As the saying goes, character is what you do when nobody is looking. When the only people who can see you are yourself and your God, if you have one, do you do the right thing when the chips are down?
It’s easy to cheat on your taxes. The IRS can’t catch everybody, right? I could say I donated to the Salvation Army at Christmas (they don’t give receipts at the red cup, so I have a great excuse for not having one). I could say I donated a bunch of clothes — there are a few big bins around town where you can drop in clothes and shoes. There are a lot of ways you can increase your deductions or not claim income.
Every year I participate in surveys for textbook publishers, or review a chapter or two of a new version of a book, for which I’m paid anywhere from $20 to $250. I don’t get a W-2 for it. They don’t take out any federal or state income taxes. I could probably get away with not reporting it, but I do anyway. I know that every dollar in taxes that I owe that I don’t pay is going to have an effect, however small, on our government’s budget. If my school has to have a bake sale because I cheated on my taxes, that’s not right. If our troops can’t get the supplies they need because I cheated on my taxes, that’s on my head. I don’t have as much after-tax income as I might, but I sleep better at night because my conscience is pretty clear.
I’m perplexed by a few of the nominees that President Obama has put up lately. Tim Geithner didn’t pay his taxes for four years on the income he earned at the IMF. He was instructed, as every American who works for the IMF is every year, that the IMF does not pay payroll (Social Security and Medicare) taxes for their employees. The IMF even pays their employees more because they know the employees will have to fork over extra money to the government for these payroll taxes. Geithner decided not to pay his taxes. When it was discovered that he owed for four years, he only paid the two most recent years because the statute of limitations had expired on the previous two: he got away with cheating the IRS those two years because he wasn’t caught sooner. Then when he was nominated for Treasury Secretary by President Obama, and they looked into his background, he decided to go ahead and pay those two years of taxes. His excuse is basically that he didn’t know. BS. The smartest guy in the room in almost every room he’s in, and he didn’t know? Riiiiight. I’m not sure how the person in charge of the IRS can expect me not to cheat on my taxes when he cheats on his. Sure, lots of people cheat on their taxes, but the person heading up the IRS has to set an example.
Then there’s Tom Daschle. Former Senate majority leader who was booted a few years ago, he’s been in the private sector for a while. And he’s been receiving free limousine and driver service for years, not claiming it as a benefit. Now that he’s been nominated to be the new Secretary of Health and Human Services, they discover this “oversight” and he goes back and pays taxes and penalties to the tune of $101,943. He didn’t pay $100,000 in taxes! He served in governent. He was his party’s leader in the Senate! He’s supposed to uphold the constitution and love this country, and he cheats on his taxes until he gets caught, then basically says, “Oops, my bad.”
I have no idea how John Edwards could run for president, have an affair and a child with his mistress, and think that nobody would ever figure it out. Or how Charlie Rangel, Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee in the House (the committee in charge of writing tax laws), when busted for breaking tax laws, can use the excuse that they’re too complicated. If anybody should be able to follow them, it should be you, Charlie, you wrote them! And it’s not just Democrats. You’ve got Mark Foley, Ted Stevens, and plenty of others. Lying, cheating and stealing in Washington is not about red or blue – it’s about green.
Are these people so arrogant that they think they’ll never get caught? Did they never have any character to begin with, or did they lose it when they started getting a little bit of power?
I was hoping that some of the change that President Obama would bring would start with getting rid of politicians with severe character problems. Based on who he has nominated to two top positions, I guess that’s hoping for a little too much. Is Geithner the only person who can run Treasury? Is Daschle the only person who can run HHS? Hardly. President Obama could send a clear message that he will not have anyone in his administration who has ever committed such crimes. That would signal a new era of government. That would be change in which I could believe.