No one is perfect. That much is certain. But in our society - like it or not - we hold our elected officials to a bit higher standard than you and me. I think that's the way it should be. The truth is, I don't want a host of elected officials with more flaws than your next door neighbor. I want someone I can trust, I can respect and who, for the most part, is true to his word.
Which brings us to the curious image of Kansas City Congressman Emanuel Cleaver. Cleaver is the former mayor of Kansas City and an outspoken leader in the minority community. He's also a minister with a large congregation. And, by any measure, he's popular with the folks in Kansas City.
But Cleaver has a bad habit of not paying his taxes. When he ran for Congress last year, it was revealed that he had unpaid property taxes on a car wash. He paid $36,000 for two years' worth of back taxes. The issue surfaced in the campaign but Cleaver won fairly easily.
Now Cleaver is in hot water over more unpaid taxes. But it doesn't seem to faze him one bit. When confronted last week with the issue of his unpaid bills, Cleaver said the story was untrue and his taxes were in fact paid. Well this week he's changing his tune. Now he acknowledges he owes $14,789 in taxes for last year. Cleaver says most small businesses operate that way.
Well, dear Congressman, most businesses don't operate that way. They pay their taxes and they pay them on time. They may struggle to make those payments. But they make them nonetheless.
Now I could be wrong but I'd be willing to bet that if Eighth District Representative Emerson were confronted with an unpaid tax bill, the voters in this district would be upset. So what makes Cleaver immune from any public backlash for not following the law? Don't people in Kansas City hold their elected representatives to the same high standard that we would? Or does Cleaver get a free ride?
I know little of Emanuel Cleaver. I do know what party he represents and where he stands in the political spectrum. And now I know that Congressman Cleaver considers himself apart from the rest of taxpayers who face deadlines like the one coming this week. I know very hard-working people who struggle and sacrifice to pay their taxes on time. And I know Emanuel Cleaver considers himself apart from that segment of the population.
The bottom line is this: You get the caliber and level of character in an elected official that you deserve. If having your Congressman lie about his taxes and not blink an eye doesn't bother you, then so be it. But if he'll misrepresent his tax payment, it certainly makes you wonder what other omissions he might commit. Cleaver might be popular in Kansas City but in our neck of the woods, his attitude would be remembered come election day.