Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Obama and the Ruling Class

 

“We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.”

— Leona Helmsley

The list of Obama nominees not to have paid their taxes continues to grow.  The latest confessor is Kathleen Sebelius, governor of Kansas, former state representative, former insurance honcho, and Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS).  On March 31, it was revealed that Sebelius had “forgotten” to pay almost $8,000 in taxes.  Oops.

Earlier, Tom Daschle—former South Dakota senator, former Senate Majority Leader, Obama’s original choice for HHS Secretary, and a man generally regarded as the one person in the country capable of ushering in a national health care plan—turned out to owe so much in unpaid taxes he was forced to withdraw.

Daschle, a corporate lobbyist (despite how hard they tried to “spin” his position, when you make $2 million in one year from industry fees, that’s what you are, a lobbyist) owed more than $128,000 in unpaid taxes.  His withdrawal was a stunning disappointment to the administration.

During confirmation proceedings, Timothy Geithner, our Secretary of the Treasury, was forced to go on national television and apologize for not having paid over $34,000 in taxes.  The man who, as Treasury Secretary, would be the titular head of the Internal Revenue Service apparently didn’t know how to fill out his tax form.

Nancy Killefer, Obama’s nominee for Chief Performance Officer, also had to withdraw due to tax problems.  She threw in the towel with the investigation barely underway, choosing to nip it in the bud before too much was revealed.  No thanks, she said.  You can keep your appointment and I’ll keep my privacy.  Adios.

And Ron Kirk, Obama’s choice for U.S. Trade Rep, was shown to owe $10,000 in back taxes, which he agreed to pay only after it was made clear that his appointment to a big-time government position was contingent upon repayment.  Makes you wonder how amenable he and the others would have been to making restitution had their appointments not hung in the balance.

These were the ones we actually heard about, the ones who had made it all the way to final cut, the ones whose names had been formally submitted as nominees.  It doesn’t take into account those who, presumably, were removed from consideration when red flags went up in the first round of vetting, or those who dropped out voluntarily after meeting with their tax accountants.

Of course, it’s possible, as some have suggested, that these wealthy people were the victims of red tape, that the complexity of the U.S. tax code is the real culprit here.  Yes, that’s possible.  Still, it’s odd how these people always err on the side of paying too little than too much.  How refreshing it would be for an audit to reveal that someone making millions of dollars had actually paid a few thousand too much.

Unfortunately, the opportunity for President Obama to step up to the plate was lost here.  Instead of immediately withdrawing the name of any nominee who’d shown they failed to pay their taxes, and making it clear that he wanted honest, fair-minded people in his administration, he took the other approach.  He became complicit in providing cover and excuses.

The opportunity to prove that he fully intended to “change” the way Washington did business, beginning with flushing out the smug, the slippery, the uber-privileged, was ignored.  It could have been a defining moment not only for Obama, but for the country.  Instead, he demonstrated that his allegiance lay with the powers that be.

This whole thing should have been embarrassing for everyone—not only the people caught “cheating” on their taxes, but for Obama’s advisors as well.  But, wild ambition being what it is, these revelations were more or less shrugged off.  Those who talked their way out of it have prestigious government jobs, and those who were dropped from consideration have already moved on with their careers.

Still, critics of the administration will surely say that the reason rich liberals don’t mind Obama’s plan to raise taxes on the wealthy is because they have no intention of paying them.  And we sink deeper into cynicism.

DAVID MACARAY, a Los Angeles playwright (“Americana,” “Larva Boy”) and writer, was a former labor union rep.  He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

More articles by:

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
May 18, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Donald, Vlad, and Bibi
Robert Fisk
How Long Will We Pretend Palestinians Aren’t People?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Wild at Heart: Keeping Up With Margie Kidder
Roger Harris
Venezuela on the Eve of Presidential Elections: The US Empire Isn’t Sitting by Idly
Michael Slager
Criminalizing Victims: the Fate of Honduran Refugees 
John Laforge
Don’t Call It an Explosion: Gaseous Ignition Events with Radioactive Waste
Carlo Filice
The First “Fake News” Story (or, What the Serpent Would Have Said)
Dave Lindorff
Israel Crosses a Line as IDF Snipers Murder Unarmed Protesters in the Ghetto of Gaza
Gary Leupp
The McCain Cult
Robert Fantina
What’s Wrong With the United States?
Jill Richardson
The Lesson I Learned Growing Up Jewish
David Orenstein
A Call to Secular Humanist Resistance
W. T. Whitney
The U.S. Role in Removing a Revolutionary and in Restoring War to Colombia
Rev. William Alberts
The Danger of Praying Truth to Power
Alan Macleod
A Primer on the Venezuelan Elections
John W. Whitehead
The Age of Petty Tyrannies
Franklin Lamb
Have Recent Events Sounded the Death Knell for Iran’s Regional Project?
Brian Saady
How the “Cocaine Mitch” Saga Deflected the Spotlight on Corruption
David Swanson
Tim Kaine’s War Scam Hits a Speed Bump
Norah Vawter
Pipeline Outrage is a Human Issue, Not a Political Issue
Mel Gurtov
Who’s to Blame If the US-North Korea Summit Isn’t Held?
Patrick Bobilin
When Outrage is Capital
Jessicah Pierre
The Moral Revolution America Needs
Binoy Kampmark
Big Dead Place: Remembering Antarctica
John Carroll Md
What Does It Mean to be a Physician Advocate in Haiti?
George Ochenski
Saving Sage Grouse: Another Collaborative Failure
Sam Husseini
To the US Government, Israel is, Again, Totally Off The Hook
Brian Wakamo
Sick of Shady Banks? Get a Loan from the Post Office!
Colin Todhunter
Dangerous Liaison: Industrial Agriculture and the Reductionist Mindset
Ralph Nader
Trump: Making America Dread Again
George Capaccio
Bloody Monday, Every Day of the Week
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Swing Status, Be Gone
Samantha Krop
Questioning Our Declaration on Human Rights
Morna McDermott
Classrooms, Not Computers: Stop Educating for Profit
Patrick Walker
Today’s Poor People’s Campaign: Too Important Not to Criticize
Julia Stein
Wrestling With Zionism
Clark T. Scott
The Exceptional President
Barry Barnett
The Family of Nations Needs to Stand Up to the US  
Robert Koehler
Two Prongs of a Pitchfork
Bruce Raynor
In an Age of Fake News, Journalists Should be Activists for Truth
Max Parry
The U.S. Won’t Say ‘Genocide’ But Cares About Armenian Democracy?
William Gudal
The History of Israel on One Page
Robert Jensen
Neither cis nor TERF
Louis Proyect
Faith or Action in a World Hurtling Toward Oblivion?
David Yearsley
The Ubiquitous Mr. Desplat
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail