Hypocrisy and the double standard

| 04/02/2009

President Obama and his team are showing that their applied standards of ethics and legal compliance (not to mention their due diligence) when it comes to matters of tax are sorely lacking and continue the well trodden path of hypocrisy and double standards in government.

His appointment of Treasury Secretary (who has responsibility for the IRS tax collector and enforcer), Mr Geithner, has shown that it is acceptable to break the tax laws, to remedy the failing ex post facto without meaningful sanction and still to attain high Government office. His proposed healthcare Tsar, Mr Daschle, and proposed Tsarina, Ms Killefer, to oversee budget and spending reform (oxymorons right now) have sensibly concluded that it is better to withdraw rather than face further questioning and scrutiny on ‘limo’ and ‘nanny’ taxes.

There are various ways of looking at this conduct, none of them justifiable. The three were arrogant (i.e. we did not have to abide by the law as we are special), careless (i.e. we did not have the time to think about these de minimis matters) or just plain ignorant (i.e. we did not know). None of these are good defences under law, let alone under normal ethical standards. So, whatever the reason, none of them should even have been considered, let alone appointed, to high office in a democratic government that respects the rule of law. And certainly not the Treasury Secretary.

All this is particularly ironic as Mr Obama has on a number of very public occasions said that his administration will go after tax cheats and the offshore centres that he claims facilitate the behaviour of tax cheats and are perceived by him to be lightly and therefore inadequately regulated. That is his prerogative. He has also said he wants to close down the legitimate use of offshore centres by US taxpayers. That is his prerogative, even if it makes no sense from a long term US economic standpoint (there is a serious risk the US will deprive itself of much needed foreign investment and make its multinationals less competitive). But if he is really serious and genuine about the issues of tax cheats and lightly regulated jurisdictions he should look a lot closer to home in Washington DC and at Delaware, the home State of his Vice President, Joe Biden. Time for Matthew Chapter 7, verse 3 again?
 

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Category: Viewpoint

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