by Jeff Fecke • Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., has a problem. He doesn’t like to pay taxes like the little people do:

Jeff Fecke is a freelance writer who lives in Eagan, Minnesota.In addition to his own blog, Blog of the Moderate Left, he also contributes to Alas, a Blog, Minnesota Campaign Report, and AlterNet. Fecke has appeared as a guest on the “Today” show, the Alan Colmes radio show, and the Mark Heaney Show. Fecke is divorced, and the father of one really terrific daughter. His debut novel, The Valkyrie’s Tale, is now available.

ABC News has learned that the nomination of former Senator Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., to be President Obama’s secretary of health and human services has hit a traffic snarl on its way through the Senate Finance Committee.

The controversy deals with a car and driver lent to Daschle by a wealthy Democratic friend — a chauffeur service the former senator used for years without declaring it on his taxes.

It remains an open question as to whether this is a “speed bump,” as a Democratic Senate ally of Daschle put it, or something more damaging.


The Cadillac and driver were never part of Daschle’s official compensation package at InterMedia, but Mr. Daschle — who as Senate majority leader enjoyed the use of a car and driver at taxpayer expense — didn’t declare their services on his income taxes, as tax laws require.

During the vetting process to become HHS secretary, Daschle corrected the tax violation, voluntarily paying $101,943 in back taxes plus interest, working with his accountant to amend his tax returns for 2005 through 2007.

That’s mighty nice of him to do that; it would have been better had he done it in the first place. But I think the most telling thing of all is the reason he never thought to pay taxes on a car and driver provided to him:

“Mr. Daschle told committee staff that he had grown used to having a car and driver as Senate majority leader and didn’t think to report the perquisite on his taxes, according to staff members.”

That right there is simply mind-boggling, and really points out just how disconnected from the real world even center-left politicians like Daschle are.

Look, not only do 99.9 percent of Americans not have a car and driver provided to them by their work, 99.9 percent of us don’t even get the car. Heck, about 20 percent of us don’t have health insurance, something that Daschle is supposed to be tasked with rectifying.

No wonder Congress is so tilted toward Wall Street — too many of even our progressive allies have no idea how the world works, or why it would be considered unusual for your company to give you a car — and why that would count as income.

Will Daschle go down in flames? No, of course not. He was a former caucus leader in the Senate, a Poobah Emeritus of the Loyal Order of Water Buffalo. A few senators will make some partisan hay, but in the end, they’ll confirm him, because he’s one of them. If Daschle was some schmoe, he’d be doomed. But he knows the secret handshakes and everything. Plus, the GOP owes him for curling up in the fetal position during the AUMF debate. And I’m sure they’re hoping he will remain an invertebrate through the health care debate, when that comes along.

No, Daschle will go through. But let’s be honest, he probably doesn’t deserve to. At a time when Americans are suffering real financial pain from their health coverage, it’s ridiculous that the man who is supposed to fix that is as disconnected from that pain as can be.