Friday, May 29, 2009

The Conscience Fund

     There has been a lot in the news regarding government spending and budgets. Especially the federal government, but very little has been said about how the government gets the money that it is spending. Taxes are most obvious source of federal government income, but did you know that they will allow you to go ahead and give them money for free? And you can do it totally anonymously too!
     That's right, Company, the United States Treasury has three funds set up for you to give them money, and by far the most intriguing and entertaining is what is called the Conscience Fund. The Conscience Fund is a fund or account set up by the US Teasury to accept donations, often times anonymous, from people who have defrauded or stolen from the Us Government. The fund was started a long ass time ago, in 1811 to be more precise, and received a whopping $5 in its first year. So it's obvious the word got out quickly and people were lining up to drop money into the thing. I said that with sarcasm, but now as I think about it $5 was a much larger sum then than it is now. That's roughly $61 in todays dollars. But in its over 175 year history it has managed to pull in over $5.7 million. Now that's a hopping fund if you ask me.
     So anyway, you can put money into the Conscience Fund for any reason your heart desires really, but mostly over the years it has become associated with ill-begotten gains. That practice and the name began when the fund received a $1500 check with a note that said "Suppose we call this a contribution to the conscience fund and get it announced in the newspapers; and perhaps we will get some more." And so it began. Donations to the conscience fund run the gammit from the very small to the somewhat large. And by somewhat large I mean more than I pay to house, feed, and clothe all of the Unpaid Interns over the course of a year. A person in Massachussets sent in a 9¢ donation because she had reused a 3¢ postage stamp. Someone from New Jersey sent in $40,000 to cover the $8000 they had previously taken. So whatever it takes to clear your conscience. Another person sent $1000 because they had cheated on their taxes and noted that they would pay the rest of the money they had defrauded if they could sleep at night. Because of this association with stolen or defrauded money some people don't want their money to be put into the conscience fund. In 1932, at the height of the Great Depression, Herbert Hoover and his Cabinet volunteered to reduce their pay but instructed that the Treasury put the balance in the General Fund as opposed to the Conscience Fund. And as would be expected, gifts to the Conscience Fund are not tax deductable. I guess that you shouldn't get a break on forking over to clear your mind about the money you stole in the first place.
     I love this idea. I really do. Not that I want to give more money than I have to to the Feds, but I am a big fan of conscience. And I am a big fan of not getting caught. So the fact that there is a way to reconcile that, especially without forking over your name or location, is awesome. I love it to death. Because I can drop a twenty dollar bill into an envelope and stick it in a mailbox in New Iberia, Louisiana, which is nowhere near where I live or have ever been, and wipe my hands clean of the situation. It's great. I sort of almost want to go ahead and send them a check just for the sake of sending in a check. Just to help the government out. Because I am a nice guy like that.
     Honestly though, this is a pretty cool thing. It gives people a way to make things straight, if not with the IRS or whomever, at least with themselves. Why you would ever make a donation to that fund without doing so anonymously I don't know, because it seems to me that once they know who you are and what you did, they are going to come after you and lay the proverbial hammer down. So not only will you be out the fines and the legal costs and the prison time, but you will also be out whatever you were stupid enough to contribute to the Conscience Fund with your name on it. Dumbass. But at least you can sleep at night. In your cell. With your cellmate Billy Dean who got caught running moonshine in the Arkansas woods. So you've got that going for you.

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