Tom Daschle’s Tax Problems Worse Than Initially Reported

Tom Daschle’s tax problems are looking a lot more significant today as additional errors have been revealed. Political Punch reports:

The report indicates that Daschle’s failure to pay more than $101,000 taxes on the car and driver a wealthy friend let him use from 2005 through 2007 is not the only tax issue the former Senate Majority Leader has been dealing with since his December nomination prompted a more thorough examination of his income tax returns.

Mr. Daschle also didn’t report $83,333 in consulting income in 2007.

The Senate Finance Committee Report also notes that during the vetting process, President Obama’s Transition Team “identified certain donations that did not qualify as charitable deductions because they were not paid to qualifying organizations.  Daschle adjusted his contribution deductions on his amended returns for 2005, 2006 and 2007 to remove these amounts and add additional contributions.” This adjustment meant a reduction in the amount he contributed to charitable foundations of $14,963 from 2005 through 2007. With the unreported income from the use of a car service in the amounts of $73,031 in 2005, $89,129 in 2006 and $93,096 in 2007; the unreported consulting income of $83,333 in 2007; and the adjusted reductions in charitable contributions, Daschle adds a total of $353,552 in additional income and reduced donations, meaning an additional tax payment of $128,203, in addition to $11,964 in interest.

On January 2 of this year, Daschle filed amended tax returns to pay the $140,167 in unpaid taxes.

After the initial reports came out which were limited to failure to pay taxes for the car and driver the conventional wisdom was that Daschle would still be confirmed. This was expected as Senators tend to go softer on those who have been in their club and he Daschle is close to Harry Reid. Now his fate is not as clear. So far the track record for cabinet nominees running into scandals has been 50:50 with Bill Richardson pulling out and Timothy Geithner being confirmed.

It is too early to say if these relevations will prevent Daschle’s confirmation as Secretary of Health and Human Services. If it does prevent confirmation it raises a couple of additional questions. If he is not confirmed, will he still keep his West Wing position as health-reform czar, which might be a more important post than being in the cabinet? In the event that Daschle winds up without either job, how will this impact Obama administration attempts at health care reform?

Kerry For Commerce Secretary?

Before Hillary Clinton was picked to be Secretary of State, both Bill Richardson and John Kerry were discussed as possible picks for the job. Of the two, only Bill Richardson wound up being offered a cabinet position after the Secretary of State spot was filled. With Bill Richardson’s nomination to be Secretary of Commerce being withdrawn, a columnist for The Kansas City Star suggests that John Kerry might be a good replacement:

With Bill Richardson declining to submit to the nominations process for commerce secretary, how about John Kerry for that job?

He wanted secretary of state, and reportedly was devastated with Barack Obama turned to Hillary Clinton.

He’s a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, and familiar with the issues.

You’d think Obama owes Kerry something, since it was Kerry’s selection of Obama to give the keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention that vaulted Obama onto the national stage.

And, the chances of the Democrats losing a Senate seat from Massachusetts are almost nil.

Kerry for commerce. It seems like a natural.

Kerry would certainly be an excellent consideration for the post. Back in 2004 I felt that the Kerry campaign was making a mistake in not bringing up this aspect of Kerry’s experience, along with his strong history of support for small business.

While Kerry would be an excellent choice, I wonder if he would be interested. My bet is that he’d be happier in his new post as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Plus with Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, I also feel safer having Kerry in the Senate, along with many who are already wary of Clinton in the White House, to limit the damage Hillary Clinton might do.

Chuck Todd on Clinton’s Chances Without Edwards in Race

A top Clinton aide has suggested that, if John Edwards had been forced from the race early because of the Rielle Hunter scandal, Clinton woud have won in Iowa and gone on to win the nomination. I previously noted the absurdity of this belief here, with Chuck Todd showing agreement with this view in a column today.  He also presents compelling arguments that without Edwards in the race Obama might have clinched the nomination more easily. Todd wrote:

There are so many reasons why this theory is off, I don’t know where to begin.

