Category Archives: Politics / Economy

Pessimism or Optimism?

My cousin recently blogged about how she is extremely optimistic and pessimistic at the same time about world events. She specifically discussed the recent election protests in Iran and the possibility of change coming to that country. She said she feels hopeful and fearful at the same time. My cousin and I both grew up when the Iron Curtain seemed impenetrable, when the Soviet Union was the evil empire full of our enemies. And then change came to their country, almost overnight. So it will be fascinating to see what happens in Iran…

Like my cousin, I also feel tremendous pessimism and optimism about the world and its future. For example, I am unsure what to believe about our American economy and system of government. On one hand, I want very much for President Obama to succeed and to see our nation prosper economically. I want to see positive changes to our health care system. At the same time, I am quite concerned about government intervention and the massive expansion we’ve been witnessing. As one commentator put it recently, Obama wants us to believe that the recent enormous government spending and intrusion into the free markets was necessary to save our system. Perhaps the truth is that the recession was the excuse President Obama needed to transform our government/economy into a much more European-like system, where government entitlements are widespread and where the government controls much more of the free markets, making them much less free, and consequently, less efficient.

(Some would suggest that a similar situation occurred when George W. Bush used 9-11 as an excuse to invade Iraq and remove Saddam from power, something Bush really wanted to do anyway but needed an excuse to do it, even though no direct link between 9-11 and Iraq ever existed.)

Anyway, the strange thing about this mix of fear and hope is that they can somehow co-exist in us. I fear a lot of things: Will I die young like my father? Will I get diabetes, heart disease and cancer like many of my relatives? How could I ever recover if I lost one of my children? How could I go on if my sweet wife were taken from me? I don’t like to dwell on these thoughts too much since they just make me expend energy unnecessarily by pondering “what if” scenarios.

A part of me fears the world that my children will have to face with its increasing moral degeneracy; at the same time, I look forward to the future with great anticipation. There are so many great things are ahead of us; new technologies, new ideas, new works of art and entertainment. Some people see the world as getting worse and worse every day. I choose to see it as continually improving in many ways. Certainly, more and more are choosing unrighteous paths and sin is becoming increasingly acceptable. But many are also deepening their devotion to Jesus Christ and his teachings and living better lives than ever before.

So, are you pessimistic or optimistic? Which is better: a healthy pessimism that grounds you in reality and keeps you from being disillusioned or optimism that makes you see the world through rose-colored glasses, but also could be setting you up for eventual disappointment?

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Posted by on July 1, 2009 in Politics / Economy


Economic Stimulus “Rebate” Calculator


Okay, so I’ve been investigating this Economic Stimulus package to find out whether I’m going to get any extra money from the government this summer. I’ve searched a lot of websites to determine whether I’m eligible to receive a check and how much they’re going to pay out. Here are a few interesting things that I learned.

First, I learned that some people are not eligible for the “stimulus payment.” According to the IRS’s website, you won’t get a stimulus payment in 2008 if any of the following apply to you:

  • You don’t file a 2007 tax return.
  • Your net income tax liability is zero and your qualifying income is less than $3,000. To determine your qualifying income, add together your wages, net self-employment income, nontaxable combat pay, Social Security benefits, certain Railroad Retirement benefits and certain veterans’ payments.
  • You can be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s return. For example, this would include a child or student who can be claimed on a parent’s return.
  • You do not have a valid Social Security Number.
  • You are a nonresident alien.
  • You file Form 1040NR or Form 1040NR-EZ, Form 1040PR or Form 1040SS for 2007.

As to the amount of the stimulus payment, it will be up to $600 for a single person, $1,200 for a married couple that files jointly and $300 for each additional kid in your household that has a Social Security number. (One website said the payment limit is two kids — or $600 — but I didn’t find that anywhere else, so who knows.)

Since this “rebate” is an advance for a new credit which will be included on the 2008 1040 income tax form, it will not affect your 2007 taxes. In April 2008 (this year for 2007’s tax settlement), you will receive what you are owed or you will have to pay what you owe as if the rebate never occurred. This summer you will receive the rebate for the 2008 credit in a separate check (or direct deposit if you choose).

In April 2009 or thereabouts, when you file your taxes for 2008, the IRS will run the calculation for the stimulus rebate credit again. If the results show that you would have received more (due to an additional child, for instance), you will be sent the difference. If your results show that you would have received a smaller rebate, then you get to keep the difference. This is an additional credit. You do not have to pay back to the IRS what you will receive this summer. Receiving this advance will not reduce next year’s refund nor will you owe more federal tax.

Click here to access a very useful calculator that helps you to see how much you’ll likely be getting. You’ll need to have a few numbers from your 2007 Tax Return to use this calculator.

For more details on the IRS’s website, click here.

In another post, I’d like to discuss what the stimulus package means for our economy, what I think about it on principle, and how I may spend (or save) any money I get from it.


Posted by on February 20, 2008 in Politics / Economy


First Political Contribution


This morning I did something that I’ve never done before — I made a financial contribution to a presidential candidate, Governor Mitt Romney. I was invited to do so by my brother Nate who has signed up to be a fundraiser for Romney, so I did it partly to help Nate reach his goal, but partly because the idea of a good Latter-day Saint in the White House intrigues me. I have admired Romney ever since he worked miracles with the Salt Lake Olympic Committee, turning an embarrassing and scandalous debacle into one of the most successful Winter Games on record. I was also very interested to watch him run for governor of Massachusetts and win as a Republican in a very socially liberal state.

I’m only slightly concerned about accusations of his being a political chameleon, changing his core beliefs (on issues such as abortion and gay rights) to suit his audience. I’m more interested in his ability to lead and make good decisions. He has all the management skills, he’s charismatic and he has a strong moral compass. I think that he would make a great president.

My contribution was small in amount, but significant in statement since I’ve never done it before. I’m not sure whether he will be able to overcome his rivals and make it to the White House, but he’s certainly helping to build bridges of understanding between LDS people and the rest of the world, even if that’s not his stated purpose. Bringing the Church out of obscurity is a very worthy byproduct of his candidacy, and I hope that he is successful. In the end, however, the nomination will go to the candidate that the Republican base believes can beat Hillary. Whether that’s Guilani or McCain with their liberal leanings (according to some) or Mitt Romney with his religious faith that he claims is a non-issue, but may be troubling to the evangelical “right.” It will be interesting to see how that works out. I truly hope that people will judge him by his enormous capacity, his leadership and vision, not by theological differences that may exist.


Posted by on September 28, 2007 in Politics / Economy