So our benevolent provincial Conservative goverment (I live in Alberta, aka, Texas of the North) has decided to take 1.4 billion dollars of the provincial budget surplus (generated by a healthy dose of oil and gas tax revenue) and hand it out to the average Albertan, to the tune of $400 for every man, woman, and child, in the form of a Prosperity_Bonus (yes, even Wikipedia has an article on this topic). Translation: I get 400 big ones!

Now, forget the fact that this is, in my estimation, the stupidest thing I can imagine to do with the money (see the Futurama episode “300 Big Ones” for a great satire on this whole situation). Forget the fact that the money could probably be better invested in health care, education, or heck, even squirreled away for when our resources finally do run out. Forget all that. The real issue, now, is: how do I blow this money most effectively?

Some, like these folks, might attempt to get me to donate my money to so-called “charities”. Pfft. Yeah right! I live in Alberta! I’m here to help one charity and one charity only: The Support Brett Kosinski foundation! Others might say, use it to pay bills! But that seems, to say the least, overly practical. Not to mention mature, responsible, and a whole host of other adjectives that I really try to distance myself from.

Frankly, I think the obvious thing would be to blow the money on some useless trinket that would provide me with somewhere between 20 minutes and a half hour of enjoyment before I got bored and lock onto the next bright, shiny object to catch my eye. And who knows, I might do this anyway! But, in theory, I should try to get something with a little longevity. Then again, I could just spend a day drinking 100 cups of coffee. Damn, I hate these kinds of hard decisions.

On another note, the money from these bonus cheques is exempt from taxation. Now, according to Prosperity_Bonus, the government is managing this by labelling the money as a refund due to an overpayment of taxes. At this point, I asked myself, if that’s the case, why not just give everyone in the province a tax cut that would amount to the same thing? And then it dawned on me. A tax cut, once performed, is coded into law, and is difficult to change. However, with the ‘prosperity cheque’ scheme, the government can adjust the size of the bonus from year to year based on the size of the budgetary surplus. Consequently, should the province have, say, a bad year, they don’t have to pass an ugly, nasty tax hike. Instead, they just reduce the size of the bonus. Clever, eh? :)

Additionally, this bonus cheque scheme is fairly progressive, in that it benefits families and those with lower incomes. Of course, one could achieve the same with a progressive tax cut (ie, focus the cut on the lower tax brackets), but, of course, there are political ramifications from this (and it wouldn’t be very Conservative, now would it? :), which is not the case with the bonus cheques.