As network entrance polls pointed out, Barack Obama topped Clinton nearly two-to-one when it came to second choice picks by Edwards backers.

Assuming this is the actual breakdown of how things would have split among Edwards’ thirty percent, this scenario would have given a little more than 50 percent to Obama and a little less than 40 percent to Clinton, guaranteeing him a double-digit Iowa win.

It’s also likely that Obama may have snatched somewhere closer to 60 percent, given that Iowa had already turned into a two-person contest. But maybe Joe Biden or Bill Richardson would have popped up on the radar in an Edwards-less field.

The idea that Clinton’s standing would have somehow improved in Iowa without Edwards is just not supported by data or observation.

Both Edwards and Obama were running as populist change agents. They pigeon-holed Clinton as the status quo politician.

If anything, Edwards’ relative strength with labor unions kept Obama from getting key early endorsements — backing that could have secured an Iowa blowout and possibly a victory in New Hampshire.

If anything, Edwards was the reason why Obama didn’t rule the roost pre-Super Tuesday.

But I want to touch on another aspect of the Edwards story that no one seems to be paying attention to in Clintonland.

Had this affair come to light during the Democratic primary process, it could have potentially destroyed Hillary’s candidacy.

Why? A smooth-talking Southern politician getting caught having an affair with an eccentric “blonde” woman? Sound familiar? Exactly.

An Edwards revelation in late 2007 or early 2008 would have forced Hillary and her campaign to relive all things Monica and Gennifer and Paula.

How helpful would that have been? You think the cable pundits were tough on Hillary because of her gender? Imagine a world where Bill’s paramours were front and center once again.

Obama To Cash In On Superdelegate Bank

There’s been talk that Obama has a “delegate bank” ready to release this week to put him over the top. Matthew Yglesias has made the point that if he had such a bank it would be better to have them commit before tomorrow’s primaries. He argues that, “on a symbolic plane it seems to me that you want to clinch things with an election result rather than an endorsement announcement.”

I suspect that Obama would have had these superdelegates go public if he was able to. Bill Richardson has tried to push them to commit before the final primaries. I fear this is yet another example of Richardson having the right idea  but lacking the  political skills to properly express it.

Most likely “delegate bank” was the wrong analogy because, while there most likely are many superdelegates who are on the verge of endorsing him, Obama cannot pull them out at will as easily as taking money out of a bank. Many have their own reasons for delaying the public announcement of their support for Obama. Some might think it is better to have the voters have their say before weighing in. Others would prefer not to openly go up against the Clintons until they can cover their actions by arguing that Obama’s nomination was inevitable.

One group does appear to be waiting to announce but will be doing so soon according to CNN:

Most of the seventeen Democratic senators who have remained uncommitted throughout the primaries will endorse Barack Obama for president this week, CNN has learned.

Sources familiar with discussions between Obama supporters and these senators tell CNN’s Gloria Borger that the senators will wait until after the South Dakota and Montana primaries to announce their support for Obama.

Two sources familiar with the sessions said the endorsements will come sometime later this week.

Obama supporters have been “pressing” for these superdelegates to endorse earlier in the week, but according to one source, “the senators don’t want to pound Hillary Clinton, and there is a sense she should be given a grace period.”

Most likely these superdelegates, along with delegates won this week and other superdelegates who are likely to endorse Obama, will be enough to put Obama over the top. Whether or not Clinton wants to acknowledge it, the nomination race ends this week.

Are Democrats More Sexist Then Republicans?

Donald Bordreaux has an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal which shows the absurdity of accepting Hillary Clinton’s claim that she is losing due to sexism. First he questions her argument:

So a woman who holds degrees from Wellesley and Yale – who has earned millions in the private sector, won two terms in the U.S. Senate, and gathered many more votes than John Edwards, Bill Richardson and several other middle-aged white guys in their respective bids for the 2008 Democratic nomination – feels cheated because she’s a woman.

