Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Tax evasion or just a bad accountant?

Today two people stepped down from their appointed roles in the Obama administration (oh how sweet it is to type that) due to issues with their taxes. As I don't really know too much about Nancy Killefer, I will mainly talk about Tom Daschle. So yes, the man messed up on his taxes, and yes taxes are meant to be voluntarily complied with, but seriously, maybe our tax code is a little hard to follow when not one, not two, but three people who have been nominated by Obama have had issues with their taxes, most of which truly do feel like they were involuntary oversights and were not maliciously done.

I recognize that we all have to pay our taxes and it is important for officials in particular to pay their taxes, but can't we give these people the benefit of the doubt and a break on this matter. I mean who the heck knew that if a company you were working for gave you a car and a driver you needed to report that as income? The company didn't even give him a tax form for it! So now we are down a person who could very well have gotten through some important legislature on health care reform and have to look for a one that could at best be considered second choice, and all because the man simply made a mistake (and one he was willing to rectify immediately I might add). (I also recognize that there are other potential issues with his nomination, aka the charges that he did some lobbying, but I am not addressing them here to focus on the fact that this tax thing is what really got him booted)

So what do you think readers? Is messing up unwittingly on your taxes enough to get one booted from a position they are particularly qualified for?

NYT Opinion Piece saying he should withdraw

CNN article about his withdrawal


natkingcole said...

The loss of Daschle is pretty tragic. He was the best man for the job, and made a mistake -- a mistake that is so much more trivial than the duty he could have fulfilled in the cabinet.

Sad; DC needs to be bigger than this.

Aaron Frank said...

First of all, while I hear you in theory, $128,000 is an awful lot of money to owe the government that you're about to represent.

Secondly, yeah, it's politics; the administration thus far seems to be working from a platform of building bipartisan support for critical issues like health care, with an eye towards maximizing its political capital. Whether or not that's the right strategy is debatable, but if the chosen leader of a particular effort is both unappealing to the opposition and loses credibility in the eyes of the public, the issue itself becomes a much tougher sell.

My point is, I'm not troubled by the administration making certain sacrifices to clear a political path. I won't deny that politics is often petty, but isn't recognizing the political reality and making adjustments a necessary strategy for getting things done? Is the alternative, somehow shifting the political reality, even reasonable to expect?

To be honest, I actually find the whole approach refreshing.

Final Answer said...

Daschle would have been great -- especially with his rad round red glasses -- but now I can continue to repeat...

...Howard Dean for HHS!

Hotstuff says... said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hotstuff said...

Oh Frankie, you are just trying to stir up all sorts of trouble here on the blog! (and I love you for it!) :)

I agree with you that if the tax thing is going to lead to a loss of credibility for a person who is already not exactly a favorite of the other side, that is an issue at a very high level. I also agree with you that $128,000 is a lot of money. What I guess my fundamental problem with this scenario is not that I don't understand why it was important for him to step down or how our political climate is structured, it is more that I have a hard time with the fact that politicians are not ever given the benefit of the doubt and aren’t allowed to even make simple human mistakes. After all they are just people in the end.

And yes, they should be held to a higher standard then the rest of us if they are going to represent us, but seriously, if someone makes an honest mistake and is willing to correct it post haste then shouldn’t we be willing to cut them a little slack? Isn’t that what we were taught in elementary school? If you make a mistake and you didn’t do it maliciously you should say you are sorry, fix what you can, and people should forgive you! I guess for me it is a problem with the way our politics and society is set up, and as you so astutely point out, probably is not realistic to think that we will be able to shift our political reality.

On a side note, it was pointed out to me that I should consider thinking about whether I would give some slack if we still had Bush in power and it was one of his cronies who had the tax issue. And after some thinking about it, I feel like I would if I felt that it was an honest mistake. But maybe I am just kidding myself! Hard to say!

And hells yeah, Final Answer!

Aaron Frank said...

You make a good point in mentioning how it's not just politics that somehow creates this climate - it's also the reactions and expectations held by the public. While DC seems to operate in its separate political world, its borders are still policed by popular opinion. As long as we allow ourselves to be captured by spin and partisanship, our priorities will always be askew to some degree. Our government will more often play by those rules, because it's easier.

Anyway, yeah, putting the ins and outs aside, I totally agree that it's a pity our politics and knee-jerk values often get in the way of making the right decisions. While it doesn't necessarily please me at a deep level to say this, though, I'm happy we have an administration that realizes that that battle for change isn't one we can win so soon.

Anonymous said...

A loss, no doubt, but that's what happens when the vetters don't do their job, as they didn't in this case or the other tax-problems cases, or Richardson for that matter. The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, is gleefully running a huge headline that O screwed up, and the right-wing pundits are busy "lamenting" that O is overexposed and therefore "not presidential".