The discovery of Tom Daschle’s whopping unpaid tax bill of $146,000 is a big let down to say the least. I always liked Daschle, his goofy red glasses, his cogent and clear-headed leberalism, his class and demeanor as Senate majority leader. I loved that he was respected (dare I say it?) Democrat during the Bush administration. But he is reduced in an instant to a rusty old Washington crony. His specs are cracked and our president’s vision is blurred.
One bright spot in the whole mess was Barack Obama’s admission on half a dozen networks that he made a m— … a mmm— … mmmistake!
“I think it was a mistake. I think I screwed up,” he said.
I nearly choked on my coffee when I heard it on NPR. In the last eight years, I cannot recall a single instance of George W. Bush ever admitting to a mistake. The word never even got stuck in his throat, because it apparently never even entered his mind. Even his press secretaries would infuriatingly admit nothing more than “mistakes had been made,” but no one ever was culpable — except the scapegoats he expelled from his administration after they had done all they could to undermine the will of the people.
I respect a man who knows when he screws up. Whether or not Obama was cornered by the press, whether or not his mea culpa was a calculated move, this signifies a major turn in the conduct of the nation’s highest office. It is a turn toward the light.
But there is still a major problem in Washington. OK, first of all, who are these people not paying taxes? It defies explanation in obvious ways.
And do they seriously think it won’t be discovered? Especially following the scandal around the confirmation of the new treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, who owed $43,000 himself? Daschle probably would have made it through if he hadn’t stepped out of the process, and it’s a good thing he did. But the real kicker is he probably would have been tremendously effective as head of health and human services. We are all losing out here.
There must be a common root to this problem. Why does all this scrutiny happen during the cabinet confirmation process? Why not earlier? Why is their no indication of their “error” until this confirmation process begins? The damage is done when the taxes are not paid, not when the non-payment is discovered.
Maybe some good will come out of all this exposure, and the president will look into some measures to prevent these people from not paying their taxes. Serving in the government is a privilege, not a free pass. How about we set up a new branch of the IRS to go after these people — not the little people like you and me. Let’s guarantee that senators and representatives and other elected Washingtonians are paying their taxes from the beginning? Don’t they count? Certainly they do, and I’m sure there are legions more of these folks, each owing hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Getting wind of Daschle’s planned withdrawal, Nancy Killefer, a nominee to a lesser position, chief White House performance officer, pulled out as well because of unpaid taxes on a household employee. I guess she owed no more than $900. Not a big deal. She could write a check right now. But the principle stands, and in this climate she was wise to disentangle herself from the administration.
Let’s hope the others in line for the cabinet wise up and start putting their fellow citizens before their wallets and their careers.
There’s always hope, I guess.