Every time I read a story about Tom Daschle’s tax problems, the amount he paid in back taxes seems to get bigger. But all of the numbers I’ve seen are somewhere between $128,000 and $146,000. However you look at it, it’s a lot more than the gross annual income for most Americans. And it far outstrips the income of most of the clients we work with in Colorado, many of whom are self-employed or work for small companies. I will admit that I’m a bit obsessive about dotting my i’s and crossing my t’s. Our accountant told me that I do my best to make things more complicated than they need to be, thanks to my incessant questioning. But how does someone forget about compensation – even if it’s indirect, in the form of a car and a driver – that results in a six figure tax bill after just two years?
Don’t get me wrong – I thought that Daschle had some good ideas. But I understand how his job as a special public policy advisor to a private law firm, where he earned millions of dollars over the last few years and was apparently provided with a car and a driver, could be regarded as a conflict of interest. And of course there’s the issue with the IRS. I imagine that Daschle does not burn the midnight oil each spring crunching numbers on his own tax returns. And I believe him when he says that it was a mistake and an oversight that caused the error. I’m sorry that this issue has led to Daschle’s withdrawl, but I agree with him that anyone who holds the position of HHS Secretary has to have the full trust and faith of the American people and the lawmaking bodies. And even if this issue had been worked out during a confirmation hearing, it would likely have compromised that faith.
Today I’ve been seeing lots of online chatter about how Daschle’s withdrawl is a blow to the Obama administration’s efforts to bring about swift and meaningful health care reform. But I doubt that will be the case. I think that the new administration is going to face challenges with any swift and meaningful changes they attempt, pertaining to healthcare of otherwise. The ongoing fight over the preident’s proposed economic stimulus package is an indicator that things are not going to fall into place as easily as perhaps the Democrats had hoped. Health care reform will face the same challenges, and will need bipartisan support in order to pass, regardless of who is at the helm of the reform efforts. I think that anyone who ends up in the position of HHS secretary will be focused on dealing with the health care challenges facing our nation. The millions of Americans who lack any type of health insurance and the ever-increasing cost of health care are issues that must be addressed. And unfortunately they’re going to have to be addressed during a time when money is squeaky tight. I imagine partisan politics and lack of money will be a far bigger hurdle for health care reform than Daschle’s withdrawl.