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Terence Jeffrey / Feb. 7, 2009

Liberal Elite Plays by Its Own Rules

Liberal politicians always talk about making the rich pay more taxes, except when they are the rich — which, more often than not, they are.

Then they tend to divide into two camps: those who fail to pay all their taxes and those who defend those who fail to pay all their taxes.

They are — to paraphrase Scott Fitzgerald — different from you and me. They play by their own rules.

Over the last two weeks, the Obama administration treated regular Americans to a rare peek into how these rules work.

Last Monday, the Senate took up the confirmation of Timothy Geithner as treasury secretary even after it was discovered Geithner had failed to pay about $34,000 in taxes. Geithner apologized to the Senate Finance Committee for “mistakes” in filling out his tax returns.

“These were careless mistakes. They were avoidable mistakes,” he said. “But they were unintentional. I should have been more careful.”

Should it have mattered that Geithner was so “careless” in financial matters?

Here’s a hint: As treasury secretary, Geithner will not only oversee the $700 billion financial industry bailout, he will also oversee the Internal Revenue Service, which enforces the tax laws.

Nonetheless, President Obama took Geithner’s “careless” approach to paying taxes in stride. He called it an “innocent mistake” and pushed the nomination through the Senate, where 10 Republicans supported it and only three Democrats opposed.

Then it was discovered that two more Obama nominees had tax problems. In both instances, it involved the nominees’ tax treatment of what in a less politically correct era might have been called their personal servants.

President Obama had deemed Nancy Killefer so profoundly competent he named her both deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget and first-ever “chief performance officer” for the U.S. government.

When Obama announced he was naming her chief performance officer, he said he wanted to make sure all the new spending in his stimulus bill would be done efficiently. “I intend to make sure we have unprecedented measures to ensure that taxpayers keep track of how this money is spent,” he said.

But the District of Columbia, according to The Associated Press, had put a $946.69 lien on Killefer’s home for about five months in 2005 “for failure to pay unemployment compensation tax on household help.”

During the time Washington had a lien on her house, said AP, “Killefer and her husband, an economics professor, had two nannies to help care for their teenage son and daughter, and she had a personal assistant to run things when she was on the road, she told Harvard Business students back then.”

Killefer withdrew her nomination Tuesday morning, which may have also doomed the nomination of former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.

President Obama deemed Daschle — like Killefer — so competent he gave him two jobs. Daschle would be both health and human services secretary and White House health-care czar. As “czar,” he was charged with formulating a national health-care plan (n.b. socialized medicine).

Daschle, it turned out, had to pay about $140,000 in back taxes and interest last month because among other things he had failed to pay taxes for the use of a chauffeur and limo that had been provided by one of his employers.

Daschle had planned to tough it out, and liberal politicians were ready to stand with him — including President Obama, who said he “absolutely” wanted Daschle confirmed.

But when Killefer bowed out, Daschle quickly followed.

So, why did Geithner get to stay, while Killefer and Daschle had to go? Was there a double standard at work here? No, seen properly, there was only one standard.

It is this: Liberals in Washington, D.C., see America divided into roughly three classes. There is governing class to which they belong. There is the ever-growing dependent class, whom they reward with government benefits and who in turn votes preponderantly to enhance the liberal power in Washington. And there is the middle class, who are expected to pay all their taxes and to pay them on time, so the governing class can use the revenue to enhance their own power by increasing the benefits paid to the dependent class.

Geithner, Killefer and Daschle were all members in good standing of the governing class, dedicated to increasing the size and power of government. Geithner was confirmed because the liberals figured they could get away with it. Killefer and Daschle were not because there was a risk that pushing them through now just might spark a middle-class revolt against the liberal agenda.

Killefer and Daschle had to go not because they broke the rules, but because the protracted controversies they might spark could threaten the liberals’ strategic goal: growing the government.


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