January 26, 2012
36 Obama aides owe $833,000 in back taxes
Posted 08:18 AM ET
Pete Souza / White House (Obama addresses his White House staff, file)
How embarrassing this must be for President Obama, whose major speech theme so far this campaign season has been that every single American, no matter how rich, should pay their "fair share" of taxes.
Because how unfair -- indeed, un-American -- it is for an office worker like, say, Warren Buffet's secretary to dutifully pay her taxes, while some well-to-do people with better educations and higher incomes end up paying a much smaller tax rate.
Or, worse, skipping their taxes altogether.
A new report just out from the Internal Revenue Service reveals that 36 of President Obama's executive office staff owe the country $833,970 in back taxes. These people working for Mr. Fair Share apparently haven't paid any share, let alone their fair share.
Previous reports have shown how well-paid Obama's White House staff is, with 457 aides pulling down more than $37 million last year. That's up seven workers and nearly $4 million from the Bush administration's last year.
Nearly one-third of Obama's aides make more than $100,000 with 21 being paid the top White House salary of $172,200, each.
The IRS' 2010 delinquent tax revelations come as part of a required annual agency report on federal employees' tax compliance. Turns out, an awful lot of folks being paid by taxpayers are not paying their own income taxes.
The report finds that thousands of federal employees owe the country more than $3.4 billion in back taxes. That's up 3% in the past year.
That scale of delinquency could annoy voters, hard-pressed by their own costs, fears and stubbornly high unemployment despite Joe Biden's many promises.
The tax offenders include employees of the U.S. Senate who help write the laws imposed on everyone else. They owe $2.1 million. Workers in the House of Representatives owe $8.5 million, Department of Education employees owe $4.3 million and over at Homeland Security, 4,697 workers owe about $37 million. Active duty military members owe more than $100 million.
The Treasury Department, where Obama nominee Tim Geithner had to pay up $42,000 in his own back taxes before being confirmed as secretary, has 1,181 other employees with delinquent taxes totaling $9.3 million.
As usual, the Postal Service, with more than 600,000 workers, has the most offenders (25,640), who also owe the most -- almost $270 million. Veterans Affairs has 11,659 workers owing the IRS $151 million while the Energy Department that was so quick to dish out more than $500 million to the Solyndra folks has 322 employees owing $5 million.
The country's chief law enforcement agency, the Department of Justice, has 2,069 employees who are nearly $17 million behind in taxes. Like Operation Fast and Furious, Attorney General Eric Holder has apparently missed them too.
As with ordinary people, the IRS attempts to negotiate back-tax payment plans with all delinquents, whose names cannot be released. But according to current federal law, the only federal employees who can be fired for not paying taxes are IRS workers.
Bill Clinton's drive to increase homeownership went way too far
Posted by: Peter Coy on February 27, 2008
Add President Clinton to the long list of people who deserve a share of the blame for the housing bubble and bust. A recently re-exposed document shows that his administration went to ridiculous lengths to increase the national homeownership rate. It promoted paper-thin downpayments and pushed for ways to get lenders to give mortgage loans to first-time buyers with shaky financing and incomes. It’s clear now that the erosion of lending standards pushed prices up by increasing demand, and later led to waves of defaults by people who never should have bought a home in the first place.
President Bush continued the practices because they dovetailed with his Ownership Society goals, and of course Congress was strongly behind the push. But Clinton and his administration must shoulder some of the blame.
In writing this blog entry, I’m following the lead of Joseph R. Mason, who is a finance professor at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business, a senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and a consultant at Criterion Economics. Here is a link to a piece that he wrote on Feb. 26.
The Clinton-era document that Mason cites—“The National Homeownership Strategy: Partners in the American Dream”—was hiding in plain sight
on the website of the Department of Housing & Urban Development until last year, when according to Mason it was removed (probably because the housing bust made it seem embarrassing to the department). Mason credits Joshua Rosner of Graham Fisher & Co. with saving a copy of it before it was expunged.
The National Homeownership Strategy began in 1994 when Clinton directed HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros to come up with a plan, and Cisneros convened what HUD called a "historic meeting" of private and public housing-industry organizations in August 1994. The group eventually produced a plan, of which Mason sent me a PDF of Chapter 4, the one that argues for creative measures to promote homeownership.
The very worst idea in the plan, which fortunately never gained approval, was to let first-time homebuyers freely tap their IRA and 401(k) retirement-savings plans with no penalty to scrounge up a downpayment. That, HUD estimated, would have "benefited" 600,000 families in the first five years.
Plenty of other ideas in the plan did become reality, though. Knowing what we know now about the housing bust, the earnest language in the document seems faintly ridiculous. Here's an excerpt. Read it closely and you can see the seeds of disaster being planted:
For many potential homebuyers, the lack of cash available to accumulate the required downpayment and closing costs is the major impediment to purchasing a home. Other households do not have sufficient available income to to make the monthly payments on mortgages financed at market interest rates for standard loan terms. Financing strategies, fueled by the creativity and resources of the private and public sectors, should address both of these financial barriers to homeownership.
Note the praise for "creativity." That kind of creativity in stretching boundaries we could use less of. Mason puts it well: "It strikes me as reckless to promote home sales to individuals in such constrained financial predicaments."