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February 3rd, 2009
10:42 AM ET

Democrats are hypocrites when it comes to paying taxes

Jonah Goldberg
The Los Angeles Times

During the presidential campaign, Joe Biden insisted that paying your taxes is a patriotic duty. No, scratch that. He said that supporting a tax hike was the American thing to do. "It's time to be patriotic," he told America's putative tax slackers. When asked whether he might be questioning the patriotism of people who don't want higher taxes, Biden, as is his wont, took things to the next rhetorical level. Forget patriotism, insisted Joe, paying higher taxes is a religious obligation.

The man who gave an average of $369 a year to charity over the previous decade fulfills his religious obligations by cutting a tax check - a check he's required to cut by law.

Now it's always perilous to take Biden's statements too seriously, but it does seem eminently fair to say that his comments reflect a common, if not universal, attitude among Democrats. Taxes aren't a "necessary evil" so much as a joyous affirmation of the possibilities of government and the lifeblood of a more hopeful society. "Taxes are what you pay to be an American" - like "membership fees," says Democratic language guru George Lakoff.

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Filed under: Democrats • Economy • Finance • Raw Politics • Republicans
soundoff (45 Responses)
  1. ronvan

    WHAT IF: ALL of us refused to pay our taxes? If EVERY elected official, state & federal, underwent an investigation for problems? Who would be left standing? ALL the truckers in america parked their rigs to make a statement on fuel prices? All the american car makers got with their unions and agreed that $50 -$70 dollar an hour assembly jobs had to go? ALL of these crooks from failed banks and other companies were put DIRECTLY into jail, awaiting trial? Instead of bailing out all these companies we gave the money to the American people? And of course, WHAT IF, WHAT IF, WHAT IF?

    February 4, 2009 at 10:33 am |
  2. Doug

    Listening to some of the comments here, makes me ask one question. Do you really, really think that this is "just happening now"? If so, you are more un-informed than most people in this country. Thanks to President Obama's policy on transparency, all this is coming to light. Since most politicians are somewhat corrupt to some extent (be it kickbacks, not paying their fair share of taxes due to loop holes, not reporting everything they should, and giving themselves payraise's for not doing what we sent them there to do) it's kind of hard to find qualified people in Washington that don't have some type of questionable blemish on their record. Almost 100% of the politicians are lobbyist for something or someone. They do whatever it takes to get stuff done for their buddies, friends, family, and/or business associates. You should be glad that President Obama is bringing out all the corruption and "business as usual" that goes on.
    The man has only been in office less than 15 days and has put into place more transparency than any other President in history. At least he limits anyone who was a lobbyist from working on anything to do with the matter they were lobbying on and prevents them from lobbying his administration if they leave. Who else has ever done that? At least give him the benefit of doubt that he is "TRYING" to do the best he can with what he has to work with. Even our penal system trys to rehabilitate convicted criminals in order to get them to be good, functional citizens again. That's all he can do and needs our support, understanding, and the belief that eventually, Washington will get changed. He cannot be expected to undo all the years of business as usual in less than a month. Look around you and see all the people you know who are not squeaky clean. I bet you'll be surprised at who they are.

    February 3, 2009 at 6:35 pm |
  3. Carlos

    So now it's Obama's selection for Performance Director who bites the dust , "ahem" withdarws because of............... $369.00 tax mistake or some nonsense like that!

    What's wrong with this picture????? I'm sure there's more to it than that-– but felt it better just to "Cut and Run" before the real dirt started flying.

    Obama has certainly manged to surround himself with an entire troupe of "Uniquely Qualified" individuals, I must say!

    Maybe he should consider Hot Rod Blago for an appointment. He needs a job and I'm certain he's fully paid up on all of his taxes!

    February 3, 2009 at 5:01 pm |
  4. Dean the tax payer

    Found some interesting facts about tax fraud.

    In 2003;

    Medicare cost the US tax payers $246 billion
    Tax Gap (fraud) (unpaid taxes) – $311 billion (minus)
    Federal Deficit $375 billion
    Defense dept. $388 billion

    Irs audits for income earners over $100,000 was at 0.69%
    audits for income earners under $100,000 was at 2.13%

    There are a lot more cheaters than you realize!!!

