Digital Inequality and the IRS

Inequality is “an unfair situation in which some people have more rights or better opportunities than other people.”  The definition of inequality is “the quality of being unequal or uneven” and can include social disparity and disparity of distribution or opportunity (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/inequality).

In terms of digital inequality, this can also be referenced as a technology gap.  I understand this very personally, because I was raised in a blue-collar family that was largely against computers when I was growing up.  I think my parents either hated or were scared of computers, and my Mom as a postal carrier never had need of a computer.  Today she gets upset when coupons are e-mail only since she doesn’t do e-mail, however, now that she is retired she surprised me when she took an entry level computer class with her friend at the community college.  Personally, I never owned a computer or laptop in college.  I would sometimes borrow my friend’s or my boyfriend’s computer, but mostly I would live at the library or computer lab when I needed to write papers.  Finances were an issue, and my first real computer came once I graduated with my Bachelors and Masters degrees and bought an old computer from an acquaintance for $100.  I know my experience may not be typical, but it is important to note that not every family can afford computers and technology, which can be very expensive.  This reality does set a child behind in school and can be a learning disadvantage.  A pencil and notebook is much less expensive than a laptop and affording home internet, and for parent’s struggling to put food on the table, technology is most likely not a priority.

Tonight I was disappointed and concerned when I went to my local library that is a star library in my state (Illinois) to pick up my federal and state tax forms and booklets.  Earlier in the week I had no success picking up the tax forms at the main post office that always stocks them, so I figured that perhaps I was thinking about my taxes late this year and the post office was just out of everything.  However, the sign at my local library said that the IRS decided to not send federal tax booklets this year to places that they always send them, like post offices and libraries. An extremely helpful woman at the library reference desk pointed out that the IRS also did not send supplementary forms like years previously, and a library staff member had to repeatedly call and ask for tax instruction booklets, only to be given 10 booklets that were quickly gone.  Also, there were no IL-1040 forms or booklets at all, and it was unclear to me what the library was given regarding state forms.

People looking for tax booklets were instructed to go online to look up the information.  This is not a good option for people who want to use a tax booklet and a paper form to mail their taxes in the old-fashioned way, which many older people still do.  Also, the library had a sheet with a phone number to call to have tax forms mailed to you.  That is a decent option for people that aren’t trying to do their taxes that night or at the last minute.  However, it is a hardship and a hurdle for taxpayers to jump through when instruction tax guides are not free and easily accessible to people of all income levels.  Many people may not have access to the internet at home, and most people would not like doing confidential tax information at the local library. I think this situation is inequality since it is social disparity and a disparity of opportunity for people of lower income levels.

Libraries and post offices are hubs of their community and provide services to people regardless of socioeconomic status, race, gender, or other factors.  While I can understand the IRS wanting to save money in the costs of printing and mailing forms, which is good both economically and environmentally, it still troubles me that this move results in an inequality that epitomizes the technology gap that is a way of life for many citizens in the United States of America.  I am a fan of freedom, and my hope is that people who are comfortable with old school paper tax forms can easily find and use them, while people who are comfortable with internet tax filing can utilize the internet to file their taxes.  I do not want to see either option cease to exist.

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The Positivity of Pooh and a Personality Profile

Have you ever wanted to write, various ideas would pop into your head, but then your motivation would lag?  Has your real life ever encroached on your creative side, stifling it with endless “to do” lists and practical matters so your writer’s inspirations get the boot?  Yeah, me too.  In the last 6 weeks, I have had many blog ideas excite me: a post about my enthusiasm for a class that I am taking online in March, a post exploring my musical side by writing a cd review for my favorite new cd, and a blog post about my recent birthday this past Monday.  However, my inspiration did not transfer from pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard.  My rough working title for my birthday reflections post (“Another one bites the dust and Valentine’s Day looms on the horizon”) seemed too negative about my getting another year older (a.k.a. another year bit the dust) and about  facing another Valentine’s Day as a single in a couple’s world.

Which leads me to today.  Some of the blog ideas mentioned above I may write in the future, but for now I am glad to at least be writing something.  Sickness and personal discouragement, as well as an onslaught of problems and financial issues have been my reality these last few months.  Actually, a surprising topic fueled my desire to write and inspired this blog post:  Winnie the Pooh, the classic children’s book and show.  While I am a kid at heart, this inspiration is likely tied to the time that I perused my local library at Christmas time searching for all my favorite Christmas movies.  My favorites were all checked out : “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (animated version), “Rudolph” (I love the island of misfit toys, Rudolph is cute, and it’s important to find your identity and to not be afraid to be different), and “Mickey’s Christmas Carol”.  So, my confession is that I ended up renting “Winnie the Pooh: a Very Merry Pooh Year.”  Please don’t judge me.  Yes, I realize that I may secretly be five-years-old.  Sometimes that idea seems far better than being an adult, in my opinion (re: kids get to play and adults pay bills and deal with car repairs).

