BEHIND THE NEWS: Daschle and tax problems

February 2, 2009 2:19:40 PM PST
Don't know about you, but I've been scratching my head about these tax problems facing the new Secretary of the Treasury, and the would-be Secretary of Health and Human Services. I can live with people having tax problems, and then paying for them once the IRS rules against them.

I can also live with people making mistakes. After all, we all make mistakes. And some people have aggressive accountants and they try to write off everything. I remember one friend of mine who described his accountant's annual strategy as a "negotiation" with the IRS.

What has me scratching my head is that these men who have been touted as the best people capable of fixing, respectively, the nation's broken economy and health care system, made self-acknowledged dumb mistakes with income they didn't report, gifts they didn't know were taxable and/or charitable contributions that weren't deductible.

I don't know where these things start or end in terms of what's allowed -- and I went to school in economics and accounting. But I would expect the guy who's going to be in charge of the IRS to have a clue.

As for Tom Daschle, I'm sure he's an expert on health care reform, but maybe he should have known that the $80,000 or $90,000 in money that went into his bank account was income. Seems a sizeable enough figure to at least think about.

Don't know about the charitable deductions -- I mean, was it for baseball season tickets? Or did he include the cost of a dinner in the charity fundraising gala he deducted?

The private driver and car are a bit more problematic. Was it full time? The man who gave it to him was his friend and business partner of sorts. When does anything turn into income?

I'm not an expert.

I will disclose that during the inauguration, I stayed at a friend's house in Washington. WABC saved three nights of my staying at a hotel -- is that savings taxable income? To me? To WABC? Can't imagine. If I loan my car to a friend, is that income to the friend?

If it is, I'm going to think twice about loaning my car. So will any friend.

I don't mean to belittle the issues involved, because I realize they're serious. And I'm not sure how many more of these kinds of problems the reform-minded Pres. Obama can handle. Republicans are already making fun of Democrats for wanting to raise taxes -- because, after all, they never pay them!

Meanwhile, the Senate tonight starts debate on the president's economic stimulus package. And it's happening as the economy continues to spiral out of control. More layoffs today, including 7,000 from Macy's. Jim Dolan heads our coverage of the economy, tonight at 11.

We're also following a tragedy in North Bergen, New Jersey, where a man was killed over the weekend after he was hit by two cars that ran him over and just kept on going. Both of them. Hard to imagine how this happened.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus the latest on another winter storm heading our way late tonight and tomorrow. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

And finally, I asked for response to the news last week of that woman who gave birth to octuplets. She was already the mother of six, was divorced, and the parents she lives with filed for bankruptcy last year. The question: Do the fertility doctors who implanted embryos in her have a responsibility not to bring eight more lives into the world of a single mother of six?

It's a fascinating question that pits individual rights versus medical ethics versus social responsibility -- because you know we're going to end up paying for it.

We got several interesting responses:

"If this women has 6 children already then she should NOT be given fertility treatments of any kind. Since her children range in age from 2-7 that means she has a 2,3,4,5,5,6, and 7 year old to support already. Is she living with her parents because of the pregnancy? Or do they live there because she lost her home? Was she working and living with her 6 kids prior to the pregnancy? Is the fertility treatment taking all her money? If so CPS (Child Protective Services) should really be looking at this, she needs a psychiatrist, and the person(s) enabling her to do this need(s) to STOP!" - Penny Bozok, Middle Island, NY

"I think a person can have as many children they can provide for... Who is paying for all these babies? That's the question." - Heidi Williams, Gloucester, Massachusetts

"The woman with the octuplets and 6 other children is indeed entitled to have all the children she wants...if, big IF, she is prepared to support all those children. If taxpayers and/or charities have to support her children, then she should be held to accountability. As it is, who paid for that enormous team of physicians and support staff just to deliver the eight babies?" - Roberta Pliner, New York, NY

"Why in the world would this Woman have been going for a fertility treatment in the first place? If she already gave birth to 6 babies, isn't she fertile enough??? Didn't she think she should stop there??? I'm a single parent to one child that was 8 weeks premature and spent 9 weeks in a NICU. I can't imagine going through that times 8 and by choice to boot. Unbelievable. And to the doctors involved in this...SHAME ON YOU." - Dierdre LoCascio, Laurence Harbor, NJ

"As if hearing about the birth of octuplets wasn't enough, my mouth was literally hanging open for about 10 seconds when i heard she already had 6 other children AND on top of that, was a single mother. Either one of those variables would be an obstacle in itself. I don't even know where to begin with this one. Was she offered surrogate money per child? Is she a religious fanatic? Doubtful on that one because of the tenets imposed by most of the religions I'm familiar with.

"Mental instability might be a start, or wanting to emulate giving birth to a litter. Were the fertility 'specialists' in it for their own gain and not advising her properly? Can somebody spell e-t-h-i-c-s? I'm still speechless and writing in fragments as a result. And, I haven't even touched on financial responsibility or lack of.

"I do agree that no one ought to be told how many children they should have; counseling however, should have prevailed in this case. It seems this very naive woman was short-changed when it came to educating her on what life might be like for her and her children from this point on.

"Honestly, not much shocks me these days (i sound like I'm 90 now) but I can't reconcile this one." - Lauren Eisen, Stamford, CT

"Really, I don't understand this woman. I can't help but think she has some mental disorder that makes her want to be eternally a mom. I feel for her parents; they must really love their daughter and grandchildren, but the drain on their resources must be staggering. Now we have another 8 added into the mix with huge medical bills and more need of diapers and other baby things. No way can I imagine her breast-feeding all 8 of these new arrivals!

"So, first, I think she needs a reality check and a good mental evaluation. I admit my belief system would not allow selective termination... a life is a life and I don't agree it should be disposed of. But I still think she needs some evaluation.

"Second, her parents must be incredible people to not demand that she put some of these new arrivals up for adoption. How will they be able to afford the care of 8 more?

"Third, of course, companies/people/churches are probably going to be begged for donations. If this were her first attempt, I can see them itching to donate help and resources, but given that she's already got 6, I would think hard questions would have to be answered.

"Fourth, how much of this will end up in the laps of taxpayers? That really needs to be questioned.

"Fifth, as far as the medical and ethical angles go, I can only say that the doctors need to do everything possible to protect mother and children, but if the mother doesn't choose to listen, it's not the doctors' responsibility so long as the woman is competent.

"My own personal feeling? The whole situation is going to end up very rough for all concerned." - Lee Storm, Madison, NJ

"Everyone has the right to determine what size their family should be. But to consciously agree to even 7 babies, when doctors are advising against it, is irresponsible. Thank God, so far the babies appear to be healthy. But as we all know, multiple births carry greater risk for health and developmental problems. When these children end up needing additional educational and medical assistance who will be picking up the tab? Certainly not the parents? It will be the taxpayers. Also, please tell me who will be taking care of the six older children during all of this? It seems to me that all 14 of these children will suffer simply because this woman had the right to 'choose her family size. Absurd." - Lil Noonan, Jackson, NJ