What is the Economic Recovery Bill?

by JERRY COON

jerrycoonAll 1,071 pages of the Economic Recovery Bill were signed by President Obama on Tuesday. This bill has some items that will benefit most of us, although you can bet there isn’t anything in it for the presidents of GM, Chrysler or Ford. The total bill is worth $787 billion in federal spending. Since the deficit was expected to be about $813 billion anyway, that will bring the federal deficit for this year up to $1.6 trillion. That is a staggering amount of money. We have become somewhat acclimated to the big number game, so the figures don’t seem to mean as much.

This “big number game” appears in our day-to-day life in many ways. For example, in major league baseball, Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies recently signed a three-year contract for $54 million. Wow – $54 million to hit a baseball. The New York Yankees signed three players, CC Sabathia, AJ Burnet, and Mark Teixeira, to free-agent contracts that totaled $441 million. Wow – $441 million to pitch a baseball and, in Teixeira’s case, to play first base. It seems that every day we see another story of a Wall Street executive that received a multi-million-dollar bonus or remodeled his office for a few hundred thousand dollars. Those numbers don’t just jibe with the reality of living out here in Rockford and in all of the Rockford-like cities of the United States.

It looks like the politicians that we have elected have lost touch with us, and that’s a scary proposition. I am not saying that some stimulating should not take place. Our economy needs some help, and some type of stimulus bill is good. I am saying the men and women in Washington are so used to playing the big number game, that billions and trillions do not have a relation to reality anymore. A one-year deficit of $1.6 trillion? That’s an outrageous figure. But outrageous as it may be, it is what it is, and the Economic Recovery Bill is what it is and there is something in it for most people.

For starters, all 4.8 million people drawing unemployment will receive a $25-per-week benefit increase. In addition, the first $2,400 of benefits received in 2009 will be tax-free.

Next, taxpayers with children in college will get some added assistance. The tuition tax credit will be increased to $2,500 and up to $1,000 of the credit will be refundable. Currently, the maximum credit is $2,000 and none of it is refundable.

In addition, the Pell Grant program will be expanded by about 800,000 students. For the seven million eligible students, each student will receive up to $5,350. Pell Grants are supposed to pay three-quarters of the average tuition to a public four-year college.

First-time homebuyers will be eligible to receive up to $8,000 in a refundable credit. There is a current $7,500 refundable credit in effect. The difference is that the new $8,000 credit will not have to be re-paid to the federal government, while the $7,500 does have to be re-paid at the rate of $500 per year.

For taxpayers buying a new car, the sales tax is going to be deductible against taxable income. Currently, sales tax is deductible only for taxpayers who itemize. It appears that this new deduction will be deductible even for non-itemizers.

Taxpayers who buy energy efficient windows, furnaces, and air conditioners will be eligible for a 30 percent credit up to $1,500 to help with the cost of the purchase. There are more energy provisions in the bill, but most of them apply to buying products, such as wind turbines or plug-in hybrids, that just do not apply to us at this time either because the product is not even available or there is not a commercially viable product at this time.

There will be an additional $1,000 child tax credit for taxpayers with three or more children and the earned income tax credit will be expanded.

Finally, the tax tables are being re-written, probably even as you read this, to give all single employees, starting in June, a take-home pay increase of approximately $13 per week. Couples will receive a $26 pay increase. In order to fully stimulate the economy, the $13 or $26 is expected to be spent and not saved. I am sure that most of us will do our part and spend that extra amount.

Since I like to eat hot dogs and drink beer at The Corner Bar and buy coffee at Herman’s Boy, I will be doing my part to stimulate the economy.

This is Jerry Coon signing off. I have to contemplate a little on just how large a figure $1.6 trillion really is.

Jerry Coon is an Enrolled Agent.
He owns Action Tax Service on Northland Dr in Rockford.
His email address is jcoon@actiontaxservice.com

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Perseverance is Needed Virtue

by PASTOR LARRY ROWLAND
Rockford Baptist Church

Almost 300 years ago, an English child was named Jonas in the Hanway family. Jonas did not have an easy childhood. His father died while he was just a boy, forcing him to go to work as an apprentice for a merchant.

