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The Persistent Ignorance of Our Political Leaders

The Persistent Ignorance of Our Political Leaders

Why is it so hard to remember to pay taxes?

It came out last week that former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle had back taxes in excess of $128,000, and this week Daschle asked that his name be withdrawn from consideration for the Secretary of Health and Human Services as a result of such a failure of accounting.  It should be no news that the public spotlight and an ethical microscope is used on our elected leaders in Washington, and even more so by their political enemies.

Yet, time and again, several prominent members of Congress forget either who they are, or what they do, and make mistakes. Or rather, conduct exercises in bad judgment. There was former Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, failing to report thousands of dollars of free services from a private company. It should be noted that Stevens was, before losing last November, the longest serving Republican in the Senate at the time, having served over 40 years. You would think he would’ve known the rules by now.

The executive branch is not immune either. One of the more prominent political scandals of the last 20 years was when President Clinton lied under oath regarding sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky. Of course his defenders, myself included, were appalled at the fact that something as relatively inconsequential as lying about sex was sufficient for a costly investigation and unnecessary impeachment proceedings. However, given the lengths one’s political enemies will go, to derail your legislation or hurt your reputation, especially when someone like Clinton had just beaten their once-invincible leader, George H.W. Bush, you would think Bill would’ve been a little more cautious and a whole lot smarter.

Now comes Tom Daschle and his failure to pay taxes. Similar to Ted Stevens, Daschle is no newcomer to Washington, D.C. and probably should have known better than to tempt fate and risk any potential appointments by dotting his i’s and crossing his t’s. To be sure, Mr. Daschle always struck me as one of the more congenial and soft-spoken leaders of the Senate, especially in recent years, and I expected his nomination to President Obama’s Cabinet to be one of the smoother rides. But it seems working in Washington has a way of making one forget about the details, whether it be a failure to disclose, a failure of self-control, or a failure of accounting.   

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8:21AM PST on Feb 13, 2009

Given our tax laws, this shouldnt surprise anyone, that he could make such a mistake. Its not like he made millions on side deals and didnt report it for heavnes sake, and he paid it with no complaint. This was a witch hunt on the part of the GOP, plain and simple. Now, should our elected officals pay more attention to such details, sure, but to expect them to be paragons ? I don't think so. Like the Clinton thing while he was in office, I always considered that whole thing nonsense, as that was between HIM and Hilary, no one else had any right sticking their nose in it. Which again, just goes to show how far political types will go, to elimate others they feel are a threat. Or even just to spoke the wheel of the man who won, which is what the GOP is doing right now, in spades. Should our elected officals be a cut above, yes, but to excpect them to be perfect, is asking too much. So it comes down to a blanace, allow them enough slack to be human, yet expect a higher degree of intergity.

1:39PM PST on Feb 12, 2009

I will not make up excuses for anyone but you must admit that the tax laws are out of wack. Personally I know as I was a consultant for much too long and had to dig myself out of the hands of the IRS which ended well since they understood. Surprise, surprise. How can you be so judgemental Of Sen Daschel or anyone else for that matter. As a consultant he just didn't know but paying it back, more than most would do I am sure.It was not long ago that McCain said he didn't know how many houses he owned, that was more serious as I took from that , he didn't pay taxes on them or he would have known. Do some, maybe most politicians scam the system? Yes But the uninformed voter (that is you) puts them in office, Pay attention or just stop complaining.

1:39PM PST on Feb 12, 2009

I will not make up excuses for anyone but you must admit that the tax laws are out of wack. Personally I know as I was a consultant for much too long and had to dig myself out of the hands of the IRS which ended well since they understood. Surprise, surprise. How can you be so judgemental Of Sen Daschel or anyone else for that matter. As a consultant he just didn't know but paying it back, more than most would do I am sure.It was not long ago that McCain said he didn't know how many houses he owned, that was more serious as I took from that , he didn't pay taxes on them or he would have known. Do some, maybe most politicians scam the system? Yes But the uninformed voter (that is you) puts them in office, Pay attention or just stop complaining.

1:39PM PST on Feb 12, 2009

I will not make up excuses for anyone but you must admit that the tax laws are out of wack. Personally I know as I was a consultant for much too long and had to dig myself out of the hands of the IRS which ended well since they understood. Surprise, surprise. How can you be so judgemental Of Sen Daschel or anyone else for that matter. As a consultant he just didn't know but paying it back, more than most would do I am sure.It was not long ago that McCain said he didn't know how many houses he owned, that was more serious as I took from that , he didn't pay taxes on them or he would have known. Do some, maybe most politicians scam the system? Yes But the uninformed voter (that is you) puts them in office, Pay attention or just stop complaining.

6:06PM PST on Feb 11, 2009

Daschle should have known better. He was my senator for many years and I respect him, but not on this one. Not only did he not claim the limo service, he failed to report income from consulting.

The only good thing that comes out of these embarassments is that it shows how incredibly screwed up our tax system is. Go FairTax.

Dan

8:29AM PST on Feb 7, 2009

Daschle earnestly said he did not realize he had to pay for the car and Driver he used. Both were offered for his use by an Individual who he consulted for. This is not so hard to believe. I surely did not know that. All the posters who claim that overlooking the paying of taxes is something dispicable and consider it cheating, etc. Well if you have a simple straight forward line of income/expenses and know the tax code, good for you. However when your consulting, guest-speaking and working for several "Employers" there are lots of tax code issues that may or may not apply. Its really complicated and thats when you find an Accountant or tax person who knows the HUGE Tax code book of regulations or laws. Daschle caught the error before being appointed and was paying it back. So why the hate towards Daschle?? I've always liked him and I believe he is a good person and is being attacked by the overzealous. I fear that in the future no one will ever want to run for office because of the nitpicking and overblown acquisations by the parties or media.

5:41PM PST on Feb 6, 2009

IRS - only tags us little, middle class American tax payer. Washington protects it's self.
I am glad that President Obama is leting these people disclose themselfs and not take the position. I am uneployed and could do the jobs and I do not have an tax issues - any one think I could get a job in Washington?

5:30PM PST on Feb 6, 2009

Even teenagers know that ALL income must be reported and that every time we hire someone to work for us we have to pay payroll taxes. When these guys say they "forgot" we know they are simply lying.

One one hand we let these guys get away with it--pay your back taxes, and we'll forgive you. On the other hand, it's obvious we're just seeing the tip of the iceberg. Working people have taxes deducted automatically, but the wealthy don't. So they cheat.

5:19PM PST on Feb 6, 2009

We all know taxes can be confusing. Daschle was a paid consultant and advisor to Leo Hindery's InterMedia Partners, during which time he received from Hindery access to a limousine and chauffeur. He "simply and probably naively" considered the use of the car and driver "a generous offer" from Hindery, "a longtime friend." Daschle began to make payments to the IRS before being selected for the cabinet post.

3:10PM PST on Feb 6, 2009

Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely! There is no excuse for an oversight of that magnitude but he is not the first nor the last. It is a never ending cycle of political policy that they are above the law, the " Oh Sorry, forgot that, or oops shouldn't have done that " nonsense is a political disease that cannot be cured ever! Oh we can say that when the next administration come in it will all change, WRONG! If we had a flat tax, we would not be in this situation, but try and tax a politician or a Wall Street Exec, or how about Exxon, just taxing them would almost pay for our deficit with in ten years, again not to be, they will fight tooth and nail for their money and bonuses. Well at my age it's not going to matter, but I feel sorry for the later generations having to live with our generations political mistakes. The IRS needs to be dissolved!

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