February
3rd 2009
Democratic Dumba$$es: cheap, stupid, or both?

Posted under: American history, class, jobs, wankers

nast-donkeyWhat’s with all of the high-profile Obama appointees and erstwhile appointees who have problems either 1) paying income taxes, or 2) hiring documented employees, and/or 3) paying unemployment taxes on said employees, or any combination thereof. 

Now, I’m pretty darned sure that Tom Daschle, Nancy Killefer, and Tim Geithner are all members of the Ruling Class in good stead.  (Let’s just say that it’s guaran-damn-teed that they make more money than your average Associate Professor of the humanities–I think we can all agree on that.)  By most people’s standards, they’re rich, connected, and FOBO (friends of Barack Obama), so why don’t they hire 1) legally employable people, and 2) accountants to do their taxes?  Because it just looks really, really crummy that these Democrats either don’t want to pay U.S. citizens to work for them, what with their American sense of entitlement to health insurance, sick days, and unemployment insurance.  Or, it looks like they’re so cheap that they’re depriving honest, hardworking, and smarter-than-you CPAs and tax attorneys from practicing their love on people’s tax returns.

Come on:  isn’t the Democratic Party the party of putting people back to work?  If so, why not start with nannies and accountants, who with their professional skills do so much to make our households and families function smoothly?  Because for a while this week, it looked like the party of dirtbag employers and tax-amnesty-for-me-but-not-for-thee.

Dumba$$es.

22 Comments »

22 Responses to “Democratic Dumba$$es: cheap, stupid, or both?”

  1. Erica on 03 Feb 2009 at 5:28 pm #

    In Daschle’s case, it sounds like he had an accountant who did his tax returns but never told the guy he got limo perks. (I’m not sure on which day I heard that excuse on NPR.) While it is hard to sympathize with tax errors of that magnitude, I’d probably make a similar mistake if I had weird “income” like that. Taxes are hard; even when you’ve got a CPA, you have to TELL them everything.

    Buzz did a few estimates today on our drive home, and it worked out to something like $1300 per day for that limo. SOMEBODY was making pretty decent money.

    But anybody that hires an undocumented nanny (or maid or whatever), I really have no sympathy for. There’s no possibility of claiming ignorance there — it’s clearly just an attempt to be a cheapskate. I pay far more than I ought to send our kids to daycare, and it’s just not fair to hear of upper-class people skimping on full-time nannies and then whining about how expensive it is. Suck it up and pay fair market rate!

  2. Historiann on 03 Feb 2009 at 5:46 pm #

    Thanks for the guesstimate on the limo service–you’re right, I didn’t credit Daschle for providing work for the driver–my bad! So it sounds like he’s just a complete cheapskate dumba$$ who thought he was owed a free ride around town just for being a former Senator-lobbyist.

    With Dems like that, who needs Republicans?

    I share the same feelings you do about fair wages and the high price of quality child care. Some day soon, I’ll do a post on the weekend I once spent in a youth hostel on Nantucket, with the Irish immigrant men and women looking for construction jobs (the men) or nanny jobs (the women). The callousness and entitlement of the American ruling class–not to mention the cheapskatery–was really beyond belief.

  3. Erica on 03 Feb 2009 at 5:59 pm #

    Stinginess — a truly bi-partisan policy :)

    It may also be worth noting that female nominees are typically the ones who get the “undocumented house staff” problems, and male nominees have “unpaid taxes” problems. I don’t know exactly what it means, but it always struck me as very odd. (And also incredibly annoying, because it’s entirely possible to work full-time outside the home without needing a coterie of underpaid domestics. That’s why it really gets to me, the sheer arrogance of the attitude of “needing” all this help but simultaneously proclaiming “I can’t afford fair wages” — WTF?!?)

  4. Historiann on 03 Feb 2009 at 6:13 pm #

    Indeed–women with nanny problems always pay a higher price, because of the cultural perception that they should really be looking after their own children, anyway. (They really should just hire legal people and pay them decently–on that we agree entirely.)

  5. Susan on 03 Feb 2009 at 6:38 pm #

    But wait, Killefer didn’t pay unemployment taxes. That’s not hiring an illegal; she may have paid social security, she just didn’t pay unemployment tax. Less than $1000. But my experience trying to do it right (for someone who worked 3-4 hours a week for us) is that local unemployment taxes are very complicated. I’d look at them and give up.
    I think the sexist double standard is really huge here.

  6. Historiann on 03 Feb 2009 at 7:29 pm #

    Susan–you’re right, Geithner was the one with the illegal domestic problem. (Both of them had problems with paying the unemployment tax–but again, both of them have more resources than you have! I’m just guessing.)

  7. Buzz on 03 Feb 2009 at 7:41 pm #

    I think there are at least three reasons why problems with domestic employees seem to disproportionately ensnare women. First, obviously, a women who could be seriously considered for a high government position is more like to have a household with both parents working full time, necessitating the child care in the first place.

    Second, as noted, our culture criticizes women for not being home to take care of their kids. So these affluent women, to overcome this stigma, are willing to pay for whatever form of child care is considered (in their social circle) the best. Why this means an in-home child care provider is not clear to me; I can see reasons why people might feel that this is the best option, but I don’t personally find these reasons convincing.

    Which brings me to the third reason. Our culture also values some less obvious different traits in males and females–particularly males and females involved in politics. Men are supposed to be confident that things are going well, that our country is (at root, at least) a good place to live. Male politicians are supposed to believe in the system; when they trust their children in public education and after school programs, we trust those institutions too. With women in politics, we want to look at how their care for their families to see how they will care for our society. So exceptional steps to protect their children make these women look good. (I noticed the existence of these distinct standards several years ago, based just on general impressions, and I have watched for more evidence of them since then. Usually, the way politicians act and are judged seems to follow these guidelines, although there is a large variance. They way many people reacted to Sarah Palin’s pregnant daughter was particularly emblematic, I thought.)

    Regarding Nancy Killefer: as soon as I heard about her new position of chief performance officer, I had a feeling she would be doomed. For that particular job, we demand somebody whose own finances are completely, utterly, squeaky clean. Since the Obama transition team did not seem to be doing really heavy diligence on nominees’ tax problems, it seemed likely that whoever was nominated for the position would have some little slip-up that would come back to haunt her. That’s because I suspect most people have small errors in their taxes. I’m don’t doubt if I were audited, a fractionally comparable error could be found on at least one of my filings in the last five years. There are probably other nominees with $1000 tax discrepancies that nobody has noticed or cares about; but for the performance officer, people decided they should care.

  8. Historiann on 03 Feb 2009 at 7:59 pm #

    Buzz, that’s a very perceptive analysis of how women and men in public service are evaluated by the public.

    I think we saw this in the way that both Sarah Palin were criticized openly for their supposed failures of household management (unfaithful husband, pregnant teenager)–sexual “offenses” that were of course not the candidates’ own, but those of close family members. Yet somehow, Jenna and Barbara Bush’s college hijinx and their cousin’s drug problems never seemed to affect people’s perceptions of George W. and Jeb Bush.

    I think the lesson is that if you have any glimmer of hope of a high-level appointment or going into politics in any way, stay on the narrow path, report even stray pennies and dimes you pick up on the street, and hire a fracking accountant and legal household help.

  9. Erica on 03 Feb 2009 at 9:05 pm #

    Of course, the Bush girls are a failure of Mrs. Bush, not Mr. Bush. (eyeroll)

    There’s actually a strong parallel between “don’t be an idiot on Facebook” and this sort of situation; the difference is simply in scale. If you want to have a decent career of ANY type, DON’T DO SOMETHING ILLEGAL. You wouldn’t think it would be that hard to grasp the concept.

  10. susurro on 04 Feb 2009 at 8:41 am #

    I hate to be the buzz kill here, but can we also talk about the import of paying caregivers a living wage, providing health insurance, sick days and leave, all of which are technically required in this country and seldom given by their largely female employers. And can we also interrogate the assumption that undocumented workers should be refused unemployment in favor of documented ones? Especially in the context of the global care network at the basis of this discussion. Are some women more worthy of support in caring for their children (the women who employ nannies so they can pursue careers) than others (the women who become nannies b/c of economic exploitation at home that propels them to migrate in order to feed and cloth their children and possibly pursue other self-affirming options in the future)?

    Erica – actually one of the Bush girls is a successful humanitarian worker and author. Her efforts have been directly credited to Laura Bush’s own humanitarian efforts. (Granted, we can question the assumptions behind and the impact of those efforts too . . .)

  11. susurro on 04 Feb 2009 at 8:44 am #

    PS. I do realize my comments are taking this in another direction from the initial post about hypocrisy in the democratic party. if that is too OT not to worry.

  12. Historiann on 04 Feb 2009 at 9:09 am #

    Susurro–not o/t at all, but I think you misread the post and some of the comments. I agree with you that workers deserve a living wage and benefits–that’s one of the cheapskate issues that I’m complaining about, too! And I’m not saying that only U.S.-born people deserve them, I’m just saying that hiring people who are illegal or of quesionable legality is one strategy for keeping workers scared, dependent, low-paid, and tractable. (But I think it’s incredibly arrogant and stupid if these Dems think they can get away with stuff like this, so I’m cautioning prudence in making sure that everyone’s papers and taxes are in order if they want to be in public service.)

