Wednesday, February 04, 2009

"Audit"-tions for public office

A colleague of mine and I were talking this morning about the tax problems dogging the various appointees. She had an interesting idea that has a lot of upside-- why not make holding public office (any public office, from city council up to the U.S. Senate and beyond) a trigger for an automatic yearly audit from the IRS?

Why not? It seems that those in charge of public money should be held to the highest standards of kicking in their share. This could arguably lead to a couple of great results:

1) People with shady business deals and fancy book-keeping would be discouraged from being in positions of political power.

2) People in power would likely think twice before making any kind transaction or accepting a good or service that could be considered questionable if they know that their finances will be scrutinized by the IRS.

This wouldn't necessarily have helped Daschle, since he was a private citizen while these tax problems mounted, but it could have helped in other cases. Plus, it would make public officials (and those hoping to be public officials) more aware of the consequences of any kind of tax problem. I suppose the argument against would involve the cost of doing these audits, but really, I can't imagine the cost even coming close to being greater than the benefit-- increased tax revenue and more importantly, a possibility to stave off impropriety by public officials or aspiring public servants. This could be even more useful at the local level, where some of the most egregious corruption takes place.