Tax forgiveness is relative

Published 4:05 am Wednesday, February 4, 2009

By Staff
We once had a distant cousin who had some “tax problems.”
A supposedly mistaken omission on his tax forms one year - or more likely multiple years - led to his wages being garnished for quite some time.
He rented one room, walked to work, claimed he subsisted on one McDonald's hamburger a day, and became known as the freeloader in the family anytime he showed up to visit - conveniently right as folks sat down to dinner.
I had a soft spot for him, most likely because I hardly saw him. Those “tax problems” and his irresponsibility haunted him for years.
So when the people who are supposed to be the “best and the brightest,” so much so that they are nominated for positions in the presidential administration, keep turning up with “tax problems,” you really have to wonder.
Why was my cousin wasting away on one burger a day and collecting cans for change, while Tom Daschle, Tim Geithner and others are getting nominated for high government posts?
Daschle, the nominee for Health and Human Services, and Nancy Killefer, President Obama's pick for chief performance officer, both withdrew from the process on Tuesday, citing the embarrassment over tax problems.
So why does Geithner get confirmed as treasury secretary despite failing to pay taxes, while Daschle and Killefer get the boot?
Simple. Like my second cousin once removed (or was it first cousin twice removed?) they are expendable.
My cousin didn't have the money to pay back his tax bill, and he certainly didn't have any clout. Daschle and Killefer can be replaced by other nominees who can be just as effective in the jobs.
But Geithner seems to be different - and I for one hope he's worth the trouble. A lot of people voted for him with reservations - including U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, who as ranking member of the banking committee will work closely with the new treasury secretary.
Geithner might be one of the handful of people in this country who can help turn the economy around. Is that worth overlooking his tax mistakes in the past? Right now, I should say so.
As for Daschle, he may be publicly embarrassed - and politically finished - but he's is probably not going to be relegated to showing up at relatives' houses at the dinner hour anytime soon.
Kerry Whipple Bean is publisher of The Brewton Standard. She can be reached at 867-4876 or by e-mail at

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