Monday, December 22, 2008

Taxes, Blood, and Spending

Here’s the next-to-last Tribune column. My suggested headline was above, but even I thought that wasn’t suitable. However, my original lede was “This week, several disconnected thoughts (usually called the “Political Notebook” or “Quick Hits” style of column)” but the parenthetical got edited out. Too close to home, apparently.

So, do you think that those Republicans, outraged that Gov. Napolitano is still governor until her confirmation as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, who are demanding that she stop issuing executive orders, will contact “still President” G. W. Bush and demand the same from him?

East Valley Tribune, Dec. 21, 2008

This week, several disconnected thoughts:

Arizona Tax Credits -- Act Now! Dec. 31 looms, so make your contributions to qualify for Arizona’s dollar-for-dollar tax credits for donations to private school tuition organizations (up to $500 individuals, $1,000 jointly), public schools ($200/$400), working poor charities ($200/$400), and Clean Elections ($610/$1,220).

But -- as I discovered only after filing my Nov. 30 column -- this year through 2012, there’s one more state tax credit, for the Military Family Relief Fund operated by the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services. You donate to the MFRF, up to $200 for single taxpayers and $400 for joint returns, and get a federal deduction and a state dollar-for-dollar tax credit.

You’ll need a receipt from ADVS, and to give you a receipt, ADVS needs your full name, address, and last four digits of your Social Security number, all of which is required by law. Send your contribution to MFRF, c/o Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services, 3839 N. 3rd Street, Suite 200, Phoenix, AZ 85012. A form for the contribution is available at the ADVS website,, scroll down to the MFRF link, or contact Diane D’Angelo, MFRF Outreach Coordinator, by email at or by phone at (602) 263-1837.

Give Blood -- But Call First. In the tax credit column, I always urge you to donate blood by contacting United Blood Services at (602) 431-9500 or at But the last two times I’ve contacted UBS, they haven’t needed my blood as much as in the past. My next donation instead will be white blood cells, not red.

My blood type is pretty common, so with many donors like me, blood banks now can search for more specialized and rarer blood. That’s not because suddenly Americans became unafraid of needles, but rather the recession is reducing elective surgeries and the need for blood. So still consider becoming a donor, but call first to make sure your blood will be needed.

The usual wisdom has been that health care is, if not recession-proof, then at least not affected as much by a bad economy. Instead, physicians and hospitals often see increases in elective surgeries -- knee replacements, dental work -- as people expecting to lose their jobs want work done before their insurance, or their post-employment COBRA benefits, run out.

That’s not true for all facing economic uncertainty; some of the “pre-uninsured” decline treatments, because they don’t want any pre-existing conditions in their records when searching for new jobs and insurance. But recessions do reduce demand for health care; according to a stock analyst quoted in Business Week, demand for hospital services during the 2001-02 recession was the lowest on record. And this recession will be far more severe.

My prediction for the biggest health care losers this recession are the specialty hospitals and surgery centers which depend on higher-margin elective procedures. People cutting back on their spending won’t just keep their current car a year or two longer; they’ll keep their existing body parts, too, until the economy turns around.

Teaching By Example. State legislators are already announcing that the state’s budget situation will mean cuts to education funding. Fairness requires that legislators match funding cuts with similar percentage reductions to required scores on the AIMS test, doesn’t it? I await these legislators reminding parents that it’s all about individual responsibility, that they shouldn’t have had children who would wind up needing to be educated during a recession. You simply can’t expect government to bail you out of those kind of mistakes.

But if schools have to do more with less, the legislators should show them how. Rather than increasing the political contribution limits by inflation as the state does every cycle, instead legislators should reduce the contribution limit by the same percentage as the per-pupil cut to education funding. Show the schools how to do more with less by doing it in your own political fundraising, legislators. It’s the least that leadership requires.

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