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Dear Mr. President: Please send more money

Sheila Gardner

President George W. Bush

The Bush ranch and

(apparently) summer White House

Crawford, Texas

Aug. 16, 2001

Dear President Bush:

Greetings from an American worker and the bearer of tax relief check No. 2303 72212437!

Sorry to disturb you on vacation, but I know you have been getting a lot of guff over the tax cut program, and I wanted to show a little bipartisan support. Even though I am a Democrat who believes Crawford should be your only address, I am grateful for the $500 refunded to me as head of my household of exactly two.

I thought you might appreciate an accounting of where that money went and how I did my patriotic duty to stimulate the economy.

News of the rebates came right after my daughter and I received an invitation to visit friends in New York whom I hadn’t seen for 10 years. What a coincidence, I thought, and with the tax refund, plus my friends’ hospitality, the trip will be practically free.

I hopped on Priceline.com and negotiated two round-trip tickets from Reno to Newark, N.J. for $453.90 (a savings, I was advised, of 48 percent. Not bad for a journalism major, eh?). That left me $46.10 from my $500 rebate to cover the rest of my expenses while in the Big Apple.

Mr. President, I don’t know if you write checks these days, but $46.10 doesn’t go very far in New York (or Nevada, for that matter. How about Crawford?). But I decided not to let the lack of money interfere with my fun. That’s why God and Bank of America created debit cards.

We economized as best we could: half-price tickets for the ballet ($78 for two); half-price tickets for an off-Broadway musical ($45 for two); $20 for two admissions to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the exhibit of the Jackie Kennedy’s White House wardrobe.

Our big splurge was the Broadway musical “Aida.” Tickets were $95 each, but, on the plus side, my daughter found a $20 bill on the floor in the lobby while we were buying $4 soft drinks at intermission. After her good faith effort of waving it around to see if anybody claimed it, I grabbed it out of her hand and stuck it in my pocket. Ironically, we could have seen the original version of “Aida” for free the next night in Central Park, but, alas, Elton John won out over Giuseppe Verdi.

Other expenses included $33 for a pound of Godiva chocolates for our friends’ anniversary; and about $100 for transportation. That included $10 round-trip train tickets from our friends’ house in the suburbs, an occasional taxi and the handy metro cards which we used to ride the city bus (too Nevada to take the subway anymore).

It was not all spend, spend, spend. On Times Square we were exposed to a free performance by the “Naked Cowboy” and discovered a free Internet kiosk. We mooched off our friends most of the week and, luckily, only spent two nights in a hotel ($225 for our room – again a discount); plus a couple of $8 deli take-out breakfasts of bagels, coffee and juice.

We did commit a couple of rookie tourist mistakes. It was very hot and humid in New York in late June and we spent $3 for a bottle of water and $3 for a pretzel while we were waiting for a break in the Gay and Lesbian Pride parade so we could cross Fifth Avenue. Had we held off until Madison or Lexington, I am sure the price would have been half. The other mistake was a pre-theater dinner at the Roxy Deli on Times Square ($13 for a roast beef sandwich!).

Not to worry, I kept reminding myself, the $500 tax refund will cover that, forgetting that I had already spent the money on airplane tickets.

I estimate our summer vacation cost about $1,300. Take away the $500 rebate and I’m in the hole only $800. My friends will tell you I am no Alan Greenspan, but I think that is what you boys had in mind.

Nevertheless, Mr. President, we had a wonderful time and I owe it all to you and my ex-husband who spotted me $400 when we returned to Nevada because my bank account was empty.

I would also like to compliment you on a couple of nice touches on the checks themselves.

That phrase – “Tax Relief for America’s Workers” – the beautiful engraving of the Statue of Liberty gazing off to the left … It looks as though you borrowed a page from the Lech Walesa playbook. Solidarity, brother.

That makes me believe despite the fact I am a Democrat and you are a Republican, we have more in common than I would have thought: We’re both American workers, it says so right on my check; we’re both heads of households; we both started new jobs in January, you at the White House, me at the Nevada Appeal, and we’re both kind of tentative about stem cell research.

In closing, Mr. President, I would like to thank you again and ask how you managed to get four weeks’ vacation after only six months on the job? Could you talk to my boss?

Yours very sincerely,

Sheila Gardner,

American worker

Gardnerville, NV

PS: Are we going to do this again next year? I’d like a little more time to prepare my ex-husband for “the phone call.”