It can't be pure coincidence that several of Barack Obama's top nominees have had embarrassing tax problems. The latest offender, Nancy Killefer, Obama's choice for the new job of chief performance officer, withdrew today because she hadn't paid DC unemployment taxes for domestic help. And now Daschle's out too.
Obviously, whether you are in public service or not, you ought to know the basics of paying taxes and ... pay them. But if you're in the vanguard of "change we can believe in," there's no excuse for such carelessness. One reason for these forehead-slapping errors may be the strange relationship most of us have with federal income taxes. For the most part, taxes are something we think about as little as possible. Once a year, we are forced to make an unpleasant reckoning with how much we make, how much we spend and save, and how much goes to various governments. Often at this juncture, a willful ignorance imposes itself, especially when it comes to taxes that aren't automatically withheld. Do I really have to pay this or this, on top of everything I'm already paying? Perhaps, if I don't pay it, it will just go away! And you know, most of the time it does go away. Odds are the IRS won't find out. Until, of course, the president needs your services.
This is a childish and borderline-dishonest way to conduct your affairs, and it's fascinating that a bunch of earnest Democrats seem particularly prone to it. Rather than straight-up cheating or gaming the system, or trying to dismantle it outright (as we've seen Republicans do the past eight years, with varying degrees of success) the Daschle-Geithner-Killefer tax goof is based on an almost-unconscious hope that the system they theoretically want to work ... won't.
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