    February 3, 2009 at 4:21 pm |
  5. Linda

    We should all rejoice. Their behavior sets a precedent. Now, if I happen to "forget" to pay my taxes, or "overlook" some income, I don't have to pay until I get caught. Then I just pay up and they let me off. Is this a great country or what?

    February 3, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  6. Annie Kate

    I think most people are hypocrites when it comes to paying taxes – we all try to minimize what we have to pay – some are just more aggressive about it than others.

    February 3, 2009 at 4:08 pm |
  7. CG, Chicago

    So if only take to be nominated to high White-House job to be audited, then why are we all worrying about paying our taxes? It is shameful that our elected officials can't even be honest and pay their taxes as we do, which is the money used to pay their salaries and (from what I hear) extraordinary pensions. Shameful, shameful...

    February 3, 2009 at 3:40 pm |
  8. xtina, chicago IL

    Surely there are tax cheats on both sides of the aisle. But Pres. Obama promised CHANGE. Why in the world would he even CONSIDER a tax cheat for the Cabinet?!

    February 3, 2009 at 3:11 pm |
  9. ray

    well, Daschle getting dropped from the list sets the dollar amount our government is allowing for a congressman to tax dodging. it's ok to steal as long as you either don't get caught or you only steal less than $140,000. Someone aught to tell that to the CEOs and wall streeters.

    February 3, 2009 at 3:00 pm |
  10. Terry

    Why doesn't President Obama ask his tax evader IRS Treasurer do an audit on all House and Senate members?

    February 3, 2009 at 2:59 pm |
  11. Terry

    Dorothy…Close you eyes, click your heels together twice and say "there's no place like Illinois…there's no place like Illinois"

    I'm sure they were the ooooonly ones in the wwwwwwworld who were qualified for the jobs. They are also weally…weally….sawwwy.

    So Daschle is a tax evader with a wife who is a lobbyist finally withdrew for evading taxes and being basically an unregistered lobbyist for the health world.We still have an IRS tax evader, one who had an illegal worker, the largest conflict of interest nominee ever, attorney general Holder with shady dealings in defending terrorist & a pardoner of crooks and ….lobbyists all over the place even after the Executive Order of no lobbyists. I think that Executive Order lasted one day.

    What does it take to be a disqualified nominee?

    February 3, 2009 at 2:58 pm |
  12. Joni

    Joe the Plumber was vetted better than Tom.
    If the dems paid their taxes we would not need a stimulus.

    February 3, 2009 at 2:56 pm |
  13. steve

    With all the commotion over non-payment of taxes, I think full disclosure is necessary.

    Every politician in Washington should be audited by the IRS. I wonder how many would be squeaky clean.

    February 3, 2009 at 2:42 pm |
  14. Clark

    tax mistakes ... just mistakes for some and for others ... it is labeled corruption ....

    double standards will never make DC work better.

    since the tax mistakes were ok with Congressional Democrats and President Obama .... and were considered not a problem and would not effect Daschel's ability to perform his job .... then his abrupt withdrawal from the nomination process must indicate that there was something he was very afraid to have exposed .....

    corruption is not limited to one party or the other ... it is because no individual is without flaws ... but some don't even try to live up to the standards .... some only hope nobody catches them.

    what ethical standards will President Obama hold his administration to? as a liberal his stated beliefs are that he has no right to impose his ethics on others ....

    maybe what President Obama should do is not only tell us his list of ethical rules ... but also tell us what he considers is the foundation for those ethical rules. Is it the Golden Rule? Is the Ten Commandments? Is it his own "wisdom"? Is he trying to apply his understanding of ethics learned at the feet of Reverend Wright to the government .... and if so what happened to separation of church and state (as he understands that concept)?

    February 3, 2009 at 2:37 pm |
  15. Teresa, OH

    Is this true: " The man who gave an average of $369 a year to charity over the previous decade fulfills his ".... at my last job when I made $7.50 an hour, I gave more to charity than he did? wow.