A Very Merry Pooh Year

A Very Merry Pooh Year (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why am I writing about Christmas movies in February, you ask?  The peak time for  Christmas related blog posts are over, you say?  Perhaps, but I am leading up to my inspiration.  There is no time limit on inspiration.  My inspiration is the positivity of Pooh.   My mind keeps wandering to three of the primary characters in the Winnie the Pooh books and movies:  Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, and Tigger.  I think most people fall into the personality types that these three main characters represent.

1. Pooh– He is very loyal and stable.  He is the glue that holds things together, a leader, and he has many friends.  Sometimes he can have laser sharp focus (a.k.a. “where is my honey”?), but he is one of the best friends that you can ask for.  His disposition is sunny and positive.  Pooh is who I want to be and who I am most of the time, (although I also have a fondness for Tigger), but sometimes life’s hardships and disappointments can bring out my Eeyore side.

2. Eeyore- He is sad and discouraged.  He sees life in black or shades of gray.  The glass is ALWAYS half-empty for Eeyore.  “Woe is me” could be his motto.  This type of person can take a toll on others that they are around because they are constantly being negative and wallowing in the mud, so to speak. This can be emotonally tiring for their friends and family, and may feeling draining and like a deficit in the relationship. Often Eeyore people are creative souls who are talented with art, theatre, or writing. They can struggle with depression or discouragement, and the darkness and pain of life can be challenging for them to deal with in a positive way.

3. Tigger– He is bouncy and fun!  Tigger loves life and life is full of possibility.  He is the epitome of sunshine and joy.  He is so full of energy that he bounces literally.  People like Tigger are full of vigor, but at times can seem easily distracted or intensely focused.  A Tigger person is very fun to be around.  However, Tigger people can move fast literally, but others who want to walk beside them may find themselves being left behind. Tigger people can also have ideas that are progressive and forward-thnking. While I have elements of Tigger in my personality, and certain friends and activities bring out Tigger’s vitality and the Tigger side of me, I am more like Winnie the Pooh overall.

Which Pooh character are you most like?  Feel free to add your thoughts!  Feedback is appreciated with my unofficial Pooh personality profile.

Also, if you like personality profiles, here is a really FUN synopsis of Dr. Gary Smalley’s and Dr. John Trent’s animal personality profile (Lion-Otter-Golden Retriever-Beaver). My friend Melissa who is in the counseling and ministry field first told me about this personality profile assessment last fall, and it has been enlightening for me personally and with my friendships. Check it out!
http://weirdblog.wordpress.com/2007/02/22/personality-types-lion-beaver-otter-and-golden-retriever/

Here is a second link that is a great in-depth blog about the golden retriever personality type:
http://charactertherapist.blogspot.com/2010/01/t3-golden-retrieverphlegmatic.html

The Tigger Movie, a film based on the Disney a...

The Tigger Movie, a film based on the Disney adaptation of Tigger. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Disney's adaptation of Stephen Slesinger, Inc....

Cover of Winnie the Pooh and Friends

Text Messaging is taking over the world!!!

 Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Text messaging is taking over the world!!!  I did think that honor was unofficially bestowed to Facebook, but text messaging may actually usurp Facebook, which is a high honor, indeed.  Case in point: we all know that we can send text messages to our family and our friends, or get free promo codes by text from companies like Redbox, but now text messaging has gotten a foot in the door in the library and information science field.  This foot in the door phenomenon may revolutionize customer service as we know it.

Tonight I was searching my local public library catalog by utilizing their iPhone app.  I had a question about a library item that I desired.  Thus, I clicked on “contact us” in the library app and saw the normal phone and e-mail contact information for my local library.  However, my interest was piqued when spying “text” as an option to answer my question.  It is important to note that I am a text messaging convert (i.e. I was against text messaging for a few years before I finally gave in, changed my phone service plan, and began text messaging).  Now, I think text messaging is amazing, and I find it quite helpful in a plethora of ways like sending friends encouraging messages, for social planning, for information sharing, and for various functional purposes.  So it may come as no surprise to you that I used text messaging as my happy and instant solution to my library query.  Within minutes a library staff member answered my question, and I was moving forward with my library request.

I must say that this whole experience has made me wonder if text messaging is taking over the world? 

Text a Librarian Booth Artwork