As he grew older, Jonas was able to do a great deal of traveling throughout the world, buying and selling merchandise for his company. On one of his business trips, Jonas discovered a device that had been designed to shield a person from rainfall. He thought this invention to be perfect for his rainy homeland, so he brought one back with him to London.

For 30 years, Jonas Hanway used this invention that he called an “umbrella,” carrying it around with him wherever he went. Words fail to describe the ridicule that he faced. Almost everyone who passed him on the street called him names. Young boys often pelted him with eggs or cabbages. He was written about in the paper as “the umbrella man.” Yet Jonas persisted in carrying his umbrella with him. Finally, after three decades of ridicule, some other brave souls began to carry umbrellas.

Today, it’s difficult to find a person walking in London without an umbrella on a rainy day. It was Jonas’ persistent example – enduring ridicule for decades – that has made a practical difference in the lives of millions of people even to this day. And in the process of enduring the humiliation necessary to introduce the umbrella to his country, Jonas developed generosity and character. The opening line of his Wikipedia article describes him as “an English philanthropist.”

Depressed economic conditions are causing hardships for many families. At this time of year, the winter seems to be lingering on and on. Perseverance is a needed virtue. But persistence not only helps us to endure hardships. It can also produce beautiful character in our lives and bless the lives of others around us.

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Classifieds – February 19, 2009

HELP WANTED

Cook/kitchen help, wait staff and bartender. Full/part-time. Apply at the Grattan Bar. Northland Dr. to Belding Rd., nine miles east to Old Belding Rd. Ten minutes from downtown Rockford. p08cp


HOMEMAKER TO MONEYMAKER. Thinking of a change? Highly selective real estate company seeks career-minded individuals. Must be willing to work hard and be trained. Call Lew Boersma, Coldwell Banker AJS-Schmidt/Rockford office. (616) 866-4434. b09


Assisted Living. Looking for a resident manager to care for elderly. Must have experience with dementia. Please call (616) 862-6712. btfn


JOB OPPORTUNITY – Looking for someone who wants to do more than just a sales job. The Cedar Springs Post Newspaper has an opening for someone who is creative, organized and likes working with people to join our company team. Not boring. Commission means you can make your own salary, depending on your commitment level. Must have reliable transportation and a valid driver’s license. Benefits available. If interested, send resume to superman49@charter.net, or fax to (616) 696-9010, or mail to PO Box 370, Cedar Springs, MI 49319. ftfn


ADVERTISING SALES – Great income potential. Commission- and territory-based sales position available for local newspaper. No experience necessary, but helpful; will train. Come work in a fun and exciting environment! E-mail resume to: squiremail@aol.com (put SALES POSITION in subject line), or call Beth at (616) 866-4465. ftfn

FOR SALE

One stair-stepper, and one abdominal strengthener, very good condition. One pair of men’s size 10-1/2 roller blades, rarely used. Call (616) 887-6299. f08

CLASSES & LESSONS

Learn how to make stained glass windows, lamps, and more! 35 years experience. Also learn how to make your own glass beads. Lots of fun! (616) 866-2909. p11


Guitar Lessons – Learn guitar the RIGHT way and enjoy it for a lifetime. Lessons also on banjo, fiddle, mandolin, dobro, etc. Call Joe (616) 874-8582. btfn

SERVICES

Platinum Choice Heating and Cooling – Reasonable rates for all of your HVAC needs. 20 years experience. Licensed and insured. Call (616) 696-4419. p08cp


Advocare Assisted Living – I have one opening for an independent senior. Country setting in Rockford area. Private room with cable, meals provided, laundry and activities. Call for more information (616) 862-6712. btfn


I’ll design your flier, brochure, business card for a low rate! Other graphic design also available. Over 17 years experience. Professional design guaranteed. Flier design starting at $30. References available. Call Melanie Ragsdale at (616) 889-9082 or view design samples online at ragsdaledesign.com. ftfn

LOST & FOUND

The Rockford Squire’s “Free Pets” and “Lost & Found” classified ads are free of charge. Call (616) 866-4465 by noon on Monday to place your ad in next Thursday’s issue.