    I will disagree with you on one point, though: their employers are not “largely female,” they’re usually employed by a married professional couple, like the Geithners or the Daschles. Blaming only elite women for this problem lets their husbands off the hook, and reinforces the thing that Buzz talked about–that women are judged by how they run their households, as though their husbands and male partners don’t have any responsibility with the setup.

    Thanks for stopping by again!

  13. Historiann on 04 Feb 2009 at 9:10 am #

    Oh, and p.s. Yes, Jenna has pulled it out of the can since college graduation. But she was the subject of a lot of embarassing photos and stories when she was in college.

    I wonder what will happen if Sascha or Malia Obama are ever photographed falling down drunk on the floor with their dresses up over their thighs? Hmmm…who will be to blame for that?

  14. GayProf on 04 Feb 2009 at 9:13 am #

    I have nothing really to add except that I am relieved that Daschle has been pushed out. He was a terrible majority (and then, through his fumbling, minority) Senate leader. In a stunning show of Democrats’ lameness, he cozied up to Bush as much as possible (Something that Senate Republicans are not at all inclined to do with Obama — When will Democrats learn to play hard ball?).

    Geithner struck me as woefully inadequate for the job and a bit of a crook. And I actually support the Obama administration. Just imagine the perception of these jokers from the enemies.

  15. koshembos on 04 Feb 2009 at 12:43 pm #

    I am with gayProf; Daschle is a provably inept majority/minority leader. He has never worked in health care except write about it.

    Erica, I have an accountant do my taxes and he points me to my omissions and my mistakes. Daschle with his millions can get the best accountant money can buy and she is really good. Daschle, like his twin tax payer Geithner, is a tax cheat; always go for a simple explanation.

  16. Erica on 04 Feb 2009 at 6:55 pm #

    @susurro — Mothers are often credited for their children’s successes, but are much more strongly vilified for their children’s failures. Fathers tend to get similar credit for good kids, but less blame for bad ones.

    But I was also being sarcastic in my comment about Mrs. Bush :)

    @koshembos — Fair enough; I’ve never had an accountant (my taxes are very dull) so I have no experience with what they are supposed to find :) Your point actually makes me wonder why, with all the “experts” who explained the fine points of the tax issues, I didn’t hear any of them mention that they were CPA’s or the like. They’d be the best qualified to comment on the simplicity.

  17. Historiann on 04 Feb 2009 at 8:46 pm #

    There are a lot of people who are really losing confidence in Obama quickly over the nominees who have dropped out, and over the stimulus bill. It seems to me like more of a dog every day–and his team’s handling seems very disorganized. Check out this discussion at TalkLeft–in my opinion, there are a lot of chickens with their heads cut off running around there, but if Dems are talking like this, it doesn’t bode well for Obama. Even the dedicated Obama blogs are wondering wha the heck is going on.

    Like GayProf, I’m happy that Daschle is out of the picture. There is beauty in the fact that Daschle was one of Obama’s earliest big fans and supporters–now he’s under the bus with the rest of us. (Well, he was until his private car and driver retrieved him.) Koshembos is right–this is what accountants are for.

  18. susurro on 05 Feb 2009 at 8:31 am #

    I do think we differ on that last bit but not on the idea that blaming women for things for which they are not the perpetrators is not ok.

    Another interesting aspect of these latest appointments for me was that Richardson bowed out over suspicion of financial impropriety but Obama backed Daschle long after his issues came to light. Did Richardson have more to hide? was he more astute about the outcomes? It seems like the ship has sailed on corruption-free politicians regardless of party. It is why many of my students were looking for an alternative party in the 2004 elections and it will be interesting to see how they feel around 2010 or so . . .

  19. susurro on 05 Feb 2009 at 8:31 am #

    “is not ok” should be “is ok”

  20. Historiann on 05 Feb 2009 at 8:45 am #

    Susurro–yes, the other shoe has yet to drop on Richardson. I knew there was a lot of gossip last year about him re: his presidential campaign, and that there was some funny business in N.M. that might have been embarassing had it come to light. I hope we find out what it was with Richardson so that we can compare these “oopsies.”

    And now I hear that Hilda Solis’s nomination is being held up, too…

  21. susurro on 05 Feb 2009 at 9:13 am #

    Solis is held up?! I’m off to check this out.

    (I do know Richardson used NM taxpayer money to buy a Governor’s plane and then used the plane to take him on international speaking events and “peace negotiations” that were designed to set him up for the presidential bid. But I too want to compare these more closely.)

  22. Historiann on 05 Feb 2009 at 9:17 am #

    Susurro, here’s a link. Sorry I didn’t post this earlier!

    Via Corrente.