Change We Can Believe In

It is now one week into the Obama administration, and the healing is supposed to have begun, and he is bringing us change that we can believe in.  I think I remember a campaign promise about bringing a new level of ethics to Washington, DC.   One hopes he doesn’t bring it in from Chicago.

We now officially have a Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, who is a tax evader.  When an audit discovered that he had not paid taxes on income from the IMF for 2003 and 2004, he somehow didn’t consider that he had made the exact same error for 2001 and 2002.  Conveniently, the statue of limitations had expired for those years.

Yes, the IRS reports to him, even though he only coughed up the last of his $43,000 of  unpaid taxes just before he was nominated.    He’ll also be the guy who signs your dollar bills.

We know that Democrats are opposed to rich guys who don’t pay their fair share of taxes.  That is why only 95% of the Democrats in the Senate voted for him.  Here are comments from the 3 Democrats who voted against him.

DEMOCRATS WHO DON’T BELIEVE GEITHNER

Robert Byrd

I believe Mr. Geithner when he expresses regret for his failure to pay these taxes, but that doesn’t explain why the failure happened. This embarrassing “mistake” occurred despite Mr. Geithner receiving annual and quarterly documents from the IMF and signing annual tax allowance requests that were supposed to serve as reminders about his tax obligations. He also failed to pay these taxes despite having accountants review his tax filings, and despite using software to prepare his tax returns. He only paid these taxes in full after being selected to be Treasury Secretary….Whatever his qualifications and talents for addressing the banking problems that are plaguing our economy, I cannot in good conscience vote to confirm this nomination.

Tom Harkin:

He has stated this was an innocent mistake and that there was no intent to deliberately avoid paying the required taxes. However, the IMF informs us that in order to avoid exactly this kind of situation, its U.S. citizen employees are fully informed of their obligation to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes and must sign a form acknowledging that they understand this obligation.

Moreover, the IMF gives its U.S. citizen employees quarterly wage statements that detail their U.S. tax liabilities. The IMF pays its U.S. citizen employees an amount equal to the employer’s half of the payroll taxes with the expectation that the individual will use that money to pay the IRS.

So a serious question is raised as to how a person of Mr. Geithner’s financial sophistication could run the gauntlet of these many warnings and quarterly reminders and still somehow innocently overlook his obligation to pay these payroll taxes…Given this record of failing to pay taxes, if confirmed as Treasury Secretary, how could Mr. Geithner speak with any credibility or authority as the Nation’s chief tax enforcer? Would his admonition be: Do as I say, not as I do? That is not acceptable.

Russell Feingold:

I am deeply troubled by his failure to pay the payroll taxes he owed, despite repeated alerts from his employer at the time, the International Monetary Fund, that he was responsible for paying those taxes. It is especially troubling because Mr. Geithner signed documents at the IMF promising to pay taxes, including the payroll taxes, in exchange for a special “gross-up” of his income intended to offset the cost of those taxes. Moreover, his earlier interactions with the Internal Revenue Service over his failure to pay sufficient payroll taxes for his household employees make Mr. Geithner’s explanations of his failure to pay his own payroll taxes even less satisfactory.

The failure to comply with our Nation’s tax laws would be problematic for any Cabinet nominee, but it is especially disturbing when it involves the individual who will be charged with overseeing the enforcement of our tax laws. Mr. President, surely that individual must meet a higher standard than a failure to establish they deliberately evaded their tax liability.

Apparently, 25% of Republicans also think it is OK to have a tax evader as Secretary of the Treasury, since 10 Republicans voted to confirm him too.  They may have hoped that he is the lesser of possible evils, or they may think that someone who didn’t pay all of his taxes might not be credible when it comes time to push for tax increases (as Democrats always will.)

Or maybe they think that Charles Rangel, the Ways and Means Committee Chairman  who also doesn’t like to pay taxes, could use some company.

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4 thoughts on “Change We Can Believe In

  1. We agree on something! That calls for beer!

    And Daschle? What was he thinking???

    If our Senators and so-called financial wizzards can’t even do their taxes properly, maybe this is a good argument to ditch the IRS and go to a sales tax!

  2. We agree on a lot.

    If you follow the timeline, it is pretty clear what Daschle was thinking.

    Before June of 2008, he was thinking that he was in the private sector and could just rake in the cash un-noticed.

    In about June 2008, when Barack Obama clinched the nomination, he started to think that he might serve in a Cabinet position, and that maybe he should check into his income tax records for non-compliance, just in case.

    When he got the nomination for HHS Secretary, he decided that he needed to come clean before the nomination was debated, so he paid up.

    I have no doubt that if he was not nominated for Secretary of HHS, that he would still owe the IRS money. My guess is that ex-Senators rarely get audited, so the risk of being caught was low.

  3. Yeah, we can’t expect too much “change”. After all, Obama will have a hard time finding enough people who “know Washington” but are not corrupt! The government has been soooo dirty for sooooo long.

    Now your last sentence brings up a good idea: Maybe we need a law requiring that ALL public servants above a certain level are audited before taking office.

    The tax system needs to be re-engineered, and the corporate and special interest money needs to be rooted out. Until this happens, DC will be a cesspool no matter which party runs it.

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