LOST – golden retriever. 14 years old. Last seen on Sunday, February 8 on Young Ave., between 9 and 10 Mile roads. Call (616) 874-9066. ftfn


LOST – female beagle with pink collar, last seen around the Childsdale/White Pine Trail area on Saturday, February 14. (616) 696-0367. ftfn


FOUND – gift certificate and a large book found on corner of River Chase and Greystone on New Year’s Eve. Call (616) 450-4939 and identify. ftfn


LOST – large gray male, short-haired cat, unaltered. Lost near 11 Mile and Summit. Missing since Sunday, December 7. Please call (616) 866-4338. ftfn


FOUND – Chevrolet keys with keyless remote. Found in parking lot at 355 Northland Dr., next to MI State Police station. Call (616) 866-7050. ftfn


LOST – cockatiel, gray, one year old. Talks, whistles, friendly. Lost on September 8 from 18 Mile and Algoma area. Please call (616) 696-0839. ftfn


FOUND – Chrysler key found in the Courtland and 11 Mile Road area. Please call The Rockford Squire at (616) 866-4465. ftfn


LOST – small Siamese female cat, seal point, spayed. Lost west of river in Rockford near Jericho and Cahill. $50 reward! Call (616) 866-1021. ftfn

PETS & PET SUPPLIES

The Rockford Squire’s “Free Pets” and “Lost & Found” classified ads are free of charge. Call (616) 866-4465 by noon on Monday to place your ad in next Thursday’s issue.


Free – one calico cat, two to three years old, indoor/outdoor, plays well with kids. (616) 696-9225. ftfn


Kittens – playful, indoor, litter-trained. Two males, one female. Free to good homes. Call (616) 866-8633 or (616) 225-2322. ftfn


Free kittens to good home. 7 weeks old, one gray male, one calico female, (616) 788-9574. ftfn

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Concert Continues Tradition of Excellence

by CLIFF and NANCY HILL

WINNER - The REF picked another great performance for the 13th annual concert. Brian VanderArk (left) and his band (above) along with VanderArk's wife, enchanted the Saturday crowd and drew a standing ovation. REF continues to bring high-quality talent to Rockford.The mission of the Rockford Education Foundation (REF) is to promote excellence in education for people of all ages in the Rockford community. Toward that end the REF annually sponsors an eagerly awaited and excellent benefit performance usually held in the acoustically correct and comfortable confines of the Rockford High School Fine Arts Auditorium.

Every year REF Administrator Sue Arend and a committee of REF trustees agree upon and book the finest available performing artist(s) to headline the annual concert. Over the years the selections have been an eclectic mix chosen to appeal to the diverse tastes of the Rockford area.

Last Saturday evening the REF was proud to present the multi-talented singer/songwriter and recording artist, Brian Vander Ark. Vander Ark is a native of West Michigan who currently resides in East Grand Rapids with his wife and three-year-old daughter, Evie. Wife, Lux Land, is an accomplished singer/songwriter in her own right.

fpconcertmiddleIn the late 90’s and early 2000’s Vander Ark was the principal songwriter and frontman for the Verve Pipe, a band that has sold over three million albums worldwide. In 1997 he wrote and, along with the band, recorded the hit single The Freshmen. His gift as a songwriter has resulted in a collection of original songs of a storyteller relating life experiences that he as well as his listeners, have lived. His melodies and rhythms are unique, intensely personal, and riveting.

Leading off the evening’s concert was Vander Ark’s beautiful and talented wife, recording artist Lux Land, who warmed the crowd up singing a collection of her own penned songs.

What followed was a performance by Brian Vander Ark that resulted in a standing ovation at its close. Vander Ark had brought in a group of accomplished musicians from Texas to back him up for the evening. The group, which remained nameless, was composed of Richard Hewett on drums, Dylan Sneed on guitar, Bryan Frink on bass, and featured Kristy Kruger on keyboard and pedal steel guitar, while at times providing vocal accompaniment.

For the better part of two hours Vander Ark and the band performed a selection of his songs that explored themes of life and family along with love and loss. Crowd favorites included Monday Morning Girl, I Went With The Road, Someone Like You, and 1229 Sheffield. He attempted to close the evening by performing his signature song The Freshmen.

