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Froma Harrop
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Daschle Is Too Compromised for the Job


Where did Tom Daschle get the idea that he didn't have to pay his taxes? The question sets off wild mood swings about the man President Obama has picked to remake the American health-care system — his apology notwithstanding.

On one hand, the former senator from South Dakota brims with smarts on reforming health care. On the other, his failure to pay at least $128,000 in back taxes and eagerness to make big money off the people he would regulate speaks of lax ethics and an infuriating sense of entitlement.

Daschle made good on his tax obligations a few days before his hearing to become secretary of health and human services. Problem fixed, he undoubtedly thought. But taxes are only part of it.

In the four years since losing his Senate seat to Republican John Thune, the Democrat has made an easy $5 million letting various businesses use his name and influence. Experts say that his activities fall short of lobbying government (by the technical definition), but not by much. Most distressing is the near quarter-million he's made from health-care companies.

Drawing a sharp line between life in government and life in commerce has never been a Daschle strength. While Tom held a leadership position in the Senate, his wife, Linda, worked as a paid lobbyist for, among other industries, health care.

Such relationships eat into hopes that Daschle will help create the sort of rational health care system he promotes in public. On paper, he correctly frames the mission as more than bringing health coverage to the uninsured. It is also to control costs. That is the hard part because it means interrupting someone's revenue stream.

Daschle has supported including a government plan in any smorgasbord of coverage options, which the insurance industry would fight fang and claw. He talks of creating an independent Federal Health Board empowered to decide what government health programs would cover.

And he would deny payment for expensive new drugs and procedures that don't improve currently available treatments. Companies invested in these medications and gizmos would slam any effort to leave them out.

The South Dakotan has backed making single payments for a medical episode (for example, a heart attack or knee replacement). That would reduce the financial incentives for unnecessary care. It would also give doctors and hospitals another reason for doing a good job the first time.

And Daschle continues to criticize the Medicare drug benefit for its awful design. The program is enormously expensive because it cut private insurers into the deal.

That's Daschle talking good health-care policy. But when new legislation gets written, can we trust an author so keen to make money from corporate interests? A strong sense of propriety could contain questionable behavior. But what power does decorum have here? Watch the unblushing ease with which Daschle shrugs off his unpaid taxes and his wife's lobbying work.

While critics on the right bitterly denounce this compromised nominee, most Senate Republicans interviewed over the weekend seemed ready to give Daschle a pass. Who knows when they might want to take a lucrative stroll in the private sector — and "forget" to pay their taxes — before returning to government.

And others, so hungry for a national health plan, may not want to further damage the reputation of one who has shown so much promise and whom Obama has chosen to lead. Understandable, but there's too much money at stake to put someone with Daschle's history in charge of health-care reform.

No one expects the Obama administration to be as clean as the candidate vowed. But if Daschle sails through, then the magic of the promise will be close to gone.

To find out more about Froma Harrop, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at








2 Comments | Post Comment
Had it not been for their nominations, neither Daschle nor Geitner would have paid their taxes. Both are disqualified to serve in these positions because they are either a) dishonest or b) too dumb if they claim they didn't know they had to pay tasex on this income. They are unfortunately the poster boys of modern appointed or elected officials - "rules for the masses do not apply to me".
Comment: #1
Posted by:
Tue Feb 3, 2009 6:12 AM
Ma'am, and forrest;...I am certain our criminals are more virtuous than your criminals....But isn't that the problem with parties all together, not that it improves them, or helps us; but that it adds another layer of susceptibility to corruption that we must all get beyond to reach our government... What would be the point???Why parties???Do you think republicans like to vote for their candidates???We have become a nation voting against the party we hate rather the candidates we adore... Napoleon, the Emperor of France, to all you republicans, was right to outlaw parties... Ask the representative: Who are you representing here, your party; or the people???Look at how the republicans got into a row like ducks in a shooting gallery on the stimulus bill...I don't blame them a bit...They all got to go if they cannot think, and act as individuals....Where is the loyalty to their voters???It was all party loyalty... That is what you have to end to reach responsive government...The problem is that no one can imagine life any different than it is...They never ask; How necessary are these parties existing on our suffering...The question does not occur to them....It occurs to me....Thanks...Sweeney
Comment: #2
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Tue Feb 3, 2009 5:02 PM
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