For the sake of discussion, and making an interesting point, he goes on to look at what it would mean if Clinton was right:

This fact (if it be a fact) reveals a hitherto unknown, ugly truth about the Democratic Party. The alleged bastion of modern liberalism, toleration and diversity is full of (to use Mrs. Clinton’s own phrase) “people who are nothing but misogynists.” Large numbers of Democratic voters are sexists. Who knew?

But here’s another revelation. If Mrs. Clinton is correct that she is more likely than Barack Obama to defeat John McCain in November, that implies Republicans and independents are less sexist than Democrats.

It must be so. If American voters of all parties are as sexist as the Democrats, Mr. Obama would have a better chance than Mrs. Clinton of defeating Mr. McCain. The same misogyny that thwarted her in the Democratic primaries would thwart her in the general election. Only if registered Republicans and independents are more open-minded than registered Democrats – only if people who lean GOP or who have no party affiliation are more willing than Democrats to overlook a candidate’s sex and vote on the issues – could Mrs. Clinton be a stronger candidate.

I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican. But if I ever become convinced that Mrs. Clinton is correct that sexism played a role in her disappointing showing in the Democratic primaries – and that she truly is her party’s strongest candidate to take on John McCain – I might finally join a party: the GOP. At least it’s not infested with sexists.

Of course it is untrue that Clinton is winning due to sexism in the Democratic Party and it is untrue that Clinton would be the stronger candidate against John McCain. Therefore the above conclusion is not valid. However there are many Clinton supporters who are making both of these fallacious arguments. They should consider the logical conclusion which comes from these arguments. The absurdity of this conclusion, that Republicans are less sexist than Democrats, also helps demonstrate that there is something seriously wrong with the logic of the Clinton camp.

Update: I forgot two important “facts” in the writing of this post. First of all, Donald Bordreaux is an economist. Therefore to the Clinton camp he is an elitist whose views don’t matter. Secondly, to some Clinton supporters pointing out that their views are illogical is sexist, emphasizing the stereotype of females being illogical. Therefore even though Bordeaux’s logic shows that the Clinton supporters are wrong, they can feel secure in ignoring the argument.

Obama Remains Strongest Advocate of Medicinal Marijuana Among Major Candidates

Earlier in the race, when there were multiple candidates, I’ve reviewed their positions on medicinal marijuana. Now that we are down to two (or three if you live in Hillary Fantasy Land) this remains an issue which differentiates the candidates. I’ve previously noted the differences between Obama’s views and Clinton’s views. The San Francisco Chronicle looks at the issue, showing that Obama has been the most consistent supporter of ending the federal drug raids in states where it is legal under state law but remains illegal under federal law:

As the candidates prepare for a May 20 primary in Oregon, one of 12 states with a California-style law, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois has become an increasingly firm advocate of ending federal intervention and letting states make their own rules when it comes to medical marijuana.

His Democratic rival, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, is less explicit, recently softening a pledge she made early in the campaign to halt federal raids in states with medical marijuana laws. But she has expressed none of the hostility that marked the response of her husband’s administration to California’s initiative, Proposition 215.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the Republican nominee-in-waiting, has gone back and forth on the issue – promising a medical marijuana patient at one campaign stop that seriously ill patients would never face arrest under a McCain administration, but ultimately endorsing the Bush administration’s policy of federal raids and prosecutions.

After reviewing the opposition of Bill Clinton and George Bush to medicinal marijuana, and noting the positions of second tier candidates, they return to Obama’s views:

At a November appearance in Audubon, Iowa, Obama recalled that his mother had died of cancer and said he saw no difference between doctor-prescribed morphine and marijuana as pain relievers. He said he would be open to allowing medical use of marijuana, if scientists and doctors concluded it was effective, but only under “strict guidelines,” because he was “concerned about folks just kind of growing their own and saying it’s for medicinal purposes.”

Obama went a step further in an interview in March with the Mail Tribune newspaper in Medford, Ore. While still expressing qualms about patients growing their own supply or getting it from “mom-and-pop stores,” he said it is “entirely appropriate” for a state to legalize the medical use of marijuana, “with the same controls as other drugs prescribed by doctors.”

