First it was Tim Geithner, former president of the Federal Reserve Bank in New York City and America's newest Treasury secretary, who disclosed he skimped on paying his personal taxes between 2001 and 2004.
Congressional lapdog Democrats immediately jumped to Geithner's defense, saying that these were "honest" or "careless" mistakes and that, as "the only man in America who understands TARP" - the government's Troubled Asset Relief Program - Geithner simply had to get this job. Question: If the smartest moneyman in America doesn't understand IRS tax rules, what chance do the rest of us mere mortals have?
When Geithner was confirmed by the U.S. Senate last week, Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold had the good sense to vote "no."
Then there was the curious case of Camelot heiress Caroline Kennedy, who, you know, wanted to be a senator, like, when she grew up.
That idea died when New York Gov. David Paterson's office leaked the news that Sweet Caroline (yes, Neil Diamond wrote the song about that Caroline) had some "tax" and "nanny" problems, along with a possible inappropriate relationship with the publisher of The New York Times. All that might get Caroline a seat at Treasury, but not in America's House of Lords.
Then came the ill-fated nomination of Tom Daschle, former Democratic Senate majority leader, to head the Health and Human Services Department.
After press reports revealed Daschle had quietly paid $140,000 in unpaid taxes and interest after his nomination, a White House spokesman tried to reassure an anxious country: "The president has confidence that Sen. Daschle is the right person to lead the fight for health-care reform."
America disagreed, and on Tuesday Daschle asked that his nomination be withdrawn. President Obama accepted it "with regret."
Apparently, one known tax cheat in the Obama cabinet was enough. Quota already met at Treasury.
Could we now, finally, please, get a simplified flat tax like Steve Forbes has been advocating for years? In a fitting tribute to their tax-cheat heroes, Obama and congressional Democrats can call this new legislation "The Geithner/Daschle/Kennedy Income Tax Reform Act of 2009."
Just think of it as another bailout, but this time for beleaguered, frustrated and confused taxpayers. You know, regular folk.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle created a brand-new Office of Big Pork - er, Office of Recovery and Reinvestment in the Wisconsin Department of Administration.
Day-to-day administration of the new Office of Big Pork will be handled by people like UW administrator Al Fish, who, by a freaky coincidence, is married to Doyle's chief of staff, Susan Goodwin.
Then the Doyle administration hired a former Democratic Capitol worker for a $102,000 job in the new Office of Big Pork. Oddly enough, this turned out to be Tanya Bjork, convicted of misdemeanors related to the Capitol caucus scandal, a.k.a. "Wisconsin's Greatest Political Scandal." Even Richard Nixon didn't rehire Watergate convicts.
These hires are probably just designed to make sure no partisanship comes into play when distributing federal "economic stimulus" money throughout Wisconsin.
However, with the state facing a $5.9 billion budget deficit, it's anyone's guess how much of the Big Pork money will ever reach critically important local infrastructure needs. (Thanks to eight years of bipartisan budget irresponsibility, Wisconsin's deficit is one of the worst in the nation.)
You see, it's still pretty much business as usual in Washington and, for that matter, in Madison.
We continue to export jobs overseas; the middle class is dying; we burn through $750 billion with no discernible effect on easing credit; Democrats are about to throw another trillion dollars in pork on the fire; some economists say it will take another trillion to fully flush toxic assets out of the banks; and GM could still go under.
Then what? How many more bailouts can we afford?
What politicians don't want to tell us, as usual, is the truth: Too many of us want to live like we're rich when we're not. Too many used their homes as piggy banks to fund a lifestyle that exceeded their ability to pay. Too many thought every American had a birthright to own a 50-inch plasma TV. And too many don't care or don't vote.
It's understandable to be angry about the cynical, hypocritical games that politicians are playing right now. Frankly, it's a little surprising Americans haven't stormed Washington or Madison with torches and pitchforks in hand to throw the monsters out. Maybe that's because we know, deep down inside, that we bear considerable responsibility for our current plight.
Our collective ability to pull out of this death spiral may ultimately depend on each of us coming to grips with that fact instead of looking to politicians to save us.
Rick Berg is a Madison-area freelance writer and political commentator.