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Bartlett's money troubles could explain deficit

July 29, 2008|By TIM ROWLAND

Sad to say, but it doesn't really bother me that U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett underreported or failed to report close to $1 million in property sales on his financial disclosure forms. I think I speak for all of us when I say we've all misplaced a million bones at one time or another. It's kind of like car keys in that respect. The cash is always in the last place you look.

Nor does it bother me that he threw all manner of friends, staff and family under the bus in explaining his (their) error. I've never been much for taking responsibility myself and, frankly, what's the point of having people in your life if they can't be used for the purposes of deflecting blame?

And the whole attitude that a million dollars here or there is a trivial matter that he shouldn't really have to bother with in the first place? Well of course, we've all been hassled by pointless government regulations.

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No, what bothers me is that Bartlett is one of a relative handful of men and women charged with passing our federal budget and spending chunktillions of our tax dollars - and he can't even remember in which pocket he left his own deposit ticket?

No wonder the nation is a financial wreck. How can trillions of our own tax dollars be accounted for, when the folks in Congress can't keep track of their own money? Face it, we're screwed.

Bartlett said he reported the correct numbers on his tax returns, and it was only on the public disclosure forms where he (I mean other people) messed up.

Besides, Bartlett has been quoted as saying he lost money on the sales of three properties in question.

He refuses to release his tax returns to back up his statements. Good move. Who knows what else might have slipped his (I mean other people's) mind when reporting his finances to the public.

Maybe this is a demerit or maybe this is an attribute, I can't decide which - but Bartlett is the only person I know of who's embarrassed to be rich. When he was filing his first disclosure statements way back when (about the time he was promising he would only serve two terms) he complained bitterly when they revealed he was a millionaire.

He was not rich, he argued, he was just a "millionaire on paper" because he owned all this property. Got it. It's the old, "I'm not a millionaire, I just play one on TV" defense.

I don't quite understand - unless he's worried that voters will stop seeing him as the "common man" and start associating him with the wealthy congressional elite if they know he's worth a mint.

Look, Roscoe, it's no big deal. Everyone in Congress is rich. We know that. And we know that you're no exception. There are no $30,000-a-year forklift operators in the House.

But it's not an issue, so relax. What good is having all that cash if you can't let your hair down and enjoy it?

It's nice that you're humble about it and all, but - well, let me just say that I would have no plans to live up to your standards should the situation ever present itself to me.

If I ever have millions, I fully intend to flaunt it. I will shove wads of bills in people's faces. I'll "make it rain" at the local strip club. I will have license plates that read T.R. MUN-E-BGS. Of course the odds of that ever happening, as we go to press, are about 1 in 40,000.

But it's fun to think about. Unless you're a member of Congress. Just goes to show how weird they all are, as a species.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324 or via e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on www.antpod.com.

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