensive to be poor in this country, and especially in California, but you shouldn't have to pay a bank or two (the bank that issued this card, as well as your own bank) in order to get your money from the state--that's just not right. Again, why did they not just send checks rather than going through this bank to send out cards?
Shortly after Christmas I'll go through the hassle of activating the card, setting up a PIN, checking the balance, and then withdrawing all that money in cash at a nearby ATM.
So I ask you, Governor Newsollini, the California legislature, and the FTB: might there be a less complicated way to do this?