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From: Gerda Bikales (e-mail her)
A letter I recently received had a Los Angeles postmark but no return address. It was sent to me informally, by my first and family name – no Mrs., Ms., or Miss. The handwriting was regular and precise, if somewhat childish.
When I opened the envelope, I found a folded newspaper page to which a yellow post-it had been affixed in the same neat handwriting: "Gerda," it read, "you must see this!" Signed "J."
I mentally reviewed my Los Angeles contacts without identifying a "J." The full page ad had a screaming headline: "Learn How to Profit From the Trillion-Dollars in Government Bailout Programs!"
The newspaper in which the ad appeared was dated June 3, 2009. Curiously, the publication's name didn't appear anywhere.
I read on: "There's NEW Money Available... We'll show you How to Get it! ... You'll learn how you can DIRECTLY benefit from TARP, the 'Troubled Asset Relief Program.'"
Just in case the reader has qualms about jumping on the gravy train to bilk the U.S. government, the National Grants Conferences takes care to assuage such feelings: "This money comes from the Government Grant, Loan, and Subsidy system – and it's essentially YOUR money. It comes from YOUR taxes, and it may be available to you as Opportunity Money."
Furthermore, it is our patriotic duty to grab the money: "The Government knows that by helping you achieve your dreams and realize success, you will be a solid taxpaying citizen, helping to further stimulate the economy..."
So, there you have it, the new patriotism: snap up the public's money and spend it. There is no further requirement.
At free "conferences" offered in various locations in the New York area, the National Grants Center will teach you how to go about it. There are plenty of testimonials along with underexposed blurry photographs from folks who attended one of these and have supposedly been amply rewarded.
Lakesha Clark came away with a down payment of $15,000 on a nice home. "I don't have to pay the $15,000 back" she tells us.
Bob Willman received $110,000 to buy equipment for his business. "The money is free. We don't have to pay it back."
Dave Morgan hit the jackpot. He was awarded $1.3 million for his business, and in his words "the greatest thing is that we don't have to pay any of it back!"
It took a while but eventually it dawned on me that the whole package was a direct mail come-on, brilliantly executed with the attention-getting post-it from my old friend "J." (VDARE.COM note: the real National Grants Conference explains the scam here.)
At first, I had been flattered that someone had thought me civic-minded enough to be repulsed by the message, but my sentiment changed to embarrassment when I realized that my name had somehow landed on a list of people believed likely to seek profit from our country's unprecedented economic crisis. How did that happen?
The folks at the National Grants Conference are wrong about me.
I am not tempted to enroll in their "free" conference series. A few disgruntled would-be profiteers who have posted their experiences with the National Grants Conference organization on the Internet describe the operation as a high pressure sales pitch for a $999 course on how to nail the money. After forking over their tuition payment, the hapless buyers' calls for help were ignored.
It would seem that if this money-grubbing scheme does not deliver as advertised, it is time to call on our government to investigate for deceptive advertising.
And if indeed it does deliver on its preposterous claim, behooves us to complain to Congress and TARP about this outright abuse of the economic stimulus legislation.
Bikales is one of the original founders of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, served as the first Executive Editor of U.S. English and as a founding director of ProEnglish. She has also contributed to The Social Contract.