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Tax troubles surround Obama’s cabinet picks

Turbo Tax makes it easy to file your own taxes, unless your name is Timothy Geithner.

The day before he was confirmed as Treasury secretary, Geithner stood before the Senate Finance Committee and blamed his $34,000 tax flub on the do-it-yourself tax software. I suppose politicians will now adopt this as the “my dog ate my homework” excuse for 21st-century tax fraud.

At least America knows Geithner will not be using Turbo Tax to handle our nation’s finances — he is likely to upgrade to Quicken after this fiasco.

Strangely, Geithner sailed through his Senate confirmation rather smoothly. Apparently, members of the Senate do not view knowledge of the U.S. tax code a pressing qualification for the head of the IRS.

Maybe that’s because many prominent senators and politicians “forget” certain aspects of tax laws as well. The Washington Times reported last month that Rep. Charles B. Rangel of New York failed to pay more than $10,000 in taxes.

Tom Daschle, President Obama’s nominee for secretary of Health and Human Services, owed $140,000 in back-taxes and interest, according to CBS News. After the media got wind of this indiscretion, Daschle decided to follow in the footsteps of Geithner and file an amended tax return to settle his debts with the IRS. After all, hindsight in the limelight is always 20/20.

But the tax error already offered a fatal blow for Daschle. He did the right thing, unlike Geithner, and withdrew his name Feb. 3.

Another Obama nominee caught up in the tax scandal of the past few weeks was Nancy Killefer — who would have been the country’s first chief performance officer, had she been confirmed. Killefer also withdrew her candidacy because she didn’t want her bungling of payroll taxes for her household help to become a distraction for the Obama administration, according to the Associated Press.

The Associated Press disclosed shortly after Obama’s initial nomination that Killefer’s gaffe led the District of Columbia government to file a $946.69 tax lien on her home in 2005.

An article in Business Week after Killefer’s original nomination in early January stated: “Nancy Killefer, a veteran of McKinsey and the Clinton Administration, will be chief performance officer. Her brief: Clean up government waste.” The irony should be appreciated.

President Obama is not the only president whose nomination process has been plagued with scandal, however.

Former President Bill Clinton nominated several cabinet members with similar tax problems, according to the St. Petersburg Times. Zoe Baird — his original choice for attorney general — withdrew her name when it was made public that she failed to pay social security tax on an undocumented couple she had hired.

Clinton’s commerce secretary, Ron Brown, remained in office even after he admitted that he failed to pay social security taxes for his maid. Retired Admiral Bobby Ray Inman withdrew his candidacy for secretary of defense after it was released that he failed to pay taxes on a worker.

Justice Stephen Breyer, a Clinton nominee to the Supreme Court, also failed to pay social security taxes on a worker.

Former President George W. Bush’s nominee for secretary of homeland security, Bernard Kerik, was indicted on tax fraud, among other federal charges.

Americans were promised change, but the only “change” appears to be what President Obama’s nominees are withholding from Uncle Sam.

Granted, the U.S. tax code can be confounding at times, but these politicians are in a position in which knowledgeability — and accountants to supplement any lack of it — is expected.

But at least the president is willing to admit he “screwed up” with these nominations, according to the New York Times.

“I’ve got to own up to my mistake,” he said in an interview with NBC News. Obama stressed the importance of his administration sending a message “that there aren’t two sets of rules … one for prominent people and one for ordinary folks who have to pay their taxes.”

It is obvious Obama did not think through many of his nominations, or at least overlooked key issues bound to be exposed. This has proved to be his first real blunder in the Oval Office and the media, for the most part, decided to cover it closely.

So now Obama’s training wheels are off and the honeymoon is over. I do not wish for his failure, however, because it would ensure the country’s demise.

My only hope is that when he does make inevitable mistakes, the media will offer him the same biting criticism as they have for past administrations. So far, it looks like that wish has come true.

Brendan Collett is a sophomore majoring in public relations and psychology.