Tom Purcell

I don't know who they are, but I've got to hand it to them. I'm too cynical to do what they do.

I speak of the Americans who, every year, donate money to pay down America's national debt.

The Bureau of the Public Debt — part of the Treasury Department — began allowing such donations in 1961. According to Title 31, Chapter 31 of the U.S. Code, any citizen is free to give a “gift” to Treasury, under the condition that the money will be used only to pay down the debt.

Last year, the government received $3 million in such gifts. Who are the gift-givers? Nobody knows for certain.

Mckayla Braden, senior adviser at the Bureau of the Public Debt, told me that all the bureau does is tally the totals. It keeps no records on the number of individuals who give or the average amount.

Braden was able to share some interesting details and anecdotes with me:

• Gift-givers generally mail in checks — rarely do they include a note of any kind.

• Sometimes they donate their tax-refund checks, after signing the checks over to Treasury.

• Occasionally, someone leaves a large portion of his or her estate to the government. That happened in 1992, when the largest gift on record, $3.5 million, was received.


Tom Purcell

Tom Purcell, author of "Comical Sense: A Lone Conservative Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!" and "Misadventures of a 1970's Childhood," is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist syndicated nationally by Cagle Cartoons. Visit him on the web at www.TomPurcell.com