Roger L. Simon

Money Talks

I’m not sure I agree with Captain Ed when he wrote yesterday (in response to a report that presidential candidates will no longer reveal their tax returns): Personal income had been considered a private affair before Watergate. After that scandal, which had nothing to do with tax evasion, candidates seized on the release of their 1040s as some sort of honesty test. It might be time to recognize that private income should remain private, and that tax returns give us little germane data about the candidates.

Sure we’d all like a little privacy on matters financial in this “snoopiest of all possible worlds.” But in a globe seemingly driven by corruption large and small that may not be a smart thing, particularly in regards to those who lead us – or wish to. A case in point today is the revelation that Barack Obama’s wife is “Wal-Mart friendly,” at least from the perspective of personal gain. How important is that? I don’t know, but the stench of hypocrisy is now around her husband who has engaged in the traditional liberal Wal-Mart bashing. This is all the more interesting because Obama’s true views are essentially unknown to us. He is riding a crest of popularity based largely on charisma.

We live in a country, actually a world, where politicians tend to have immense personal wealth. Bloomberg is a billionaire, Romney is close. We all know about John Kerry who “wived it wealthily in Padua” and then some. And talk about serious bucks – how about Castro?

No, Captain Ed, in Dr. Pangloss’s “best of all possible worlds” we perhaps should have a zone of privacy around politicians’ money. But you don’t have to be Voltaire to know we aren’t there yet. Until then, we need every possible window into our leaders’ finances – including IRS returns. If they can’t stand that heat, as Mr. Truman wisely said, they should get out of the kitchen.