Nothing New About the New Standard
President Barack Obama is on the right track with his plan to cap at $500,000 per year the salaries of Wall Street big-shots who get federal bailout money. But he is off by $499,999.99.
There is no reason for taxpayers to continue to reward unlimited ignorance and unbridled greed. These Wall Street firms were run into the ground by financiers who were too stupid to understand the true risks of what they were doing and too greedy to stop doing it.
And now they deserve a half-million dollars a year? Some of them deserve six to 12 in Allenwood.
But, as I said, Obama is on the right track. He said Wednesday: "We all need to take responsibility. And this includes executives at major financial firms who turned to the American people, hat in hand, when they were in trouble, even as they paid themselves their customary lavish bonuses. As I said last week, that's the height of irresponsibility. That's shameful."
You know what else is shameful? Barack Obama pressing ahead with appointment of Cabinet secretaries who he knew were tax evaders.
Those people, despite their qualifications, were not taking responsibility for their actions, and neither was Obama.
Tim Geithner, our new secretary of the treasury, knew he had evaded paying taxes for years, but he didn't pay up until Obama appointed him to the Cabinet.
Tom Daschle knew he owed taxes on the round-the-clock limousine and chauffeur he got from a wealthy financier for two years, but he didn't pay up until he was appointed to the Cabinet. He now admits he was "naive"?
Naive? A guy gives me a car and driver for two years, I figure he wants something. I am not saying I will give it to him, but I figure he wants it. And I don't whine afterward about being naive.
But that is not the problem. The problem is that President Obama continued to back Daschle after Daschle admitted that he had not paid his taxes.
That is not the "responsibility" that Obama talked about Wednesday.
Now I keep seeing all these talking heads on TV telling me how nice guys like Tom Daschle have fallen victim to the "new high standards" of Washington that the Obama administration has set.
But when did paying your taxes become a new high standard? Tens of millions of Americans do it every year.
And this is part of the reason that Obama's bailout and stimulus plans are unpopular with so many Americans. To them, it is just another way to reward a special, privileged class.
Wall Street moguls who screw up get bailed out. Main Street shop owners who can't afford to meet their payrolls go under.
Ordinary people who don't pay their taxes get arrested. Big shots who don't pay their taxes get government jobs (including, in Geithner's case, being put in charge of the Internal Revenue Service).
We don't need new standards. We just need to respect the old ones.
I like Tom Daschle. I don't think anybody who has ever met Tom Daschle has not liked him. I also think he would have made an excellent secretary of health and human services and an excellent health care czar.
But Daschle needed one other quality: He needed to play by the rules. He needed to play by the same rules that the rest of America is asked to play by.
John Breaux, the former Democratic senator from Louisiana, was on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports" on Tuesday, and he said: "The standard has been raised so high that you have to be perfect. None of us is perfect."
Maybe not. But most of us pay our taxes. And is President Obama saying the talent pool in America is so shallow that he can find only tax cheats with which to fill his Cabinet?
A New York Times editorial on Tuesday, which Daschle cited as a reason for his withdrawal, said, "We believe that Mr. Daschle ought to step aside and let the president choose a less blemished successor."
I guess an unblemished successor is too much to hope for.
To find out more about Roger Simon, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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