    As for this: "Forget patriotism, insisted Joe, paying higher taxes is a religious obligation" Heck, I'm gonna convert to atheism and keep my money.

    And this: "Taxes are what you pay to be an American” — like “membership fees,” says Democratic language guru George Lakoff." Membership fees? are you INSANE?

    It's neat too, that when they get caught in their " mistakes", they are able to come up with the money to fix their tax troubles.

    February 3, 2009 at 2:33 pm |
  16. Gretta

    Just a thought – I seriously doubt that any of these politicians that have gotten caught by tax problems do their own taxes. I don't, and even though I have a number of post-graduate degrees, I wouldn't begin to try to do my taxes myself. It's too complicated, and I'm terrible with numbers. Thus, I turn my documents over to my tax preparer, and sign where she tells me to after she completes my forms.

    Has anyone even considered that maybe the problem isn't that all these politicians are intentionally cheating on their taxes, but that their (and our) taxes are so complicated that it is hard for anyone to do it right? Also, because they are so complicated, we are forced to rely on other people to do them for us. God help me if I ever get audited – I'll have to drag my tax-preparer to do all my explaining for me!

    February 3, 2009 at 2:24 pm |
  17. cougargal06

    I would like to encourage Congress to increase funding for fighting global poverty. The Borgen Project (www.borgenproject.org) has some great facts and ideas to help global poverty.
    $30 billion to eliminate global poverty.
    $522 billion on the U.S. defense budget.
    There are 800 million people that go to sleep hungry every day, 300 million are children.

    February 3, 2009 at 2:21 pm |
  18. Stacy from Fairfax, VA

    I would like to know which politicians on both sides have "accidently" not paid taxes over the years. I bet many of those who recently "remembered" about their error are scrambling to figure out how to to pay their back taxes as quietly as possible.

    February 3, 2009 at 2:18 pm |
  19. julie Ryder

    Senator Daschle is employed by the Federal Government. By not paying over $150,000 of taxes that he owes, he STOLE from his employer. How is this any different from the simple embezzlement we read about in our local papers? These offenders are humiliated and prosecuted, but Daschle is given a pass. Worse than that, President Obama is not standing tall by asking him to withdraw his nomination when Daschle's character was obviously tarnished. If he was not up for this nomination, would he have gotten away with stealing this $150,000 from the his employer without prosecution? "Exceptions will be made for those people who surpass the bar?" Gibbs, come on. Where is the CHANGE?

    February 3, 2009 at 2:05 pm |
  20. Carole

    High-level members of BOTH parties are hypocrites. That is a human condition. I'm a Democrat. I pay my taxes, on time, every year, and have done so my entire working life. We paid over $20,000 last year to the IRS...for JUST the 2007 tax year...thanks to the changes the Republicans made to tax laws over the past 8 years. This is the problem with judging people without knowing all the details. To say "Democrats are hypocrites" infers that ALL Democrats are hypocrites, which is just not the case.

    February 3, 2009 at 1:57 pm |
  21. terry

    Obama promised to change washington, I do not expect him to change the past. If he can clean it up from this time forward thats all we can expect.
    We will end up cutting of our nose to spite our face if people come clean and then are no allowed to do the job that they are most qualified for.
    So many wasington people have been lobyists, but as long as they are not still getting paid by the former company they will not be working for them, and if they cannot leave the administration and resume lobbing for that company or whatever that serves the porpose.
    If you went through everyones taxes both republican and democrats
    you would find many inconsistancies.
    I expect that since Tom made millions of dollars he paid alot of taxes and 100k would be only a small portion of taxes paid.
    I just want the best people for the job get the job.
    The one thing I would say though is that the IRS should be less agressive to the average guy.

    February 3, 2009 at 1:37 pm |
  22. Larry Maples

    White House: Tom Daschle asks President Obama to withdraw his nomination for health and human services secretary. Sen. Daschle's withdrawal is a major tradgedy. His large salary indicates to me, a Republican, that he proprobably has a complex tax situation and missing free car rides as taxable income is pretty easy to miss and no doubt his accountant's fault, not his. Ed Henry gloated right after this anni=ouncement how he had asked the 'hard question' about tax problems. This is not a simple issue – taxability of car and driver to get to work. I'm a CPA and know this issue would have likely not been uncovered using our very comprehensive questionaire. Let the accusers cast the first stone. Let's let the auditors on the law makers and the news media. I am sure they would have made errors of this kind.

