Missing the Point on Daschle

Once again the pundits, members of Congress and the mainstream media are getting it all wrong. And in the process giving us a profoundly constricted view of what “change” can and should be in our political system.

Not that I’m shedding any tears over the withdrawal of former Senator Tom Daschle as Obama’s choice for Secretary of Health and Human Services. It’s obnoxious, to say the least, that another very wealthy American is not paying his taxes – and then being nominated for a high government position to boot. But the major ethical crisis here is not non-payment of taxes. It’s the idea that this is the person chosen to reform our health care system.

Just to review, tens of millions of Americans have inadequate insurance, tens of millions have no health insurance at all, and thousands more are added to the roles of the uninsured every week as they lose their jobs.  And the system is controlled by private insurance companies that have a financial incentive to deny coverage so they can boost their own profits, and that maintain their control by regularly contributing millions of dollars to members of Congress while flooding their offices with lobbyists.

So how is it possible that the person “best-equipped” to reform such a system is a) a longtime member of Congress, b) a consummate Washington insider, and c) a multimillionaire, who just happens to have made a chunk of his money by d) giving paid speeches for the health insurance industry?

Just as with top picks in the Defense Department and Treasury (see post below), it seems that the choices to fix our biggest problems are too often the very individuals who helped create them in the first place.  And yet according to official Washington, the only issue is whether or not they paid all their taxes.

Now that’s an ethical crisis.


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