We learned this week that the federal government sent more than 1 million stimulus checks worth about $1.4 billion to dead people under a new federal law designed to jump-start the economy during the coronavirus pandemic.
That fired up Trump haters and cynics who cited it as another example of the ineptness of our government.
On first blush, we too were a bit astounded at an error of this magnitude. But if you dig a little deeper into this bureaucratic screwup, you learn that the error was caused by the government’s desire to get the checks out as soon as possible to people in the middle of the pandemic.
According to the online magazine, Slate, the government could have used the Social Security Administration’s death records to double-check whether people who filed a tax return for 2018, but not 2019, were still alive. But they decided not to for the sake of speed.
The checks sent to dead people represented 0.4 percent of the total of 160 million payments that were sent as of April 30.
In accounting terms, that’s the equivalent of a rounding error.
Our guess is the people who received a timely stimulus check aren’t complaining.