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Treasury Secretary Geithner Sheds His First-Class Image

UPDATED, 5:32 p.m. ET with comment from Treasury




Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner convenes his first meeting as chairman of the President's Working Group on Financial Markets at the Treasury department, Feb. 5, 2009.
(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

For those of you still outraged over Timothy Geithner's income tax lapse, maybe you'll take comfort in this: at least the Treasury secretary isn't flying first class these days.

Passengers were relieved to see Geithner joining the commoners in coach on the 7:30 p.m. Delta shuttle Sunday night from New York to Washington.

As one Sleuth informant who was on that flight told us, Geithner appears to be "so humbled" that he chose to ride with "the rest of the ordinary folks." (Among the "ordinary" folk flying coach on the Delta shuttle was Lynn Blitzer, wife of the one-and-only and very unordinary Wolf Blitzer).

Customers on the shuttle are used to seeing government bigwigs opting for first class, where the airline routinely seats Cabinet secretaries as a courtesy for "security reasons." And these days, of course, with the pin stripes on aching Wall Street all sullied and tattered, fewer passengers are willing to pay for first class. So needless to say, there were seats available to Geithner.

But he bypassed first class and went straight to coach, no doubt walking past folks who got a good chuckle out of the Greek tragedy-gone-awry cartoon in Sunday's business section of the New York Times depicting Geithner surviving his tax fiasco, which you can see here.

Treasury Department spokesman Isaac Baker says Geithner "flies coach when he goes back to New York," where his wife (a social worker) and his children (who attend public school) still live.

Geithner, the lucky lone survivor in a trifecta of Obama administration nominees who failed to pay their taxes, is part of a trend, it would seem, in low-profile travel.

Two weeks ago, Susan Rice, soon after she was confirmed to be President Obama's ambassador to the United Nations, was spotted riding in coach on a morning Delta shuttle from Washington to New York.

So maybe even if the "no drama" part of Obama hasn't quite taken hold with his fledgling Cabinet, his message of egalitarian inclusiveness has. At least when it comes to flying.

By Mary Ann Akers  |  February 9, 2009; 12:20 PM ET
 
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Comments

Good for him. Now if there were a requirement that all business travelers, including the overpaid and too often clueless members of boards of directors had to fly coach and stay at Motel Six, we would see a startling reduction in the amount of business and concommitant increase in telecommunications - conference calls and the like.

Posted by: PennLawyer | February 9, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

That should be "business travel", not "business". Don't you hate it when you can't edit your mistakes?

Posted by: PennLawyer | February 9, 2009 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Eating humble pie has never been Timothy Geithner's problem. This, afterall, is the same guy that used TurboTax for taxes. Other than a paycheck fat enough to warrant a five-figure tax, he's a regular Joe ... surely.

Posted by: angelicious | February 9, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Right. I think "concommitant" needs fixing too. :>)

Posted by: Pedant1 | February 9, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Now if he would just pay the interest & penalities on his taxes maybe I could start thinking he might be honorable. NOT!!! Having that kind of money waived by an agency that you are going to head smells very fishy to me. When I owed taxes I paid then immediately & the interest & penalities. Oh, excuse me I'm just one of those "ordinary" people that not only do not try to cheat but would not get away with if I did.

Posted by: pthomasoniaitamorg | February 9, 2009 3:05 PM | Report abuse

I would like to encourage Congress to increase funding for fighting global poverty. The Borgen Project (www.borgenproject.org) has some great facts and ideas to help global poverty.
$30 billion to eliminate global poverty.
$522 billion on the U.S. defense budget.
There are 800 million people that go to sleep hungry every day, 300 million are children.

Posted by: cougar_gal06 | February 9, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

House and Senate members should be required to fly coach, and the middle seat to boot. This is about the only way ordinary citizens will ever be able to meet their own representatives for more than a handshake or a request for more campaign funding.

The conditions in coach may improve from actual oversight...

Posted by: selfinsured2 | February 9, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

pthomasoniaitamorg: Mr. Geithner did pay the penalty and interest on his back taxes. Quite honestly, he would have gotten away with not paying the taxes at all except for the vetting for this cabinet position.

As for Tim being "humble" - he already is so. He lives in a modest home, his kids attend public school and he's an all around low-key nice guy (he is a neighbor of mine).

Posted by: Pobo | February 9, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

re: mr. geitner’s wild coach ride
at any given moment there might easily be several unconvicted tax evaders flying coach. seriously this guy is about as likely to consider himself one of us "plain folks" as i have of being a jamaican astronaut. we'll see just how long this dog and pony show lasts. besides what’s a few hundred dollars for an upgrade every time he flies to the billions of our money he’s spending?
in the meantime let's focus a little closer on his actions at treasury because that's where the rubber meets the road folks. he's just another questionable non partisan retread hired by obama whose job will be to enable the rich to stay rich. i seriously doubt this guy will be doing the middle class any favors. if his tenure isn’t marked by the same old federal reserve policies heavily tilted toward big business and bankers i promise at least to apply for jamaican citizenship.
it appears the other wars were engaged in aren’t going so well but the war on the middle class is coming along nicely. sorry obama but you screwed up on this one too. where’s the change?

Posted by: tzontzose | February 9, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

The Borgen Project has some good info on the cost of addressing global poverty.

$30 billion: Annual shortfall to end world hunger.
$550 billion: U.S. Defense budget

Posted by: atsegga | February 9, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Its one thing for Treasury Secretary Mr. Geithner to neglect reporting his tax liabilities, its another expecting the citizens of the United States to faithfull pay their taxes.

Posted by: a4853916 | February 9, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

What about putting them on Amtrak's Acela instead. Almost the same time, point to point and sets an example. Somebody call Joe Biden, he'll explain it to them.

I wonder if these people have to take off their shoes and have their mothers patted down by the TSA cretins.

Thanks heavens the revised stimulus package through out new uniforms for the TSA. Perhaps they can send them to Dale Carnegie instead.

Posted by: NotBubba | February 9, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

I never thought he was first class. It is one thing not to pay payroll taxes but an entirely different matter when you claim reimbursement for taxes that were not paid.

You have no prospects, no background and no intelligence. Have you thought of becoming a neighborhood organizer?.

Posted by: albee703 | February 10, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Honestly, if so many "humble" folks weren't restrained by W-2s and 1099s, how much tax cheating would occur among us ordinary people? How much happens anyway with regard to fudged and exaggerated deductions?

I'm always amused by the so-called outrage of the masses, who would get away with whatever they could if they had the opportunity. Show me somebody who truly has never cheated on his taxes, and 8 out of 10 times I'll show you somebody who files the short form.

Posted by: DualAg | February 11, 2009 7:20 AM | Report abuse

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