Bringing Transparency to Washington

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I was talking with someone yesterday who mentioned a great idea for Washington. Why not impost a mandatory bi-annual audit of every person in the three branches of government? This would not be for every staffer. This would be for the senate, house, p/vp, cabinet, and main players in the judiciary. We could avoid so much if people just knew this was coming. It would be a great accountability measure.

Do any of you remember news of the 63 questions that potential members of his cabinet had to fill out in order to avoid trying to appoint people with the types of problems we have seen over the last couple of weeks? Here is a link to the New York Times in case you don’t remember. What we have seen over the last several days should never have happened. And what is the difference between Obama saying Geitner is still a great pick but that he “screwed up” on Daschle when they have done pretty much the exact same thing? Wouldn’t the ethical thing to do at this point be to remove Geitner if it was a “screw up” on Daschle?

0 Responses

  1. I gotta call a spade here: I think this is nitpicking. Out of *hundreds* of hirings & appointments that have been held to the highest standards the White House has ever seen, a handful of folks with black marks got through the net. Two of those very prominent people resigned yesterday because of those exacting standards. And instead of welcoming a new administration that is seeking integrity & transparency, you’re calling them on the carpet.

    And I could guess that you might reply with, “I absolutely do welcome the move toward transparency & integrity.” But that’s not your posture here. And that’s like a newspaper posting a salacious front page story, getting it wrong, and then posting the correction/retraction in the classifieds.

    It’s like the stuff with this recovery bill. One of your regular commenters here sent me a CNN link yesterday with a list of items in the bill that GOP congressmen deemed wasteful. I told him that I’d bet that it amounted to less than 5% of the bill. He added it up, turned out to be about 2.5%. So why not pledge to the President that you’ll give him your vote & 100% support if he removes those items? No, instead, the GOP ploy right now is to grandstand & try to slow down the cogs of government. And making a such a big fuss over a ticky-tack 2.5% of a bill.

    It’s nitpicking. And, frankly, not that original. It’s like this entry is right out of the GOP playbook.

    If a group of terrorists figuratively had us by the “pills,” would that be the time to nitpick & go over the last 20 years of tax returns from Jack Bauer? Or would you extend him a little leniency in return for him doing what he does? I do not think that this is a far cry from what Geithner means to this economy in crisis mode right now.

  2. Philip,

    How can this be the highest standards we have ever seen when Geitner makes it through? You can set a standard really high but if you hire someone against the standard you set the standards fail. I don’t think I got anything wrong here. I stated the facts. Obama is the one who called himself to higher standards and I pointed out his inconsistency of accepting one guy and then calling the situation with the other guy a screw up. People scrutinized Bush’s every move. Why is that off limits with Obama now that he is in office?

    I would be interested to hear your take on the audit idea.

  3. IMO, audit idea = too much red tape. I said elsewhere yesterday that the person who should be making the most noise over this is Mike Huckabee, who wants to do away with the IRS & install a national sales tax. That would bring a whole other set of issues to deal with, but it removes the burden of putting temptation-susceptible people on the honor system for tax paying. A VAT system looks really attractive to me right now.

    I didn’t like it when people nit-picked Bush, either. Nit-picking makes a big deal out of small matters, and takes the eye off the ball.

    Geithner is supposedly uniquely qualified for his role. Obama says he needs him. That’s good enough for me.

  4. You are probably right about the red tape. Maybe they could do something like a random drug test with checking the taxes of random people in higher office. I don’t know…I generally favor less government rather than more so I am not positive it is a great idea. We should have people in office who are ethical and it is sad to see when that is not the case. Hopefully what you wrote is correct and that the majority of people out there are ethical.

    I don’t know that I would call this a small matter. We are talking about the guy who is going to run the IRS who didn’t pay his taxes? Doesn’t that show us all that he doesn’t get it? Someone uniquely qualified for that role should have known to pay those taxes. The inconsistency gets me too but I have already said enough about that 🙂

  5. And I just think that it’s a poor assessment to say that the Obama standard of ethics “failed” when it has triumphed in hundreds of other appointments/hirings, has topped a few would-be appointments/hirings of high profile personalities (Daschle, Killefer, and Bill Richardson), and has given exceptions to two individuals because they have unique skills to bring to help solve critical problems in our country right now.

    Given the critical state we are in, I’m willing to compromise exacting standards (over issues that would have been winked at under previous administrations) if it means that we ultimately get the job done. The issue here is getting stuff done.

    Matt, if your house is burning down, do you quivel over uniform code with the firemen who will be dashing into your home to save your wife & child?

  6. Philip,

    This is hardly quibbling over a uniform code. The reason this is a BIG deal is not because it was 3 out of 200. It is a big deal because the very principles that were violated by these 3 went exactly opposed to what Obama was saying he was going to do (not put lobbyists in his Cabinet and be the most ethical administration in history). That is the FAIL here. Its like Charles Manson saying he didn’t murder anyone because he didn’t kill the other 220 million people alive in America at the time. This is a principle issue. Obama knew the facts and he pressed ahead for them to be approved until the NYT put out their article the other day. This is a principle issue and I am glad to see that Obama himself has come out and said he failed. Somehow you don’t seem to be able to see and admit what Obama himself has said.

  7. Charles Manson?! Seriously?

    Here’s the difference between me & you: I don’t see it as a fail. I guess that means I disagree with the President. I see it as a net win.

    They set exacting standards. They’re not going to meet those exacting standards all the time because they set the bar high. But they’re still shooting, day-after-day, to meet that high mark.

    Did they fail on Daschle? Yeah. Does that make the whole attempt of, as your title says, “Bringing Transparency to Washington” a fail? Absolutely not! And to insinuate such without looking at the big picture is sensationalistic & offends perspective.

  8. I support major reform to the tax code. It is ridiculous how anyone figures it out without hiring someone. The only problem with some of these proposals is that it negates the benefit of the Roth IRA. The Roth has taxes paid up front so you never have to pay taxes again on that money or on any interest. If you charge a consumption type tax that basically means you get taxed on your Roth money twice. You would have to get a MAJOR tax rebate back for any put into a Roth if this was the fix.

  9. That’s one of my Dad’s contentions about overhauling the tax system: you’d be flushing decades of accumulated work in compiling the tax code & starting over from scratch. IRA’s and such would have to be re-made. There would have to be exceptions written in for tax-free entities. It’d be a logistical nightmare.

    So yeah, unfortunately there are no easy answers here.

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