The outside of the envelopes from the Internal Revenue Service say “Penalty for private use $300.” It looks for all the world as if the recipient is about to be audited. The stomach drops. But what is inside these letters, which reach 90 million Americans, seems a strange contrast with that message.
The eye scans the top, where, instead of I.R.S., the letterhead reads, “The White House, Washington.” At the bottom, the familiar heart-monitor signature of President Donald J. Trump appears and he is “pleased to notify” us that we have received such-and-such in an economic impact payment as part of the massive $2.2 trillion federal pandemic package.
In this fraught political atmosphere, even before the letters went out there was heated debate. “It’s political!” The president’s critics cried. And so it was. Previous presidents have signed letters to voters about tax rebates and so on, but always in measured tones. Not this time. Mr. Trump’s letter is full of “my fellow American” bromides. Then, at the bottom, the text comes close to the president’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan. “Just as we have before,” (uh-oh) it begins, “America will triumph yet again.” Put another way, MAGA, AWTYA, apparently, being too difficult to say.
Franking is what the practice of using official mail for campaign purposes is called, and it is strictly limited at all levels of government. Security requirements mean presidents must use government assets while seeking re-election, but putting out political rhetoric in this way should not be allowed. But then, who is it exactly who will say no to this president?