President Barack Obama may be enjoying high public approval ratings, but he must not be pleased with how several of his Cabinet selections have gone. Tom Daschle, the former nominee for secretary of health and human services, (as of yesterday afternoon) is not the only Obama pick to have tax problems. The new treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, had tax problems of his own but survived his confirmation fight.
It’s important to remember that everyone makes mistakes on their taxes now and then. However, Americans expect that government officials, especially one that oversees the Internal Revenue Service, be held to a higher standard. Before a nominee can run a government agency, he should be able to run his own finances.
The average American often lives in fear of making errors when filing his or her taxes, and government officials should not feel that they are above the law. Obama himself put it best on Tuesday, denying that ‘there are two sets of standards: one for powerful people and one for ordinary people paying their taxes,’ and any future appointments should reflect this.
Ultimately, the derailment of Tom Daschle’s nomination was the former Senate majority leader’s own fault.’ He knew back in June of 2008 that he may have failed to pay back taxes, yet did not inform the White House transition team until after he had been officially nominated. As a veteran political insider, Daschle should have known that several past Cabinet nominees have had to withdraw their names from consideration after revelations of tax problems. For a nominee to be anything less than forthcoming about these issues is dishonest, and puts his own interests above those of the country.
These nomination withdrawals come at the expense of the American people. The search for a health and human services secretary now must start from scratch, and it may take weeks for another nominee to be confirmed and sworn in. Reforming the health care system was one of Obama’s top priorities, and without someone in charge at the Department of Health and Human Services, action on much-needed health care reform will be delayed.
Nobody expected the process of appointing Cabinet positions to be perfect, but Obama must take greater care to ensure that his future nominees will make it through their confirmation hearings scandal-free, or the whole country will suffer.