The audience clamored for more with their applause and Vander Ark and the band returned to the stage for an encore. Vander Ark then asked his backup vocalist and keyboardist Kristy Kruger to perform one of her own songs. Kruger introduced the song by telling the audience that she had written the song to honor the memory of her brother, Texan soldier Lt. Col. Eric Kruger, who as an Army Brigade Commander in command of 3,700 men was killed last November (on his third tour of duty) in the Middle East by a roadside bomb on only his second day in Baghdad. She went on to say she had made a personal vow to perform in her brother’s name in every state of the union. “He died in the name of his country, so I’d like him to be remembered in every state in this country,” she said. Needless to say, she had the audience’s complete attention as with a beautiful and emotional voice she sang her song, My Brother, My Friend.

WINNER - The REF picked another great performance for the 13th annual concert. Brian VanderArk (left) and his band (above) along with VanderArk's wife, enchanted the Saturday crowd and drew a standing ovation. REF continues to bring high-quality talent to Rockford.Vander Ark and the band then closed the evening by performing a protracted and entirely rousing version of Little Man. From our seat high in the balcony, it appeared that everyone in attendance got their monies worth and the large crowd in the lobby attempting to purchase CD’s after the show confirmed our opinion.

Here’s a little sidebar to the evening. During the performance we heard from Kristy Kruger that she and the rest of the band had their breath taken away by two things. First was the frigid West Michigan weather and the second was the great food served backstage to the band and crew. It seems that, rather than the usually provided catered food, REF Trustees Mary Polonowski and Cathy Newberg had personally prepared from scratch a deliciously hot home-cooked meal. Is there a band in the country that has ever been treated so royally? That’s Rockford for you.

Sue Arend extends the REF’s appreciation to Herman’s Boy and Reds on the River. Herman’s Boy provided the very rare and expensive Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee in the lobby before and after the show. Donations of any size were appreciated. Reds on the River will donate ten percent of food sales when guests present Vander Ark ticket stubs while dining at Reds until the end of February. All proceeds from both will go to the REF.

The 13th Annual REF Benefit Concert was generously underwritten by Wolverine World Wide Foundation and United Bank.

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Rockford’s Historic Past Remembered

DEEP ROOTS - Barb (Ammerman) Stevens is pictured with Gene Berry holding pictuers of the past. Berry shared the history of both families at last month's Historical Society meeting.Rockford is a community with a rich and interesting history, and people willing to take the time and effort to keep it from being forgotten. At last month’s Historical Society, Gene Berry shared the story of two of the town’s older families – the Berrys and the Ammermans.

The presentation included dates and names going back to as far as 1693, but also philosophical thoughts. There was no television in pioneer days and families often consisted of 12 or 13 children. Is there any cause and effect to those two facts? Berry’s research also showed that marriages often took place between relatively close neighbors, most likely a result of less opportunity to travel and meet spouses from farther away.

Berry’s narration traveled the course of generations, listing homes that still exist as well as towns which no longer do. It included discussion of names and their interesting origins. His family tree boasts a Thankful Shears, mother of Shears Berry who fought in the Revolutionary Army. Names like Thankful and Blessing expressed settlers’ gratitude at finally arriving at their new home after a grueling trip.

hist0109whitehouseAlso discussed was the Ammerman family, traced back to 1784 and settling in Rockford in 1900. Barb Stevens (nee Ammerman) remembers her childhood in the now red farm house at 275 W. Division (Ten Mile Road) west of Rockford on the north side of the road. The home is over 100 years old and used to be white. It also had a huge red barn, now gone.

Her favorite memories of the farm include picking up dropped apples, which were pressed into cider and kept all winter long. In 1963 her grandfather died and one acre of farm with the house on it was sold. The other 79 acres was sold to a developer. It is now the Highlands.

She recalled how vibrant Rockford was in the ’50s, with a much greater diversity of stores than today.

Gene Berry said his first memory is of a team of horses pulling the wire to provide electricity to his home in 1937. He was one year old.

hist0109houseThe Historical Society is always looking for new members to help keep the town’s past from being forgotten. Museum Director Pat Frye is currently seeking photos from before 1950 for a history book that is planned. The museum has no winter hours except by appointment. Call (616) 866-2235.

The Rockford Historical Society meets Thursday, February 5, at 1 p.m. at the Community Cabin, 221 Monroe Street. Pete Kruer, owner of Rockford Hardware is the speaker and will talk about the history of one of the oldest businesses in the area. Hostesses are Jo Case and Madge Bolt.

Meetings are open to the public and all are welcome. hist0109car

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