The withdrawal of President Obama’s choice for Secretary of Health and Human Services raises new questions about integrity among top figures in Washington politics.
Tom Daschle, who was widely expected to spearhead the new administration’s efforts to reform the broken healthcare system, was compelled to withdraw his candidacy after it was revealed that he had failed to pay more than $128,000 in taxes.
"It’s a really rocky start," Melanie Sloan, director of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told USA Today. "He said this would be the most ethical administration ever, but to people outside the Beltway it looks like it was just words."
Daschle’s withdrawal was not the only high-profile controversy in Washington yesterday. Obama’s choice for chief White House performance officer Nancy Killefer was also forced to bow out when it was announced that she failed to pay taxes on domestic help.
And last week, Timothy Geithner was sworn in as the Secretary of the Treasury despite owing Uncle Sam some $30,000.
Ethical issues aside, some commentators are likely to see this as yet another reason why the hugely complicated tax code in America should be simplified.
Steve Forbes is among the most prominent proponents of a flat-tax system.