Wag the Blog Redux: The Geithner Dilemma
Last week, revelations came that Tim Geithner, President-elect Obama's appointee to become treasury secretary, had not paid Social Security or Medicare taxes for years and consequently owed $43,000 in back taxes.
In the aftermath of the news, Geithner's Senate confirmation hearing was postponed, and he huddled with Senate leaders last week to explain his actions.
After a delay of less than a week, the Senate Finance Committee began grilling Geithner today and, seeking to pre-but any questions about his tax snafu, the Treasury Secretary designate called the errors "avoidable" but "unintentional.
That explanation seemed to satisfy the members of the committee who passed Geithner on to a full vote by a 18-5 margin today.
The Fix asked readers to weigh in on whether Geithner's failure to pay taxes is a fair issue to raise, given the possibility that the Senate confirms him to become one of the people tasked to lead the nation out of an economic disaster.
The most insightful comments as selected by post.com politics producer Sarah Lovenheim are below.
"...He should be forced out, for several reasons. First of all, let's face it. The guy would be in charge of taxes and money, yet seems to not be able to keep track and manage his own. Second is the timing: he was audited and told to pay up for two years. He did. Now, surely he knew the same situation existed for two OTHER years, but he did nothing, until Obama's people came calling... Third: apparently he was warned MANY times that as a self-employed individual he was responsible for for the taxes he didn't pay. And apparently he signed acknowledgement of this responsibility. And fourth -- he also tried to inflate child-care expenses, according to the NYT..." --bethIllinois
"Geithner's expertise and work (past, present, and future) is NOT in personal finance and completion of individual tax returns -- so it's no special relevance here (compared to any other appointment). The fact that the IRS considers it a common problem and makes special allowances for it tells us something -- namely, that this doesn't really help us identify in Geithner any defect of character or ability. It's important to question -- but it's just as important to accept answers -- even when they don't yield as much drama or political traction as some might hope for." --jefft1225
"...Obama cannot begin his term with a tainted Secretary of the Treasury because of the enormity of our country's economic troubles -- and because of all the cheating, greed, corruption, and lack of oversight that enabled the mess to occur in the first place.
Confirming Geithner would be tacit affirmation that the 'anything goes' mentality of Wall Street and the financial sector of the past 8 years, will continue to one degree or another.
The Democrats who downplay Geithner's tax evasion as "a bump in the road" or a 'hiccup' or an 'honest mistake' look foolish and inept. PS I voted for Obama." --micheline1
"This is no time to play politics with the worst recession since the great depression. With respect to Clinton's AG nominees, we were not facing a global crisis that impacted the financial security of the U.S. and arguably the world. From nearly all accounts, Geithner is highly respected by both political parties as one of the most talented financial experts of our time. He has paid for his mistake and this gaffe simply highlights the confusion of our present tax system. Perhaps one the best defenses for Geithner is that now the self-employment payroll system may have an excellent chance of being revamped and simplified." billbolducinmaine
"The way the Obama team handled the Geithner issue is the most problematic piece of this controversy. Yes, Grassley and the Republicans played politics by making an issue out of the taxes and immigrant over a month after they learned of it all from the transition team. But the Obama team blew it when they tried to keep it quiet from all but the senior members of the finance committee." --parkerfl1
How Geithner Differs From Past Cabinet Picks
"The difference between Geitner and Baird/Chavez/Wood etc. is very simply politics. In the other cases these nominees were unpopular and the opposition was looking for a reason to sink the nomination, Geithner is a pick that Republicans are happy about, and they are worried about the alternative. As a taxpayer it concerns me. We are told that he is the only one who understands TARP." --myhojda
"...The tax code changes just about every year, so lots of people make mistakes (or have mistakes made on their behalf) all the time. You trust your accountant to do a good job, but it didn't happen in this case... the Geithner situation is different from Baird, et. al. because context matters. the depth of our economic problems was not such in the cases of Baird and others as it is today. Geithner, as a student of the architects of this mess, has a better position than most to be able to fix it..." --plathman
Washington Post editors
January 22, 2009; 8:00 PM ET
Categories: Wag The Blog
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