I walked in the door this morning to my apartment in Santiago, happy to be back in Chile after a week away … But my mood was quickly spoiled when my maid handed me an envelope.
“It looks official,” she said, staring at me to gauge my reaction. She was right. The sender was the United States Department of Treasury.
Clearly my first thought was wondering why the US government was sending me anything, especially to my apartment in Santiago. My second thought was utter astonishment that the US Postal Service had managed to get it here!
I ripped it open and found… a check. Made out to me. It was my tax refund … This is the first year in ages that I remember receiving a physical check; I must have forgotten to fill out the direct deposit section of the 1040.
And while checks seem like vestigial relics of a financial era long gone, it’s not a big problem to deal with down here. Chileans really like checks, and it turns out that a number of Chilean banks we deal with are more than happy to immediately clear foreign checks from the US.
Then I glanced back at the envelope. It said, “Forgery or endorsements on Treasury checks is a Federal crime. Maximum penalty is a $10,000 fine and ten years in imprisonment.”
Wow. In the Land of the Free, you can’t even deposit a tax refund check without being threatened with fines and imprisonment. It’s unreal.
We’ve talked about this before. Even the most basic, innocuous tasks now involve threats and intimidation.
If you apply for a passport on form DS-11, the government threatens you with “fine and/or imprisonment under U.S. law including the provisions of 18 U.S.C. 1001, 18 U.S. C. 1542, and/or 18 U.S.C. 162.”
Applying for a social security replacement card threatens you with “penalty of perjury”.
Applying for a driver’s license in my home state of Texas threatens me with “five years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine.”
And of course, the instruction book for IRS form 1040 includes an entire section threatening anyone about to file his/her taxes with civil, criminal, and administrative penalties.
There’s very little you can do in the Land of the Free that doesn’t involve the threat of fines and imprisonment anymore, including simply depositing a check.
—Simon Black (via the-altar)