Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The tax farce

"Rule of all without rule of oneself would prove to be as deceptive and disappointing as a painted toy-mango, charming to look at outwardly but hollow and empty within." Conquest of Self - M.K. Gandhi

President Obama’s choice for the position of chief White House performance officer has withdrawn from consideration for the post, an administration official said Tuesday, after coming forward with concerns about her tax returns. New York Times

Thomas A. Daschle, President Obama's choice to be secretary of Health and Human Services, has withdrawn his nomination, White House officials announced shortly after noon. Daschle cited the distractions that followed his failure to pay all of his taxes in recent years. Washington Post

Obama is off to a very shaky start. The belief that he is ready to push for a fundamental remaking of America has weak evidence in its favor, despite his intelligence and his intellectual openness. The United States is getting good grammar. It needs bold remaking. Immanuel Wallerstein
David Seaton's News Links
Gee, that didn't last long did it?

As skeptical as I have often been about Obama, I admit that the last place I ever expected him to trip up was on something sleazy like this.

The word was that everyone being considered for even minor positions in the Obama administration was being exhaustively vetted, gone over with a fine tooth comb, held up to the light like a dangling chad...

It has been my experience that one of the first things that those doing vetting normally want to look at are people's tax returns. Official financial records are usually the easy part, looking under rocks for the nasty stuff comes much later. So, I think that it would be fair to say that failure to check simple information concerning important, cabinet level, nominations is indicative of extremely poor staff work, wouldn't it?

I've been away so long, somebody tell me: are America's tax laws now like those curious old laws against sodomy and miscegenation that used to be on the books in the south? If this is so, then what is all the fuss about? I'm sure that Obama could nominate someone who was openly gay to a cabinet position without it being a problem. Why not a tax evader?

Of course the comparison is absurd: obviously public officials are supposed to obey the laws that they pass and are sworn to enforce. The state lives from the taxes it collects, so paying taxes is fundamentally important for anyone who aspires to public life and not just a question of personal taste like an individual's sexual orientation.

I always expected Obama to come up hard against reality in places like the Middle East, Afghanistan and, of course, on the economy, but not on something as idiotic as this.

The staff work has been so lousy on this that I fear we are only looking at the tip of an Iceberg here.

I wonder what the Obamese equivalent of "
heckuva job Brownie" will turn out to be? DS


Anonymous said...

The US Tax system is a mess, layer upon layer of code, conflicting rulings and exceptions. Quite often, if you have a sufficient stream of income, from complex sources, and a mix of home and business expenses, you really do need the help of a Income Tax Consultant, to navigate your way through the mess.

More than a few Income Tax Consultants as well, don't know what they are talking about, and it is usually their clients that get nailed.

Clinton started the ball rolling, Bush made it worse. The Investigation and Enforcement side of the IRS wound up being gutted, and with the reliance on Tax Courts as the Final Solution, and thus lawyers, a situation was created where by the IRS stopped investigating and pursuing Wealthy Tax Cheats, and stuck to intimidating people who could not affort to show up with lawyers and hired tax consultants.

In the past 8 years, if a Wealthy Tax Cheat was nailed for another crime, then, and only then, would the IRS also go after them.

There is a good chance that this is the first time, anyone has really looked at these tax returns and questioned them or their claimed deductions.

Forensic economist said...

What bothers me about Daschle is not the tax screw up - and yes he should have known better - but the source of his income. He cashed in by becoming a lobbyist for health care companies. I would not want someone on the payroll of the industry he is to regulate as the regulator.

Unfortunately, that says a lot about Obama's priorities. We are getting a more competent, smarter, rational version of the same corruption. I voted for Obama, considering the alternative, and I would do it again. I didn't really expect any better, and he is not exceeding my expectations.

Stephanie said...

Some are blaming Daschle for not revealing his tax problems earlier, and of course he ought to have done, but isn't it the vetters' job to ask him the hard questions and request the financial records without waiting for Daschle to tell them?

In any case, he didn't get a pass for his, uh, problems because Geithner did. I hope Obama is happy with the tradeoff.

RC said...

Tax evasion is the norm in the US and also has reached a high art in Puerto Rico, the two places I have personally made sure that Caesar gets as little as possible. Yet, the widespread hypocrisy of the political and lobbying Mammonites is often only revealed when these quaint and pesky little vetting issues arise. As to the quality of persons that end up in government, it has long been my belief that the tax examinations keep the most capable people out of that arena.
Let's have some real changes in the US political culture. Two new dictates would cause that overnight. One, any individual at any level of society could be called upon by a mayor, governor or president to serve in any capacity for a four year term, or in a hardship case, a two year term, and those tapped people would NOT undergo tax examination to enter the office. It would be a different kind of jury duty. Two, careers in and out of government, the office holder and lobbyist thin grey line, would be made bold and black, no longer could one cross that line after holding any position on the other side.
Better yet {and I know the Sierra Club has lobbyists} constitutionally eliminate all lobbying.
The tax nightmare is all too real in the US and a wonderful thing about my current address is that it is the only place in the world
where the IRS cannot interfere with a US citizen's income, except that made on the mainland, where none of mine originates.
So I do have a degree of admiration for tax deviants. It seems the height of victimization to be one of those shlemiels that has been forced to support the multiple trillion dollar national debt rise since last June in the US by agreeing in acquiescence to continue to pay the full tax burden.
There is definitely something very wrong with the US public.
Also, there has to some mental defect {beyond hubris} in Daschle to have him thinking that his little omission would go unnoticed by the loyal opposition.
And yes, this is not a good sign that the Obama team couldn't avoid this manure.