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TheStreet Open House

The Five Dumbest Things on Wall Street: Aug. 28

Stimulus Stupidity

Wondering where all that government stimulus money is going? Fear not. The check is in the jail.

Seriously.

The federal government sent nearly 3,900 economic stimulus payments of $250 each this spring to prison inmates, according to the Boston Herald. The checks were a component of the huge economic recovery package approved by Congress and President Barack Obama in February. About 52 million Social Security recipients, railroad retirees and those receiving Supplemental Security Income were eligible for the one-time checks that were supposed to be used to jump-start the economy.

Unless they jump the wall for one big shopping trip to J. Crew (JCG) or the Gap (GPS), don't expect 2,200 of those inmates who received checks to spend them all in one place.

They may be doing hard time, but they are entitled to keep those not-so hard-earned dollars because they were legally eligible, according to the Social Security Administration. Prison inmates are generally ineligible for federal benefits. However, this lucky crew gets a break because they weren't incarcerated in any one of the three months before the recovery package was enacted.

The other 1,700 checks totaling about $425,000 were just a screw-up.

"We are currently reviewing each of those cases to determine whether or not the recovery payment was due," Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue said in a statement issued Wednesday evening. "Where we determine payment was not due, we will take aggressive action to recover each of these erroneous payments."

Oh sure, you can count on those convicts to do the right thing and return the money. We have the utmost confidence in them.

It's the folks down in Washington who are testing our faith.

Dumb-o-meter score: 75 -- Stimulus Monopoly: Go directly to jail and collect $200. Then collect another $200.

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