In response to recent questions from The Chronicle about medical marijuana, Obama’s campaign – the only one of the three contenders to reply – endorsed a hands-off federal policy.

“Voters and legislators in the states – from California to Nevada to Maine – have decided to provide their residents suffering from chronic diseases and serious illnesses like AIDS and cancer with medical marijuana to relieve their pain and suffering,” said campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt.

“Obama supports the rights of states and local governments to make this choice – though he believes medical marijuana should be subject to (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) regulation like other drugs,” LaBolt said. He said the FDA should consider how marijuana is regulated under federal law, while leaving states free to chart their own course.

Besides Obama, there have also been supporters of medicinal marijuana by minor candidates such as Bill Richardson and Ron Paul.

The Clinton Blood Bath

Early in the race Hillary Clinton had a huge lead in superdelegates as many party insiders backed her early. The word was that people were being told that either they backed Clinton or they would be on the outside once Clinton won (which at the time was considered inevitable by many). Many gave in to this, knowing that the Clintons have a long memory and hold a grudge. This became apparent with the reaction to Bill Richardson’s endorsement of Barack Obama. Eleanor Clift considers the blood bath which will occur if Hillary Clinton does manage to pull out the nomination:

I’m beginning to think Hillary Clinton might pull this off and wrestle the nomination away from Barack Obama. If she does, a lot of folks—including a huge chunk of the media—will join Bill Richardson (a.k.a. Judas) in the Deep Freeze. If the Clintons get back into the White House, it will be retribution time, like the Corleone family consolidating power in “The Godfather,” where the watchword is, “It’s business, not personal.”

Not that anyone will be sleeping with the fishes with Hillary in the White House, but with the Clintons it’s business and it’s personal. Just think of all the scores to settle, the grievances to indulge. Bill Clinton provided a preview this week, blaming the Obama campaign for playing the race card against him. Tricky maneuver, but perhaps the only way the former president can come to grips with his loss of standing in the African-American community, once his strongest constituency. (South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn, an undeclared superdelegate who is African-American, told the New York Times this week that the black community had supported Clinton during his impeachment and that “I think black folks feel strongly that this is a strange way [for him] to show his appreciation.”)

There are a number of prominent Democrats who will be on the Clinton hate list, and they are making this clear in the hopes of dissuading other Democrats from backing Obama.

Notables who abandoned her for Obama will get the Big Chill. “He’s dead to us,” a Clinton aide was quoted saying of John Kerry, who along with Ted Kennedy was turned off by the perception of race baiting that led up to the South Carolina primary.

Matthew Yglesias notes that Clinton cannot afford to freeze out all the Democrats who are not backing her:

…current Obama endorsers include, among others, the Senators who chair the committees on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (Kennedy), Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs (Dodd), Judiciary (Leahy), and Budget (Conrad). Unless Clinton is uncommonly stupid, she’s not really going to try to govern the country while freezing those guys not. Nor would it make any sense to make a big push for health care reform while simultaneously freezing out the Obama-backers in SEIU.

Yglesias believes they are making an example of Kerry as he is “noteworthy enough for his endorsement to matter” but he does not hold an important committee chair. It could still be a mistake to have John Kerry loose in the Senate as one’s enemy. He’s just the type of honorable guy who would push the Senate to hold the Clintons accountable regardless of party. I’m also not so sure that we can assume that the Clintons won’t follow the path which Clift predicts even if not politically wise. They have made it clear this year that their personal egos and desire for power outweigh all other considerations.

Krugman Wrong Again–This Time Both Obama and McCain Are Right

The problem with being an economist, a newspaper columnist, or both, is that you might get a distorted view of the real world from looking at abstract data. Paul Krugman once again demonstrates this in today’s column. He has attacked Obama’s health plan with such regularity that we knew it was time for another attack. Daniel Drezner, writing at Megan McArdle’s blog, has predicting Krugman down to a science. His formula ends with Krugman’s columns arguing “Barack Obama is not a real progressive.”

