The White House has taken a page from its predecessor and decided to use the power of the office to remind Americans, by direct mail, that it shares responsibility for giving them money.
In the coming weeks, tens of millions of Americans who received the third round of stimulus checks thanks to the Democrats' American Rescue Plan will be reminded of that fact in a letter from President Joe Biden — upsetting critics who also blasted the last president for promoting himself with taxpayer money.
Sent via the Internal Revenue Service, recipients of the Biden letter will be relieved to find not a request for back taxes, but a boast of promises made and promises kept.
"A key part of the American Rescue Plan is direct payments of $1,400 per person for most American households," Biden wrote in the letter, obtained by Insider. "This fulfills a promise I made to you, and will help get Americans through the crisis."
The letter also details other parts of the $1.9 trillion stimulus measure passed by a party-line vote in March, some of which "will help you as well," among them: "aid for small businesses, an expanded child tax credit for families, and resources to reopen schools safely."
There is also an ostensibly practical purpose for the missive: reminding people that, if they have not received their stimulus checks, they can check on the status with the IRS.
The letter is identical in formatting to one sent by former President Donald Trump along with the first round of stimulus checks in April 2020. Both were sent out by the IRS, used a White House letterhead, and began by addressing, "My fellow American."
At the time, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a center-left watchdog group, criticized Trump's letter as "self-aggrandizing ... at taxpayer expense." Unlike Biden, Trump also put his signature be on the stimulus checks themselves, a decision that may have delayed their mailing.
Noah Bookbinder, president of CREW, told Insider there were "aggravating factors" in Trump's, such as his putting his own signature on the stimulus checks, a decision that may have delayed their mailing. Nevertheless, "this trend toward presidents sending self-serving signed letters at taxpayer expense is unfortunate regardless of who does it," he said. "I hope that President Biden will not learn the wrong lessons from his predecessor and continue this kind of tactic."
The US Treasury Department did not immediately respond when Insider asked how much it cost to print and mail the letters.
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