Stimulus Checks Are Being Sent to Dead People

That's the conclusion of this new story from Fox News:

Antoniette Santopadre of Valley Stream was expecting a $250 stimulus check. But when her son finally opened it, they saw that the check was made out to her father, Romolo Romonini, who died in Italy 34 years ago. He'd been a U.S. citizen when he left for Italy in 1933, but only returned to the United States for a seven-month visit in 1969.

The Santopadres are not alone. The Social Security Administration, which sent out 52 million checks, says that some of those checks mistakenly went to dead people because the agency had no record of their death. That amounts to between 8,000 and 10,000 checks for millions of dollars.

But I wouldn't get worked up into an early grave over this.

zombie democrat clark mackey flickr.png

First, while it's obviously not great that this is happening, I think the fact that this story is in the running (via Reason, the Jawa Report and Instapundit) to become a minor scandal just demonstrates the earlier Yglesias point that the human brain is really bad at processing and comparing large numbers. 9,000 checks out of 52,000,000 checks is 0.0173%. Wouldn't you love to live in a world where government programs had a 99.9827% success rate? Or take this: Fox News says the dead-people checks amount to "millions of dollars." Millions of dollars! But the total tax credit at stake is more than a hundred billion dollars.

It's also not clear what the actual harm here is supposed to be. Gateway Pundit raises the analogy to dead people recording votes that are disproportionately for Democrats, but in that case there's an easily identifiable harm: the dead are diluting the votes of the rest of us.

But in this case, the dead people get the checks and then ... what? They cash them? Does Obama have strange zombie-king powers? Can he force his army of stimulus zombies to spend the checks at Wal-Mart instead of using them to pay down debt? Hard to see what the cost is, besides an extra stamp.

Image from Flickr User clarkmackey
Presented by

Conor Clarke is the editor, with Michael Kinsley, of Creative Capitalism. He was previously a fellow at The Atlantic and an editor at The Guardian. More

Conor Clarke is the editor, with Michael Kinsley, of Creative Capitalism, an economics blog that was recently published in book form by Simon and Schuster. He was previously a fellow at The Atlantic and an editor at The Guardian. He is also on Twitter.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus


A Stop-Motion Tour of New York City

A filmmaker animated hundreds of still photographs to create this Big Apple flip book


The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"


This Japanese Inn Has Been Open For 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.


What Happens Inside a Dying Mind?

Science cannot fully explain near-death experiences.

More in Politics

Just In