Commentary Magazine


The Only Argument Democrats Can Make

Here is the only argument Democrats can make in defense of Charles Rangel and Timothy Geithner: We need to revamp the tax structure of the nation if we’re going to make things better. As it stands right now, it’s so complicated that no one can be expected to know all the answers — but we’re all obligated to obey it. It’s gotten so bad that the chairman of the House committee in charge of setting tax policy can’t even keep his own taxes straight. It’s gotten so bad that our Treasury Secretary-nominee cannot keep his own taxes straight. We need to rework the entire tax system, and we should entrust it not to experts on taxes, but to people who have seen the perversely complex, incomprehensibly convoluted system up-close and personal, who know just how hard it is to abide by every single law, regulation, provision, ruling, and decision that governs how the government collects the money it needs to function.”

Of course, the only problem is that the “mistakes” the two men made  were not that complicated. Rangel made money but didn’t report it,  and took four (four!) rent-controlled apartments and made one an office. Geithner didn’t pay taxes he owed, and it was a very tricky situation. However, he went on to commit the more simple transgressions of claiming to his employer that he had paid those taxes, and trying to claim his kids’ summer camp as “day care.”

Those are not the actions of people caught up in an overly complicated system. Those are the actions of people trying to get away with beating the system.

But that’s a bit too honest a confession. And people like Rangel and Geithner have never let things like inconvenient facts get in the way of a good excuse.