Saturday, January 31, 2009

You're gonna have to let Tom go

By Edward Copeland


Supporters of Barack Obama had to go ahead and buy the excuses to let Timothy Geithner slide by as treasury secretary. I mean, if you are self-employed, it could be easy to forget to pay your Social Security taxes. It's not as if he forgot to pay his income taxes altogether. We just agreed to ignore that he conveniently forgot to pay the back taxes on the years he wasn't audited for until he was nominated by Obama, let alone his role in turning a blind eye to Wall Street's malfeasance in his role as the head of the New York Fed. Besides, we couldn't wait much longer to get a treasury secretary in place.

Then there was additional nervousness brought about by the speed in which the administration issued its first waiver to its first-day proclamation that no one would be placed in a post when they had lobbied that department in the past two years since William Lynn was supposedly so essential to the post they want him in at the Pentagon. On top of that comes reports of more lobbyists filling administration positions. Granted, it might have proved harder than they anticipated to fill all the jobs they have to fill without touching people who had to make a living that way, but still.

Now, a funny thing has happened to Tom Daschle on his way to being approved as secretary of health and human services. He also failed to pay back taxes. Again, it wasn't income taxes altogether, but instead more than $128,000 worth of compensation in the form of a car and driver provided him by a longtime friend and supporter. Obama still has high approval and the GOP remains in the toilet, but he can't risk the beginning of a loss of credibility and the image that the change he promised was just talk and his Washington culture isn't that far removed from the excesses of the robber barons of Wall Street. People hurting in this economy can relate to some extent to forgetting to pay Social Security taxes. They won't relate to even having someone giving you a car and driver, let alone forgetting to pay taxes on it.

Tom Daschle, may have been a loyal and faithful adviser to you during the campaign, Mr. President, but if he doesn't fall on his own sword as Bill Richardson did, you are going to have to throw him under the bus for your own sake.


UPDATE: The WSJ is reporting that Daschle "paid about $140,000 in back taxes and interest after questions surfaced during the vetting of his nomination." That is, he paid them back only after he was found out, although he is claiming that he didn't even think to report the car and driver on his taxes -- a credible excuse, I suppose, though I agree with Hilzoy that it suggests an appalling sense of entitlement. Whatever the case, it doesn't look good for Daschle, though it would be a real shame to lose him given his support for comprehensive health care reform. -- MJWS

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