If you are one of those people who believes that everything which is accepted as truth in the liberal blogosphere is true, and anything proposed by a Republican such as John McCain is not only wrong but evil, you might as well stop here because you are not going to agree with this post. Today John McCain is right and many liberal bloggers, along with Paul Krugman, are wrong.

While there is plenty to criticize in John McCain’s health care plan, Krugman chose to attack an aspect which is actually a good idea (and which is similar to a proposal made by Democrat Bill Richardson). Krugman quotes from McCain’s web site:

“America’s veterans have fought for our freedom,” says the McCain Web site. “We should give them freedom to choose to carry their V.A. dollars to a provider that gives them the timely care at high quality and in the best location.”

Krugman fails to recognize that this is a good idea as he has been suckered into the belief, repeated by many liberal bloggers, that the V.A. health system is the Mecca of health care. This fallacy comes from computerized reports which evaluate health care plans. The problem, as most people who actually work in health care realize, is that the state of the art of evaluating medical outcomes is still quite primitive. Krugman raves about the integrated system and their use of information technology. While this probably has brought about significant improvements, the main benefit of such a system is the ability to generate data which improves their ratings.

In the private sector, there is very poor data available to evaluate care provided. Some H.M.O’s are trying, but their data at this point is pathetic. Private practices providing good care will not be recognized. The V.A. has an advantage as their system can provide just what data is needed to make themselves look good.

Those of us who actually see patients who also go to the V.A. system, as opposed to relying on computerized print outs, see plenty of evidence that the V.A. system has its faults. I see many patients who come to me because they do not receive adequate care from the V.A. They often go the the V.A. intermittently because they pay for their medications but do not receive meaningful care to manage their medical problems. The decisions made by the V.A. with regards to medications are frequently based upon short term cost.

Sometimes it is not only beneficial to the patient but also more cost effective in the long run to pay more to treat chronic diseases aggressively at an earlier stage. For example, while the consensus is that lowering the LDL to under 70 is beneficial in regressing heart disease in many patients, I’ve had the V.A. refuse to cover additional medications once the LDL is below 110. It wouldn’t take very many extra bypass surgeries to blow all the savings from refusing medications.

Hopefully some readers are thinking, “to hell with the cost benefits. If the medications mean I’m less likly to need bypass surgery, or less likely to die of a heart attack, I want to go with the current medical recommendations, not V.A. policy.” This comes down to that C-Word which Paul Krugman hates: Choice. Patients might want the choice to receive the medications recommended for their problems, not those which the V.A. finds most cost effective.

I fail to understand why some liberals defend choice when it comes to abortion rights, as they should, but some have absolutely no respect for an individual’s choice in matters such as health care and personal economic decisions. The V.A. system does vary in quality. There are also geographical issues. People often have to drive a long distance to receive care from the V.A. if going to the closest provider, and I also know of people who drive further to get to a V.A. facility they believe is of a higher quality than the closest.

John McCain is right. Let the veterans go where they choose. If the V.A. system is really the Mecca that many liberals believe it is, they will have no problem maintaining keeping patients coming. Paul Krugman believes that the V.A. system will collapse if patients have a choice to go elsewhere. Isn’t this a confession that the V.A. isn’t really providing the best care available?

John McCain is right on this one, but this is an easy issue. Changing health care for those who already have coverage is the easy part. The hard part is helping those who cannot afford health care coverage and who want to receive coverage. That’s where Barack Obama has an advantage over John McCain since McCain’s plans will do very little to help these people. Krugman once again objects because Obama’s plan includes choice. Those who both need and want his plan can take advantage of it, but everyone has a choice. Krugman writes:

Worse yet, Mr. Obama attacked his Democratic rivals’ health plans using conservative talking points about choice and the evil of having the government tell you what to do. That’s going to make it hard — if he is the nominee — to refute Mr. McCain when he makes similar arguments on behalf of such things as privatizing veterans’ care.

In other words, by supporting choice Obama gives cover to John McCain in a case where he is right. Partisan Democrats (many of whom probably should have stopped with my second paragraph) might see some logic to this if their primary goal is for Republicans to always be wrong. For those of us who want to solve problems regardless of partisanship, there’s no problem here. If it makes liberal blog readers feel better, remember that this isn’t only a Republican proposal. Bill Richardson proposed the same thing.

