Daschle's Demise; Joe the Plumber Would Have Fared Worse

Article excerpt

Byline: John B. Roberts II, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

We can thank former Sen. Tom Daschle for illustrating why his Democratic colleagues in Congress thinks there is a vast pool in America of untaxed income - the so-called tax gap between what is reported to the IRS and what taxpayers really owe. Daschle's fellow Democrats clearly believe ordinary people share former Sen. Daschle's miserable sense of ethics.

While most of the mainstream media have focused on Daschle's failure to pay taxes on the use of a limousine and a driver as an understandable accounting error, the more egregious act was Daschle's failure to pay any income tax or FICA taxes on $83,000 in consulting income. Here in the heartland where I reside, it's hard to understand Senator Jay Rockefeller's position that Daschle shouldn't be blamed for this lapse because the firm failed to send him a 1099 MISC form reporting the income.

That may sound plausible inside the Beltway, especially if you're paid a million a year for doling out strategic advice. To Rockefeller and overpaid Beltway insiders, $83,000 must seem like pocket change, easily overlooked when you balance your checkbook. But out here in the real world, we tend to remember when somebody pays us $83,000. Just to remind those of you living on the other side of the great American economic divide, $83,000 is about twice the median national income.

If Joe the Plumber had been discovered behaving this way, he would be facing charges of tax evasion and a maximum penalty of five years in jail and a $100,000 fine. Ditto for Daschle's evading taxes on the limo and driver for two years. Taking services in lieu of income is a classic tax scam.

But the real reason Daschle has bowed out isn't his tax-dodging. …