    February 3, 2009 at 1:35 pm |
  23. Alley

    Shouldn't we do a little more digging and see how many more politicians have not paid taxes?
    Taxes are a necessity for our government to operate, history dictates that point. Taxes are the one common thread that rallies citizens to action. We don't like paying them but if we don't the consequence is possible jail time. So how can politicians get away with tax evasion simply by paying up when they are found out?
    The rule of law applies to everyone. Paying taxes is our civic duty and our politicians need to wake up and realize that they represent the people not themselves. Time to break the elitist clubs in Washington.

    February 3, 2009 at 1:30 pm |
  24. Holz Michl

    Nobody likes to pay too much taxes. It is my believe that certain infrastructure installments (roads / public transit / an good education system for everybody / healthcare) can only be achieved by a community effort by using the mechanism of taxation. Those installments in the US do not meet 21 century standards and create a huge competitive disadvantage for this country in today’s world economy. Contrary to the common believe, anybody that does visit other modern industrialized nations, knows what I am talking about. Now, we as a society have voted to focus our resources more towards intra country topics, when compared to the agenda of the previous administration. While I support the ideas of the new administration a lot, I am quite disappointed with the amount of individuals not being able to be installed into their new positions, due to tax issues (apparently those individuals have not paid their fair share of taxes). It is a shame for anybody, to publically support the ideas of our new government and ‘ride the wave’ while not living up to what is being preached. On one hand, I am glad those individuals are ‘weeded’ out up front, rather than later.
    It would be a nice ‘CHANGE’ if the new administration would bring some accountability into government programs, and maybe at least some of the people will start trusting the fact that their taxes are actually good for something. For that reason, accountability will be the key to success. I will argue, that ‘Greed’ as a side effect of extreme capitalistic believes is as counterproductive and the #1 enemy to this nation as ‘corruption’ is in some other countries we like to point fingers at. Apparently ‘Greed’ does not stop at party lines. Hopefully the controls in place (Media and other watchdog organizations) will be more independent, and take their job serious enough to point out the ‘black sheep’ regardless if DEM or REP.

    February 3, 2009 at 1:25 pm |
  25. Charles King

    How many other senators/congressmen owe taxes, maybe if some
    of these "Fatcats" were paid up our deficit would not be so great!!!

    February 3, 2009 at 1:18 pm |
  26. Mike, Syracuse NY

    When Obama was elected I worried he wasn't up to the job, but hoped he was. Sorry to say my worries have been confirmed in just two weeks.

    February 3, 2009 at 1:16 pm |
  27. Myrna Stall

    Now I understand Mr. Daschle has withdrawn...do I have the opportunity to say I am sorry and still get my refund? Do I have to be a politician and wait for the time limit to expire and not pay taxes?

    February 3, 2009 at 1:15 pm |
  28. Angus Garner

    All these tax issues are nothing new. I'd be willing to bet that there are several more Rep and Dem that aren't paying their taxes either. I say that their tax records should be public record.

    February 3, 2009 at 1:07 pm |
  29. linda andrade

    Top-tier politicians breaking the law yet still being confirmed to serve at the highest levels of government? This is outrageous!! The news media should be voicing the rage of the people when given the opportunity to question these criminals. When will we see the change promised to us?

    A suggestion: Let's all stop paying our taxes and see if we get the same pass as these 'trusted' officials.......

    February 3, 2009 at 1:00 pm |
  30. William of Iowa

    President Obama has successfully recovered nearly a quarter million dollars in unpaid tax revenue, sent a message to those who have overlooked (intentionally or not) tax obligations and hasn't even left the front office yet. When they do, Democrats and Republicans better have checked their past returns. Amazingly, the President has done this without seriously jeopardizing the integrity or careers of these offenders, except for maybe Killefer. I am amazed that even individuals who have great knowledge and experience are still confused by the tax code of the United States. Could this be a message that soon our President will tackle the issue of making the tax code more easily understood by all?

