Mr. Daschle's Ride
by Charles Lemos, Tue Feb 03, 2009 at 08:01:50 PM EST
Benjamin Franklin was off the mark. A penny saved is a penny taxed, it seems. If only he had kept his old ride (frankly, I'm surprised he didn't drive a pick up truck). Why, Tom, why?
Seriously, though, Mr. Daschle's tax problems should not have disqualified the former Senator from South Dakota turned lobbyist for the H&HS Cabinet post. Mr. Daschle was "uniquely qualified" for this position. His loss is not just a loss for the Obama Administration but a loss for the country. President Obama will be hard pressed to find another candidate with the same background though perhaps it's not required. Besides his Congressional experiences in both the House and Senate, Mr. Daschle authored a well-received book, Critical: What We can Do About the Health-Care Crisis in which the former Senate Minority Leader argues the United States cannot neglect the issue any longer because it weakens US competitiveness. And while he backtracked from a pure single payer system where the government is the sole insurer, Mr. Daschle's proposals would have likely moved the ball forward in that direction. Moreover, I believe that he had the clout to see its passage through the US Senate.
The above ad is from 1986 when Congressman Daschle unseated incumbent Republican James Abdnor to become a Senator from South Dakota. The ad is further proof that the longer one's tenure in Washington, the more removed one becomes from the realities outside the Beltway. Because what should have upset people isn't Mr. Daschle's unpaid taxes on a free ride but rather from the fact that he advised insurance companies and made hundreds of thousands giving speeches to industry groups. Whatever values the young Tom Daschle had back in 1986 where a distant memory post his Senate career where he sought to cash in on his service in government. From today's New York Times editorial:
Mr. Daschle's financial ties to major players in the health care industry may prove to be even more troublesome as health reform efforts proceed. Like many former power players in Washington, Mr. Daschle cashed in on his political savvy and influence to earn $5 million in recent years, including more than $2 million from Alston & Bird, a law and lobbying firm; more than $2 million from the private equity firm, InterMedia Advisors, which provided the car and driver; and hundreds of thousands of dollars for speeches to interest groups, including those representing health insurance plans, medical equipment distributors and pharmacy boards.
That might explain why Mr. Daschle no longer held his 1971 Pontiac in such high esteem. The values expressed in the ad seem long abandoned. Did the man change Washington or did Washington change the man? How does a man who in 1986 touts his parsimonious attachment to a clunker that he himself drove to work become a man who 23 years later finds himself owing $128,000 back taxes for a car & driver? What does this say about values?
The car was a perk, but Mr. Daschle's free ride was cashing in on his Washington ties and it was in poor taste. Still, whatever Mr. Daschle's shortcomings, the fact remains that he was rather uniquely qualified to lead the charge on reforming a broken health care system. Let's hope that when politicians in future decide they want to cash in that they realize that it does in effect mean the end of their political career.