Spending the chocolate

In first grade, a chubby little boy whose name I can’t remember occasionally gave me Hershey bars. He wanted me to like him, but I was enamored with a lean, swarthy, older man, a 7-year-old named Jimmy. I appreciated the gifts, and at least once, I guiltlessly broke a chocolate bar in half so that Jimmy and I could both enjoy it.

There’s an obvious difference between those childhood Hershey bars and the mustard-colored envelope with a check for $1,200 in my mailbox, a little treat from the Big Guy in the White House. For starters, eating the chocolate didn’t increase our nation’s deficit or decrease chances of a decent future for our kids.

And the generous George W. Bush isn’t a chubby little boy, though the underlying psychology is similar: “Please like me! Please vote for me!”

The best part about receiving money from the U.S. Department of the Treasury is the thought that at least these few hundreds won’t be spent on the United States’ own stockpile of weapons of mass destruction.

As of this writing, my significant Republican has cashed our check and deposited $600 in each of our checking accounts. I think he’s going to pay some dental bills with his share. (Despite having paid extra for dental coverage, our insurance provider covered only $13 of a recent bill that totaled nearly $1,000.)

That leaves me with a budget surplus of $600 that could easily be applied to my personal credit card deficit. Or I could invest the money in an extremely low-interest passbook savings account.

But what fun would that be?

If the feds are going to let me spend a few hundred tax dollars, I might as well share. Here are a few ways to spend some of Bush’s love gift:

1. Save the forest. Since Bush couldn’t mack his pro-logging legislation through Congress, he turned the idea into an executive order. His Healthy Forest initiative gives the logging industry the right to go in and “thin” forests, even to the point of removing healthy old-growth trees. This ostensibly protects the land from forest fires. (To Bush, a healthy forest is a field.) Environmental groups, like the Sierra Club, are fighting the initiative. To donate or find out more about saving forests, visit www.sierraclub.org.

2. Buy extra school supplies. Bring them to a favorite school where teachers will put them to good use. I recently spoke with a public school teacher who spends hundreds of dollars a year on supplies like copier paper. Since she doesn’t make enough money to itemize deductions, she doesn’t get a tax break for paying for my kids’ education out of her own pocket.

3. Reno doesn’t have a homeless shelter. The Reno Area Alliance for the Homeless has plans in the works to build a facility, and a few extra bucks from each of us might go a long way to offering real long-term solutions for people living along the river. Rather than handing $20 to the next guy I see with a cardboard sign, I’m calling the United Way of Northern Nevada, a member of RAAH, to find out how to make a donation. Call 322-8668.

4. Organize and bankroll a neighborhood barbecue.

5. Take the kids back-to-school shopping at the Hidden Valley Community Yard Sale this weekend. There’s plenty of great stuff priced to sell in this little subdivision east of town. In the interest of helping out the wild horse rescue group, Wild Horse Spirit, I’ll be sure to stop at the corner of Tamarisk Street and East Hidden Valley Drive to see what they’re selling. The whole shindig starts at 8 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 16.

6. Buy a Hershey bar for a good friend.