Paul Krugman gives conservatives quite a bit of help by spreading the fallacy that conservatives support choice and liberals support “having the government tell you what to do.” If these were the real differences between liberals and conservatives, I’d rather be a conservative, and so would the majority of Americans. Conservatives, who are hardly the supporters of choice and personal freedom which Krugman would portray them as, have benefited in many elections by portraying themselves in this manner, with the help of some such as Paul Krugman.

The reality is that Republicans talk about choice, but they seldom deliver on their rhetoric. They have no qualms about pushing the agenda of the religious right to pick up a few more votes(even though many Republicans don’t think much of their allies). Liberalism is at a cross roads after having been out of power. Some, such as Krugman and Clinton, are reactionary supporters of failed big government liberalism. Others of us stress civil liberties and favor individual choice as much as possible. We don’t know for certain what Barack Obama will do in office but, in contrast to Clinton, he has shown signs of understanding the limitations of a top-down government approach. His health care plan is just one example of this.

Bill Clinton Has Another Meltdown

Bill Clinton had a meeting with California’s superdelegates over the weekend and reportedly had yet another meltdown according to the San Francisco Chronicle:

In fact, before his speech Clinton had one of his famous meltdowns Sunday, blasting away at former presidential contender Bill Richardson for having endorsed Obama, the media and the entire nomination process.“It was one of the worst political meetings I have ever attended,” one superdelegate said.

According to those at the meeting, Clinton – who flew in from Chicago with bags under his eyes – was classic old Bill at first, charming and making small talk with the 15 or so delegates who gathered in a room behind the convention stage.

But as the group moved together for the perfunctory photo, Rachel Binah, a former Richardson delegate who now supports Hillary Clinton, told Bill how “sorry” she was to have heard former Clinton campaign manager James Carville call Richardson a “Judas” for backing Obama.

It was as if someone pulled the pin from a grenade.

“Five times to my face (Richardson) said that he would never do that,” a red-faced, finger-pointing Clinton erupted.

The former president then went on a tirade that ran from the media’s unfair treatment of Hillary to questions about the fairness of the votes in state caucuses that voted for Obama. It ended with him asking delegates to imagine what the reaction would be if Obama was trailing by just 1 percent and people were telling him to drop out.

“It was very, very intense,” said one attendee. “Not at all like the Bill of earlier campaigns.”

A Richardson staffer responded that Richardson had never “promised or guaranteed” an endorsement for Clinton. I wonder how many superdelegates are wondering whether they really want Bill and Hillary Clinton returning to the White House.

Lee Hamilton Endorses Obama

Barack Obama has picked up another major endorsement. Lee Hamilton has endorsed Obama, adding to his credentials on national security:

Hamilton, a former U.S. House member who co-chaired the commission that investigated the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and headed the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said he was impressed by Obama’s approach to national security and foreign policy.

“I read his national security and foreign policy speeches, and he comes across to me as pragmatic, visionary and tough,” Hamilton said in an interview. “He impresses me as a person who wants to use all the tools of presidential power.”

Hamilton also sided with Obama on two foreign policy stances that have been criticized by Senator Hillary Clinton of New York, Obama’s rival for the Democratic nomination, and Senator John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican nominee. Both have dismissed the Illinois senator, saying he doesn’t have enough experience to deal with critical foreign policy matters…

Hamilton said he agreed with Obama’s position on meeting with U.S. adversaries such as the leaders of Iran without conditions. Also, Obama’s consideration of unilateral military action against terrorist hideouts in Pakistan, is already U.S. policy, Hamilton said.

Hamilton was on Bill Clinton’s short list to run as Vice President, joining a long list of foreign policy experts who have been tied to Clinton who have endorsed Obama. I wonder if this endorsement will result in yet another explosion from James Carville as occurred after Bill Richardson endorsed Obama. Hamilton is from Indiana and his endorsement might also be of some help in that state.