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A Bad Day for American Health Care Reform?

February 3rd, 2009

Today Sen. Tom Daschle, former Senate Majority Leader from South Dakota, asked President Obama to withdraw his nomination as Secretary of Health and Human Services. I will admit that when Daschle was first nominated, I was very excited. I thought, here was a man who knows the Senate better than most, is a passionate advocate for change in health care, and may be the one guy who can shepherd universal health care through the Congress. I honestly don’t know how he would perform as an administrator, but you can solve that with a good Deputy Secretary. But this guy, this guy was going to make the politics happen.

However, I cannot agree with Sen. Kerry’s comment following today’s announcement.

I wish Tom Daschle had not decided to withdraw his nomination… While Tom’s decision is a reminder of his loyalty to President Obama and his determination not to be a distraction, this was no ordinary appointment and today is not a good day for the cause of health care reform.

With all due respect to Sen. Kerry, today is not the bad day for the cause of health care reform. The bad day was when Sen. Daschle, a man who served on the Finance Committee of the United State Senate (they write the tax code), failed in his basic obligation to pay his taxes. This isn’t the sort of difficult to understand tax situation, like with Sec. Geithner, this is an obvious case of either gross negligence or willful evasion.

If you had asked me before last year’s tax season, I might have had a different feeling. Last year I fretted extensively about my taxes because so much of my income was as an independent contractor. As I had failed to make quarterly installments, I had a significant tax burden to pay… and I had to save and scrimp for months to come up with the money by April 15. I didn’t have to do that — a lot of what I earned never got reported as 1099 income — but I reported it anyway because the law is clear. The law was equally clear for Sen. Daschle, as it is for rest American upper class who seems to be engaging in massive and widespread tax fraud. I wonder, how many people making over a million dollars annually in this country would pass through this kind of scrutiny? It sort of make sense, if you think about it… try and skim off as much off your taxes as you can and bet that if you do get caught, you’ll get the mess cleared up through lawyers. It’s a win-win… unless you are the average tax payer who can’t afford tax lawyers and whose only real option is to pay to the best of their ability and pray they aren’t audited.

Yes, I too wish Sen. Daschle could have served as the new Secretary of Health and Human Services, but I wish even more that he had shown a basic level of respect to his fellow citizens and the law and shouldered his share of the burden, instead of trying to get away with tax evasion until suddenly it became a political issue.

It’s just like John Stewart said on the Daily Show…. “pay your f*cking taxes.”

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