Change We Can’t Believe In

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What’s up with Obama cabinet nominees turning out to be IRS scofflaws?  First Geithner, now Daschle.  I agree with George Packer:

…in order to prove that his words mean something more than fine sentiments, Obama should insist that the decent and high-minded Daschle withdraw from consideration as Health and Human Services Secretary.

Obama appears to think otherwise, however. Packer continues:

The fact that two men with much combined experience in the public sector didn’t pay what they owed the government suggests that, at their lofty income level, cheating is almost universal. And for the rich to get away with underpaying taxes is every bit as much a part of the culture of selfishness and irresponsibility that Barack Obama pledged to end as bankers paying themselves big bonuses while enjoying even bigger public subsidies.

For Obama, it’s especially important not to have a double standard. A lot of his influence in cleaning up the corruptions of the private sector will be rhetorical. To do what needs to be done with Wall Street, he’ll need all the moral authority he can muster. If he allows two tax cheats into his cabinet, he’s going to lose a portion of it before his Presidency is one month old.

That’s especially true after having immediately exempted 2 major officials from his much-ballyhooed lobbyist restrictions.  Knock it off, Barack.

Update: Daschle has withdrawn himself from consideration as HHS secretary.  This is the kind of thing that nominees do when somebody in the WH says, “You know, it would be nice if you withdrew.”  So: well done, Barack.

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11 Responses to “Change We Can’t Believe In”

  1. michaellasley Says:

    Agreed. I wish he’d ask Daschle to step aside or withdraw or whatever. I’ve read a few people who said that Daschle was so much better of a choice than anyone else that Obama should let it slide, but I can’t imagine that being the case.

  2. urbino Says:

    Yeah, health care policy is something people and institutions on the left have been studying for decades. There are lots of qualified people out there.

    I think his clinging to Daschle has 2 causes. One, there’s a general sense that, while there are lots of experts on health care policy in the Democratic Party, Daschle is the most skilled at getting legislation through Congress. Two, Daschle is Obama’s main political patron, and has been for years; Obama doesn’t want to cast him aside (see also, Wright, Jeremiah).

    I don’t think either argument holds water. It’s probably true that Daschle would be the best at shepherding legislation through Congress, but he can do that without being a cabinet officer. Obama could name him a White House adviser and solve both problems.

  3. urbino Says:

    I wish Obama would show as much loyalty to good policy as he does to problematic friends. Seems he’s much more willing to compromise on the former than on the latter.

    Having just lived through 8 years of a president with that mindset, that’s not a signal I’m happy to be seeing.

  4. Whitney Says:

    This sure doesn’t do much for him in the eyes of his critics who hoped he was more than just rhetoric. Ah well. It may be that with is limited political experience, he is suddenly realizing that this “job” is much more complicated and multifaceted that he thought. In the vein of me trying to be fair and open minded, I will hope these are just growing pains…realizing it isn’t at all simple or straightforward!

  5. DeJon05 Says:

    I’m not as concerned about the tax problems. That’s what the confirmation process is for.

    But the biggest problem I’ve had with the Obama Admin so far is the installation of the policy banning lobbyists, and the immediate waivers overriding the policy.

    Seriously… what was the point?

  6. urbino Says:

    t may be that with is limited political experience, he is suddenly realizing that this “job” is much more complicated and multifaceted that he thought.

    Let’s hope, as the saying goes.

    And in the interest of being evenhanded, myself: since I’m grousing about Obama, I’ll grouse about the GOP, too. It seems a lot of the unexpected complications Obama is encountering stem from a naive assumption (I guess that’s the “hope”) on his part that if he reached across the aisle, somebody would reach back. Instead, he’s getting partisan gamesmanship.

  7. urbino Says:

    Seriously… what was the point?

    A question a lot of people are asking, but nobody in the WH seems interested in answering.

  8. Whitney Says:

    Well, what can I say? I’m impressed with him saying, “It’s my mistake. I screwed up.”

  9. alsturgeon Says:

    I nominate Urbino for HHS Secretary. (Wait, you have paid your taxes, haven’t you?)

  10. urbino Says:

    No, thanks. I don’t want to work that hard.

  11. Sandi Says:

    On lobbyists and such: what else is someone who has left Congress supposed to do? What other marketable skills do they have? I’ve always wondered what else there is for them to do besides participate in the legislative process in a different capacity.

    On taxes: why are we assuming that these people deliberately cheated on their taxes rather than overlooked something? I look back fondly on the days when I could file the EZ form; the tax code is exceedingly complex, plus I have no doubt that these people have accountants to do their taxes for them. Having a third party complete your taxes seems to be a situation in which something could easily get overlooked. Especially if you get a lot of “gifts.” Gifts just don’t seem like income.

    I don’t have much of an opinion on these matters, but I have been sick of hearing about this tax stuff. I assume that most people have made a mistake on their taxes, either intentionally or inadvertently, at some point. It does not require crucifixion.

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