Monday, December 16, 2002

Unfortunately, When the Right Wing Asks about Women Who Had Affairs with Bill Clinton, Lots of Volunteers Step Forward

This one goes out to my high school friend Jim Finkelstein, currently of Albany, GA, who often fills my email in-box with column ideas, and who happened to pass on an overstated version of the "gaps in Bush Guard service" story from an anti-Bush website. I'm not sure the whole anti-Bush claim checks out, but the no-record-of-service-in-Alabama part does. I also like the idea of the Bush campaign asking for anybody to step forward who remembers actual service in the Alabama National Guard, as recounted in Bush's campaign autobiography. Anybody see him at the time? Nobody's come forward so far.

Plus, local itemizers, don't forget the bizarre laundry list Arizona tax credits before Dec. 31! Information and the mailing address for the Citizens Clean Election Fund tax credit contribution is available here.

My column is also available online via the East Valley Tribune website here.

East Valley Tribune, Dec. 15, 2002

In a letter to the editor on Dec. 4, Master Sgt. Michael Gorman took umbrage at my description of President Bush’s “service” in the Alabama Air National Guard. I’m not surprised Sgt. Gorman missed the point, because in matters great and small, George W. gets graded “on the curve.”

I wrote that contrary to The Tribune editorial page’s fond wish that Congress “revisit” aspects of the new Homeland Security law, “The GOP will show as much desire to ‘revisit’ these issues next year, and do it about as often, as George W. Bush showed up to do his draft-avoiding stint in the Alabama National Guard.”

Sgt. Gorman objected to calling National Guard service “draft-avoiding” -- and slurred me personally by saying that I called such service “unpatriotic” when I wrote no such thing. But I wasn’t attacking Guard service; I was pointing out George W. Bush’s service record in Alabama. More accurately, his lack of one.

In 1972, Bush transferred from his Texas Air Guard unit to work on an Alabama political campaign. Bush claims he met his Guard commitment in Montgomery, but no record exists that he ever showed up for duty.

I leave it to those who served in the military, or worked for the federal government, to ponder whether anyone could spend one hour on duty without generating any paperwork.

Of course, Bush can’t account for less than a year of “lost” Guard service, and it happened decades ago. Just do me one favor, though; insert “Clinton” in that sentence, and repeat; let me know how it feels.

“Revisit” the Homeland Security bill? President Bush will claim he did the job, only nothing will get written down. But given our low expectations, it just won’t matter to you ‘wingers.

Having cleared that particular air, December is also time to remind readers of the dizzying variety of state income tax credits. Don’t forget that anyone in a position to itemize deductions and without potential Alternative Minimum Tax liability can make thousands of dollars of state tax liability disappear.

First, there’s a credit (up to $625 for married couples filing jointly, $500 for individuals) for donations to “private school tuition organizations.” Give by December 31, then get your entire donation back in April when paying state taxes.

Second, don’t forget the separate-but-not-equal tax credit for contributions to public schools, up to $200 (individuals) or $250 (couples filing jointly). It won’t cost you a dime due to the dollar-for-dollar credit.

Third, donations to charities helping the working poor can qualify for another $200 tax credit (same amount whether married or single). Donate today, and Arizona repays you when you file your taxes.

The fourth widely-available credit may be moot, because for possibly the first time in American history, a government agency has too much money and is giving it back. The Citizens Clean Election Commission estimates it will have $1.4 million more than the legal limit, and will transfer the excess to the state’s General Fund.

But regardless, taxpayers can contribute $530 individually or $1,060 for a couple filing jointly, or 20% of your state tax liability, whichever is greater , to the Citizens Clean Election Fund. You get a dollar-for-dollar credit on Arizona income taxes. (Contributions are also deductible for federal taxes, so it’s entirely refundable; pay now, get it back in April.)

Even if your money ultimately lands in the General Fund, you have the satisfaction of earmarking those dollars and making things more difficult for the Arizona Legislature -- and that’s worth something, right?

Sure, this laundry list of tax credits is lousy public policy and a key component of the state budget crisis. But those are the rules, so why not play the game?

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