Debating Democratic Tax Cheats

Yesterday, I participated in an online debate for the New York Times about Senator Daschle and other high-ranking Democrats who seem to like higher taxes for everyone except themselves. One of the participants asserted that everything would be okay if Daschle (and Treasury Secretary Geithner) voluntarily gave the government extra money. Another participant used the forum as an excuse to argue that the rest of us should give the government more money. Another participant actually wrote that “Tom Daschle is an exemplary public servant” and that the “country is lucky to get him back in this time of great need.” (I’m not making this up.) One of my favorite people, by contrast, indicts the internal revenue code and the corrupt culture in Washington:

The Tom Daschle imbroglio is…an indictment of a convoluted tax code that simultaneously hinders compliance by honest people and enables cheating by dishonest people. In past years, Money magazine asked professional tax preparers to estimate the tax liability for a hypothetical family. Almost without fail, every single answer the magazine received was different and every single answer was wrong. If people trying to come up with the right answers have this much trouble, imagine the opportunities for mischief by those who want to scam the system — especially now that the tax code is even more complex? …Mr. Daschle’s tax dodging…reveals how the political culture in Washington is fundamentally corrupt. As a senator, he constantly voted to expand the size and scope of government, and he expected the rest of us to pay the bills, stating in 1998 that, “the I.R.S. should enforce our laws to the letter.” Yet like Treasury Secretary Geithner and Charles Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Mr. Daschle viewed compliance as optional. Unlike ordinary Americans, Mr. Daschle and other members of the political class will not have to worry about being harassed by the I.R.S. Washington insiders have a get-out-of-jail-free card that enables them to feign embarrassment, pay the back taxes and interest, but avoid any penalties or legal consequences. Best of all, they also can generate campaign contributions while in office and become rich out of office by making the tax code even more onerous for the rest of us. Nice work if you can get it.