    February 3, 2009 at 12:48 pm |
  31. Linda

    Lets check on the Republican and especailly John McCain who had not paid his home taxes in Calfornia until it was discovered during his run in 2008 .
    Next lets see how many Republican took kickbacks with this war along with President Bush and acceptted illegal bribes. All should be charged with war crimes and prosecuted.Thiat is why these dirty old Republican do not want this stimulus bill to pass because it will upearth their corruption with all these war crimes that has taken place for all of their illegal crimes .
    Last so you are telling me it is ok to help these third world citizens but not America who are homeless, been displaced to welfare, food stamps, disable and etc. You need to review what you write and think about what would you seek if you was in these people postion?
    I hope and pray you sinner don't lose you homes, and jobs and never become homeless or stand in any soup line.

    February 3, 2009 at 12:47 pm |
  32. Heather,ca

    Im a Democrat, however I have a big problem with any politician who doesnt pay their taxes. I dont call it a honest mistake. I call it a crime. You would have to be deaf and blind not to know that you have to pay your taxes. It really makes me mad when I hear that Daschle just paid his tax debt only after being nominated! Or the guy nominated for Tres Sec who worked at IMF! How do you forget to pay your taxes? Are they that out of touch with reality. As for tax cuts and tax increases, our taxes pay for the things. Speaking of which TARP. Our economy is a mess and the politicians only care about themselves. The fact that our tax money wasnt distributed with strings and controls regarding the fact that our money isnt for bonuses, remodeling, planes,the super bowl etc. Its for doing business and not to benefit individuals employees. I have no problem paying taxes. I have a problem with all politicians who dont pay theirs and use our tax dollars for pork. Our country needs all of us to be fiscally responsible. Not barrowing from China for stimulus checks that obviously didnt work.

    February 3, 2009 at 12:40 pm |
  33. GF, Los Angeles

    Both Republicans and Democrats are dirty – think of the Bush admin and all the stuff they pulled. The politicians aren't there to serve the people like they're suppose to. They're serving themselves to make themselves richer. I think I read somewhere that the Senate gave themselves a $4k raise...why hasn't that been talked about more?

    February 3, 2009 at 12:38 pm |
  34. Kenneth B.

    At first I believed that we have finally rid ourselves of the "Bush" growth in the White House. Biden must be of the same biological classification!

    Patriotism is the love of and devotion to a country. Why would I love the country that tells me to pay against my will? Why would I love the country that gives billions of dollars to companies worth billions but only give me $600.00 in a stimulus check? I do thank the government for that money, it really helped with rent and my cell phone bill! I am a single african american male who has no children. I don't own anything and I probably will not be able to because I pay taxes. Not to mention you take the most money out of singles such as myself. I am now considering having ten babies in order to get half of my tax returned. Give me a tax break for being a single young man trying to make it in america and I will show Biden how "Patriotic" I can be! Maybe Biden can give a bailout to the homeless in Baltimore, MD and other cities so that they may also be "Patriotic". We must look so intellegent in other parts of the world!

    February 3, 2009 at 12:35 pm |
  35. Gilby-HI

    Its seems that this failure to pay tax is making a dent in the Obama Wonderland. Even the bloger on Huffy are turning around on this issue.

    February 3, 2009 at 12:26 pm |
  36. jim Fallbrook CA

    I think Joe Biden meant it is patriotic for everybody except the Democrats to pay their taxes. It is obvious they can get away with it. Timothy Geithner has been confirmed and I am sure Daschle will get confirmed. If they were republicans, they would not be confirmed. The democrats position to the American public is do as I say not as I do. Talk about a double standard. Joe Biden is just another Democrat hypocrite.

    February 3, 2009 at 12:18 pm |
  37. 6ftRabbit

    Liars and thieves. We are besieged by liars and thieves. Time to saddle up the horses and find a hanging tree!!!

    February 3, 2009 at 12:13 pm |
  38. Scooter

    Maybe this is the reason Democrats do not think taxes are too high, since none seem to be following the laws and paying them. Maybe taxes are just for law abiding Republicans.

