Your Money and Attention to Detail

February 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Money and Behavior, Taxes

At last count, two Obama appointees have withdrawn because of tax problems, the latest being Tom “I need a limo and driver” Daschle.  A third tax miscreant is now Secretary of the Treasury.

How does it feel to know more about our tax laws than the Secretary of the Treasury – you know, the guy who is in charge of the Internal Revenue Service?

It does not give me a good feeling at all, but not for the reasons that you might think.

Let’s assume that these appointees are not tax cheats and that, according to their defenders, are persons of the “highest integrity.”  I’m still not satisfied.

When it comes to handling my money – the thousands of tax dollars I send to Washington every year – I want attention to detail.  The people who are responsible for managing and spending our money should also demand attention to detail, including of themselves.

Think smaller scale for a moment.  If your banker did not know how to calculate interest on your savings, or how to timely process your deposits and checks – how long would that person be your banker?

If your accountant could not prepare an accurate balance sheet, cash flow statement, or tax return, would you hire that accountant again?  I don’t think so.  

These are basic money skills – appropriate to the position – that must be consistently understood and applied.

Is it too much to expect the same attention to detail on a much larger scale, as in the financial operations of our federal government?  

Geithner – now in charge of the entire Department of the Treasury?  Daschle – named to be in charge of an enormous HHS budget?

Keep in mind that the lack of attention to detail by these folks was with their own money.  You would think that they would be highly motivated to focus on their own money circumstances.  So what can we expect when they should be thinking of our money?

Think about job postings you have seen.  Almost without exception, the person doing the hiring demands “attention to detail” as an applicant characteristic.  We should expect no less from those in government who are managing our money.  It should not matter that they are politicians or that they are appointed by politicians.

My advice to Obama and his hiring team is to put “attention to detail” high up on his list of job requirements.  If they don’t have it, move on.  

Maybe that nerdy accountant from the movie “Dave” is available.

Photo credit: David Duncan

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6 Responses to “Your Money and Attention to Detail”
  1. Dan says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more.

    Although I don’t give them the credit you do.
    There is NO way anyone who is bright enough to make it all the way to Congress, was unaware that they did NOT pay taxes that they were supposed to. We are not talking about a mistake in adding numbers together; they left off tens of thousands of dollars in income. The amounts they failed to pay on are more than a lot of people make in a year.

    Giving them the benefit of the doubt and saying that they are not criminals for intentionally dodging taxes, then the only reasonable explanation left is that they are incompetent.

    I don’t want anyone who can’t accurately prepare their own taxes to manage a budget for America.

    These screw ups only came clean when they were found out. I would like someone to review the returns on all members of Congress. Let’s see how many of these ‘public servants’ failed to pay taxes on money they made.

    It’s a shame that we allow people who are supposed to have the Nation’s best interest in mind, to profit from serving in public office. I think it’s a tough job and they should be paid well. But these people are simply taking what they want. They are blatant about it because they never suffer any consequences.

    We will never change this type of behavior until we start holding people in higher office to a higher standard.

    I want smart, dedicated people to serve America. These are not roles where we can have someone half-ass there way through it. These are people who are there to make sure, NOT to guess, that things are getting done. We need to weed out the lazy, do-nothing jerks, lying to the American people for their own self-serving wants.

    I am still proud of America, but I know we can do better.

  2. MasterPo says:

    There’s one thing everyone misses:

    When you or I or someone we know makes a money mistake we are called to account for it!

    At a minimum we get yelled at and may end up hurting our reputations. Depending what it is we have to pay more, pay fines, even go to court or possibly jail! (in the extreme of course)

    But not government.

    When Congressmen, Senators, the President etc. waste our money they NEVER get in trouble for it. At worst, they get “fired” in that they don’t win re-election. And that’s only sometimes.

    How many years have we heard that Social Security is bankrupt? Or Medicare? Or now that $350 billion out of $700 billion is gone and no one knows where? But no one has been called to a Grand Jury or spent a day in jail for any of this that I know of.

    But a CEO redecorates his office and they want his head on a pike.

    That’s why we are doomed.

  3. Brian says:

    I find it funny that Democrats railed against the Bush Tax Cut, and then cheat on their taxes.

  4. Andrea says:

    It’s not a lack of attention to detail, it’s a feeling of being above the law. And although it might be “funny” that these Democratic nominees had issues, it would be ridiculous to think that it’s only an issue in the Democratic party.

  5. Well, let’s look at it a different way…

    Less attention to detail = fewer mistakes/lies caught = fewer audits = less money spent on IRS admin = we keep more of our money, ethically or not. Heh.

  6. Agreed! However, I am not sure if it the issue is lack of detail OR lack of concern. They seem to work hard at the lack of detail on their own taxes. I find it a bit typical and extremely unacceptable. I am all for Fair Tax and this is just another reason for it.

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