Everything on my desk today deals with the difficulties associated with money. If there is a common theme or a moral hidden in what follows, you will have to dig it out for yourself.
A printing company executive writes: "At Lord and Taylor today, I got a chocolate soda (served in about an 8-ounce glass) with a scoop of ice cream about the size of a silver dollar, $1.75. Grilled cheese sandwich (one slice) $2.50. Plus 8 percent D.C. tax."
A friend phoned and said, "The National Bank of Washington has just notified me about a new schedule of fees it will put into effect next month.
"If I keep less than $200 in my savings account, the bank will charge me $1 a month service charge for using my money at 5 1/4 percent and lending it out at 20 percent. If I want a cashler's check, I'll have to pay them $2. If I want to stop payment on a check I have written, it will cost me $10.
"If I deposit a check that is returned, they'll charge me $15. But perhaps the most outrageous item on the list is this one: If I put $499 into a checking account and don't write any checks against that balance for a whole year, the bank will slap a $12 service charge on the account. They will have had the use of my $499 all year long, and no doubt will have loaned it out and made $100 in interest on it; but I will have to pay them $12 for the privilege of making them richer."
A junior at the University of Maryland wrote: "I see where D.C. is having trouble raising money. Why don't they legalize the sale of pot and tax it? Marijuana is now the only million-dollar business in town that isn't taxed -- no excise tax, no sales tax, no franchise tax, no property tax, no income tax on the profits. Don't put my name in the paper, my mother would kill me."
Harry S. Wender said: "The Post's investigative reporters ought to find out how much sales tax is being turned in by Washington's street vendors.I patronize them frequently but have never been charged sales tax on anything. If Mayor Barry is looking for revenue, here's where to find some."
Newswoman Val Hymes, who is Washington correspondent for Westinghouse TV stations, wonders whether the District of Columbia has already found a lucrative new source of revenue: phantom parking tickets.
One day Val found a boot on her car, "Several hours and three lines later," as she put it, "I found myself before a hearing examiner who told me I was guilty of four parking tickets." Val said she always paid parking tickets promptly and just couldn't have overlooked four of them. Big yawn.
In the end she had to pay a shopping fine to get her car back. But when she got home and dug out her records, she found that neither she nor the car had been in town on the dates of two of the four parking offenses.
Val says that when she mentioned the boot to friends, several of them told her the same thing had happened to them. They had never seen a ticket, had never received a notice that the fine was doubled because a ticket had gone unpaid, but were booted as scofflaws anyhow. I find it hard to believe that the Department of Transportation's employees would be guilty of deliberately engaging in such practices, to meet a "quota" or for any other reason. However, I think we ought to try to find out. I would like to hear from anybody else who thinks he has been victimized by a phantom ticket racket in the District of Columbia.Don't be afraid to speak up. Your name will not be used.
Joan Schwartz of Potomac, who writes the syndicated "Ask Alma column, wants help with this money question: "I just inherited a diary written by my great-great-grandfather. An entry dated 1868 says, 'Met Mr. K. about buying S.W. corner of 2d Street and Avenue C in NYC.' The price was $7,000. Grandfather didn't buy the lot. Would it be worth today?" p
Our newsroom regugees from New York turn up their noses at mention of the address. "East Village," they say. "Not very classy. Low-rent housing. Who knows what it would be worth today? She doesn't even say how big the lot was. Maybe grandpa wasn't so dumb and the lot isn't even worth $7,000 today."
Texaco's profit was somewhat more than $7,000 on-natural gas it obtained from 1966 to 1977 by "knowingly violating a federal law." The government ruled that Texaco would have to give back an equal amount of gas -- a mere 208 billion cubic feet.
However, staff writer Morton Mintz told us on page 1 yesterday that the penalty has been revised. Texaco will be permitted to figure the value of the gas it gives back at its 1980 market value. This will give Texaco a profit of $373 million as its punishment for deliberately violating the law for 11 years.
I told you at the outset that you would have to find your own moral in these money items, but I will say this:
I hope the people who buy the natural gas pay Texaco with bum checks -- and that Texaco's bank charges $15 for every check that's returned.