    February 3, 2009 at 12:09 pm |
  39. Steve - SE PA

    Thank god there isn't 'business as usual' anymore in Washington now that President Obama is in office. Thank you, Mr President for you campain pledge.

    So here's the question: Did Tim and Tom all of a sudden have a brainstorm of guilt? How WAS it discovered that they 'made a mistake' regarding the taxes not filed. Were they losing sleep? Hahaha! That would be silly, wouldn't it?
    Mr Geithner has worked as president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs, director of the Policy Development and Review Department at the International Monetary Fund AND chairman of the G-10’s Committee on Payment and Settlement Systems of the Bank for International Settlements. This guy is deffinitely going to know what taxes he MUST pay.
    As far as Tom is concerned......LOL! No big deal, Dude. Just pay it. It's ok. We understand that $83,333 in consultant fees you made from InterMedia Advisors in '07 went 'un-noticed'. No problem. Most people don't notice that kind of income either. Yeah, good idea to restate your '05/'06 taxes and remove the $14, 063 'paid' in taxible contributions. Those naughty, naughty, cheating Native American charitable organizations. Why would they want any kind of book keeping. Not your fault – of course.

    This is business as usual in the Obama administration. No accountabilit unless you get caught. No lobbiests in Washington Obama said. WHAT??!!! What the hell is Dashle? Unbelievable. Change got thrown out the window on January 20th.

    February 3, 2009 at 11:37 am |
  40. Arachnae

    Just about the last thing I want to see when I visit CNN.com is Jonah Goldberg. What next? Joe the Pundit?

    February 3, 2009 at 11:33 am |
  41. xtina, chicago IL

    Joe Biden says you are not a patriot if you aren't willing to pay more taxes.

    is there still no sales tax in Delaware ? Why doesn't some intrepid reporter ask Joe Biden if Joe thinks that not paying sales tax makes him and his fellow Delaware residents unpatriotic ??

    February 3, 2009 at 11:30 am |
  42. David Gelbuda

    Now Obama's performance director–yes, performance!–resigns due to not paying taxes! Is this the change we wanted: corruption, elitism and not paying taxes as a way on and now off his Cabinet? What a great first 100 days! No thanksPS> I paid my taxes.

    February 3, 2009 at 11:27 am |
  43. connie whitmore

    I agree. Democrats are hypocties regarding taxes....very evident here lately. Now the truth comes out!!! This new Spending Plan is a joke and very harmful to most taxpaying Americans as well as the majority of Americans. Capitolism will take care of this as will Free Markets. Congress and Wall Street have created whats happening to the Economy. They are the ones to "pay the price" not small business and hard working Americans. Illegals should be dealt with as well as they are creating some of the problems we are having as well. I vote "no" for any more government spending

    February 3, 2009 at 11:09 am |
  44. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    Forget patriotism, insisted Joe, paying higher taxes is a religious obligation. Does that mean we can buy our salvation and save our souls if we pay higher taxes? But then again-–in order to pay higher taxes--one needs a job--and I guess that means if you don't have a job and pay higher taxes--you are going to "hell." Well Joe, try living without a job--–believe me--we are all in "hell," and most of us want be able to buy our salavation. What a crock of crap--is Daschle and the other guy (Secretary of Treasuray) less religious and less patriotic? Where in the world do you come up with these (expletive) ideas?

    February 3, 2009 at 10:55 am |
  45. Cindy

    Yes it seems that the Dems are hypocrites! They have the do as I say not as I do attitude! They want all of us to pay our taxes because it is patriotic and means that we are Americans yet they want to skimp and save and skip out on paying what they owe. It is the whole elitist attitude really! They think that they have their own set of rules!

    It is a shame that no one is making a bigger deal of it but allowing it to be swept under the rug. If any of Bush's picks for his cabinet would have skipped out on their taxes we would never have heard the end of it! So why is that not being done here!? Is it because the media doesn't want to bite the hand that feeds it!? Or go against the one that they got into office!?

    Cindy..Ga.

    February 3, 2009 at 10:54 am |