Monday, February 9, 2009

Clueless in D.C.

The reason why Barack Obama was elected President of the United States is that Americans have been desperate for change. Even the Republicans distanced themselves from President Bush in the lead-up to the 2008 elections, and rejected John McCain’s bid to succeed him.

So, what happened?

“Change” has brought us nothing so far. O.K. – it’s only two weeks into the new administration and we ought to practice patience. We know that change does not come overnight and we are confident the new President is not taking his eye off the ball. Or is he? It was refreshing to hear him say the other day that he had “screwed up”, but how did it happen that he had nominated THREE cabinet/administration officials with tax troubles in their past?

Timothy Geithner, for Treasury, sailed by. It was believable that some Social Security and Medicare taxes he was supposed to have paid while he worked at the International Monetary Fund had been overlooked. He paid up (some $40 thousand dollars, it has been reported), got confirmed, assumed his position and that was that.

Then came Nancy Killefer, proposed as the White House Chief Performance Officer, who had some years ago apparently not paid about $900 in unemployment taxes for household help. She probably would have sailed through as well, if it had not been for number three in this sad saga: Tom Daschle, former Majority Leader in the United States Senate and recently nominated by President Obama to be the Health and Human Services Secretary. He, it turned out, had owed more than $120 thousand in taxes on consulting income and “goodies” he had received after losing his 2004 re-election campaign and becoming a consultant/lobbyist, on such perks as a car and chauffeur from a client, and then paid them after the President had tapped him for the HHS job.

Americans have a pretty good level of tolerance and are very forgiving when people “mess up and fess up”, but this was “one tax cheat too far”. The Geithner oversight was believable, the Killefer glitch was understandable, but the Daschle situation stretched people’s credulity. A man so smart that he was expected to overhaul and shape up the U.S. health care system did not know that there are taxes to be paid on gifts?

What this points to is that Washington is “different” from the rest of America. We work hard, we raise our families we pay our taxes and we hold out hope that the next generation will be better off than we have been. In D.C.? The tax saga indicates that a cluelessness exists there that Americans find rather disgusting. “Change” – it remains much needed!

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