Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Arrogance of Officialdom

"The budget should be balanced, the treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt." Marcus Tullius Cicero, circa 63 B.C.

Cicero's quote is one of my favorite when it comes to expressing my frustration with politicians who are out of control. The Obama administration is full of such characters. Very rarely has a politician failed to be confirmed by the United States Senate because of tax issues. We have never certainly seen this happen to three in one administration (with two on one day with former Senator Tom Daschle who was nominated for Secretary of Health and Human Services and Nancy Killefer, who was chosen as the President's performance czar).

It is extremely bold that the candidates forced to pull out of their positions found themselves in this predicament:

  • Tom Daschle was a member of the Finance Committee for many years while in the United States Senate. This is the committee that oversees tax laws. It is hard to imagine that someone with that kind of background could find himself owing over $140,000 in back taxes, interest, and penalties. This is more than what most Americans make over several years. To be ignorant about owing this amount in taxes seems very hard to believe.

  • Nancy Killefer has years of experience as a government and business consultant. With a BA in economics from Vassar College and a MBA from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Killefer looked like a great appointee on paper, but she too had to withdraw because the District of Columbia had filed a more than $900 tax lien for failing to pay state unemployment taxes on domestic help. A person in charge of the efficiency of the US Government being unable to keep track of her tax obligations became more than the administration could bear and she withdrew as a result of it.

  • Timothy Geithner, our new Secretary of Treasury and the man who oversees the IRS is another person who had serious tax issues. Geithner failed to pay tens of thousands in taxes over several years. You would think that, if any person would be forced to withdraw, it would be Geithner. However, the Obama administration told us that this would be an isolated incident and the Senate chose to over look it. Now, tax evasion seems to be a prerequisite of getting an offer from this President.

Obama lectures us about the importance of maintaining the highest standards in government and tells us that he is choosing the "best and the brightest" for his administration in the Kennedy tradition of "Camelot." However, it is looking more like "Spamalot" as people ask if Obama's appointees believe they are "so good" and "so smart" that they don't have to abide by the same standards as the rest of the population? That is the exact impression that the Obama administration is conveying to the American people.

Kevin Price is a syndicated columnist whose articles frequently appear at ChicagoSunTimes.com, Reuters.com, USAToday.com, and other national media. Kevin Price is Host of the Price of Business (M-F at 11 AM on CNN 650) and Publisher of the Houston Business Review. Hear the show live and online at PriceofBusiness.com. Visit the archive of past shows here.

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