Bill Clinton nominated Zoë Baird to be attorney general when he first took office, in 1992. When news broke that she had hired undocumented domestic help and failed to pay their employment taxes, it was considered a bombshell and cost her the job. It made the cover of Time magazine and was labeled “Clinton’s First Blunder.”
Between 1992 and 2009, the “nanny issue” played out at least 10 more times with different appointees. A law was even passed by Congress to make it more straightforward process to file these taxes.
So, what then to make of U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney?
Mick Mulvaney is Donald Trump’s pick to run the Office of Management and Budget. He was part of the first wave of ultra-conservative representatives elected to the U.S. House after the tea party movement started. He studied economics in his undergraduate days at Georgetown University and focused on anti-trust law before becoming a practicing attorney and later helping run a family business.
While this background may make him more objectively qualified for his position than some other Trump nominees, it makes many of choices all the more galling.
Mulvaney stated in his confirmation hearing that he considered the woman that he paid to work 40 hours a week in his house for four years “a babysitter.” The IRS is crystal clear on the subject, and its current publications even use a situation very similar to his as its No. 1 example of what constitutes a household employee for whom one needs to pay employment taxes. Yet, Mulvaney claims that year after year, it never occurred to him that his nanny would be considered a household employee.
The most damning critique of Mulvaney’s actions and governing philosophy come from his own legislative agenda. While in the South Carolina Senate, he sponsored three bills that would stop tax cheats from serving in state government. He went on to vote for and speak in favor a U.S. House of Representatives bill that would allow federal agency heads to fire employees over tax issues:
[I]f someone is going to audit you for not paying your taxes, at the very least that person will have paid their taxes.
What Mulvaney’s position boils down to is that others should have to pay for their tax issues with their jobs, even if they are accidents or genuine mistakes, but he shouldn’t. (It’s hypocrisy of the same stripe displayed by another Trump Cabinet pick, Steve Mnuchin, who allegedly made a paperwork error in failing to list $100 million in assets on his disclosure forms, yet as CEO of OneWest tried to take a woman’s house over a check that was 27 cents short.)
So what should happen to Mulvaney? The Time cover story on the originator of the “nanny issue,” Zoe Baird, notes that, “she became the first U.S. Cabinet nominee in 120 years to withdraw her name from consideration.” The mechanism? A grassroots uprising by “the American people” who “forced Clinton to deliver on his repeated promise of a higher moral standard in government.”
Drain the swamp, indeed.