02 February 2009

Way to Vet, Obama! (ongoing?)

Now we have former Senator Daschle apologizing to his former peers and to the public for failing to pay taxes to an extent that makes Secretary Geithner's indiscretions look modest. While Daschle's nomination to Health & Human Services isn't as great an insult to the collective intelligence as Geithner's appointment to the Treasury Department, we do want people in these posts who can keep track of money and where it's meant to go. The President isn't deterred from pushing Daschle on the Senate, which gives you a hint on how unseriously people in high places take these errors. I suppose that any real attempt to vet Daschle took second place to Obama's determination to reward an early supporter of his campaign. The vetting team supposedly knew about Daschle's excessive claim of charitable deductions before Obama named him for the HHS job, while the delinquent payments emerged later. But as they did, the Senate will most likely give Daschle a pass as a former member of their club, despite some predictable Republican grandstanding. What the public needs is an independent entity that perpetually vets all present and former members of Congress, so that scandals like these don't take us by surprise and future Geithners and Daschles could be disqualified in the public mind before a president dared nominate them. Ideally it would be a public but non-governmental entity, funded by subscriptions rather than a corporate bankroll, with access to tax records through the Freedom of Information Act. Perhaps something like this already exists or is struggling to be born, but something more needs to be done to, at the very least, shame politicians into paying their taxes fully and correctly and setting a proper example for the rest of us.

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