I think Robert Reich got it dead on in describing the popular anger about Daschle's nonpayment of his taxes. 

In short, many Americans who have worked hard, saved as much as they
can, bought a home, obeyed the law, and paid every cent of taxes that
were due are beginning to feel like chumps. Their jobs are
disappearing, their savings are disappearing, their homes are worth far
less than they thought they were, their tax bills are as high as ever
if not higher — but people at the top seem to be living far different
lives in a different universe….and, not the least, the Washington insiders who have
served on the Hill or in an administration and then gone on to pocket
millions as lobbyists for the same companies they once regulated or
subsidized. To the American who's outside the power centers — the
places of entitlement and I'll-scratch-your-back-while-you-scratch-mine
deal making — the entire system seems rotten.

I think this is right — I'm just as horrified by the $5 million Daschle earned in two years as an "advisor" and "rainmaker," as by the tax issues.

I'm not quite sure why Geithner got away with it and Daschle didn't.  In the abstract, I'd be more worried about the Secretary of Treasury not paying all his taxes than I would about the Secretary of HHS.   Maybe because Congress was convinced that the stock market would collapse if they didn't approve Geithner right away.  Maybe because someone who does his own taxes with TurboTax gets more sympathy than someone whose accountant is fudging things.  (Daschle supposedly asked his accountant in JUNE if he should be reporting the car service as income — it shouldn't have taken more than a week for the accountant to say of course — unless the question he asked is "can you get away with this?" rather than "what is legal?")  Maybe because it's hard to be sympathetic for someone who owes more in unpaid taxes than most people make in a year.  Or maybe he just had bad timing.

Some different points of view from blogs I read:

I agree that Killefer's error was pretty minor, and shouldn't have disqualified her.  I have trouble swallowing Daschle's multiple errors as just as trivial.

6 Responses to “taxes”

  1. Jody Says:

    I think that Daschle absolutely knew he was supposed to pay taxes, just as Geithner did. Every single time I think about these jerks, my blood pressure rises. We pay tax on every penny we earn — I even report my associate income — and the idea that congressmen and economists “got confused” is a gross insult to my intelligence.
    They knew damn well that they were trying to pull a fast one, and they thought that, because so many people do it, they’d be fine.
    This is the difference between people whose every penny is reported on a W-2 and people with “exotic” sources of income. It’s another difference between the working and middle classes and the rich.

  2. bj Says:

    I really don’t care about these mistakes — and I’m speaking at an emotional level. If we’d lost Geithner because of this mistake (or even tax avoidance) I think we would have lost out more than him. And, I know that’s true about Daschle (who will now return to the private sector and work with private entities on influencing the health care legislation rather than working for me influencing it).
    I am perfectly willing to pay all my taxes, but have also seen my taxes be incredibly complicated, when I was earning a lot and when I wasn’t earning very much. In the midst of all this political discussion, I just received e-certificates that can be redeemed towards a plane flight (because a flight of ours was screwed up). Is that taxable income? How hard am I supposed to work in order to find out if it is? If I don’t pay taxes on it and it is taxable should I be disqualified from public office?
    I cut these guys the same slack I cut myself.
    (I think it’s kind of like drugs. I have never taken drugs, but it doesn’t bug me at all if any of these guys had, as long as it isn’t going to affect their service to the country).

  3. bj Says:

    PS: I’ll admit to another pet peeve that affects Daschle. I detest it when Senators/Congressman/etc. from “flyover” states don’t even make a pretense of returning to the states that they supposedly represented before joining the DC circuit. Someone asked me if I felt the same way about folks from CA, and I don’t, because some of them go back. But, for places like South Dakota, it’s a one way ticket out of there. I’d have a tough time believing those guys represented me, and I personally think they should be forced to return to their home states and live there for a couple of years before moving to DC. Yeah, I know, impossible, but that’s what irks me, not the tax thing.

  4. Amy P Says:

    My husband is punctilious about this sort of thing, so every time we get an item mail order without taxes already paid on it, I record the amount in a little notebook and we pay sales tax to the state of Texas at the end of the year (it was one or two hundred bucks this past year). Someday, I’m hoping that the online sales tax thing will be resolved somehow, but in the meantime the states want to be paid for mail order items, but they aren’t actively hunting you down if you don’t do it. As Biden says, paying taxes is patriotic!

  5. dave.s. Says:

    I’m with Jody. Daschle knew, he just expected to get away with it. And he’s unhappy to have lost the opportunity of a lifetime for this, because he is a NICE PERSON and would have done the RIGHT THING. I feel some of the same anger at him that I feel at Bill Clinton, for availing himself of Monica’s welcoming mouth, WHAT CAN HE HAVE BEEN THINKING??? there are much more important things than that he didn’t have to spend $140000 of the $5 million he has made in the last few years. Or the similar anger that Edwards’ ex-fans feel. Greedy bastard.
    That said, what is the most important thing to remember here? The Caesar’s wife lesson is variable: if you want to do something important, you MAY need not to be vulnerable on something unrelated. It’s hard to predict what the flavor-of-the-month something is going to be – for Zoe Baird, the problem about her nanny came out of the clear blue sky, her husband had assured her it was in traffic-ticket territory. And there are others for whom the problem has been, in fact, traffic tickets – driving while impaired, f’chrissake, while the job being thought about had nothing to do with that and everything to do with something important. When I was at Berkeley there was a guy who everyone thought was the future of politics, Leigh Steinberg, and he got caught cheating on a French test and that was the end of that, he has had a long and lucrative career as a lawyer for athletes and he has never pushed his political notions. It’s a crapshoot – Geithner’s home free, and nobody is talking about Hillary’s remarkable success with commodity futures anymore. Only a few right-wing cranks still mutter about Bill Clinton getting blow jobs from an intern.

  6. urbanartiste Says:

    This is the highest levels of our government and Obama ran on a change policy, so these guys should withdraw. Maybe this will bring people to government who are not entrenched in it. Are we saying that in a land of 300 million people no one else but these people can do the job? Anyone working in government should know a hell of a lot better in regard to taxes.
    How about Charlie Reingold (NY) – he’s been under investigation for his taxes for a while and it is just being reported. These are the lawmakers making policy on bailouts, etc. There are no words that can express how outraged I feel.

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