Over the past few days, we’ve seen several of President Obama’s picks for office suddenly in the spotlight because of unpaid taxes. And earlier, Bill Richardson pulled himself out of the running for Commerce Secretary because of a federal investigation into contracts awarded under his watch. Also this week, Obama curiously named Judd Gregg the Commerce position, apparently aquiesing to Gregg’s terms.
I am not happy about these events, and I am not happy that most of my fellow progressives are not giving these stories any attention at all.
And let me be pre-emptive here and state: Do not leave comments stating that I should “remember Bush-Cheney” or some such nonsense. That’s not the point. God save us if Bush-Cheney is our new standard.
I will say that I am pretty pleased with how President Obama has publicly responded to most of these revelations. (The Judd Gregg thing, not so much, but more on that in another post.) He has taken responsibility for not knowing his picks were dishonest had problems, which is what a good leader should do. However, his appointments have highlighted a continuing problem in this country, which he doesn’t seem to want to acknowledge. Namely, a sense entitlement.
When it was revealed that bank executives received ginormous bonuses at the same time their banks were receiving federal aid, Obama was rightly outraged. “That is the height of irresponsibility. It is shameful,” he said. What he didn’t say, is that it seems to be the culture among a certain class of people in America. Some might find it hard to believe that Tom Daschle didn’t know that being driven around town in a limousine at someone’ else’s expense was possibly taxable “income”. But when you make over $5 million in 2 years, as Tom Daschle did after he left the Senate, a ride around town probably just seemed like something he … deserved. The Wall Street Journal writes:
he recently filed amended tax returns to pay an extra $140,000 or so in back taxes and interest from the past several years, largely to cover the use of a car and driver…
In his letter to Congress, Daschle wote:
As you can well imagine, I am deeply embarrassed and disappointed by the errors that required me to amend my tax returns. I apologize for the errors and profoundly regret that you have had to devote time to them. I will be happy to answer any Committee members’ questions about these issues.
And our new Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, can’t even do his own taxes with TurboTax? It’s really not that complicated, Tim. When TurboTax questions you about the rather large amount of income that didn’t have any taxes taken out of it, that’s called a “red flag.” And it means you need to pay taxes on that income. And you should know that, anyway, because when you started work at the IMF, you signed a form acknowledging that you were being paid a larger salary because payroll taxes weren’t being taken out.
If you or I had done either of these things, I wonder where we would be right now. Probably not heading up the Treasury Department. Probably we’d be fighting to keep our homes.
In my mind, Daschle, Geightner, Nancy Killefer, are in the same class as the bank executives. Somehow America has gotten to a place where these “people in power” think they don’t have to play by the same rules as the rest of us. This attitude has gotten us into the financial mess we are in today, not to mention getting us into 2 wars. The last election was a sea change for the American public’s involvement in the electoral process. We said we wanted new leadership. We came out 2 million strong to see our new leader installed into office. It’s time now to see new leadership across the board in Washington. It has to go beyond President Obama saying there are not “two sets of rules,” as he did last night. He has to prove it.
It’s time for the politicians, the bankers, and all the other “elite” in America to understand who’s their boss. We are.