Saturday, January 17, 2009

Timothy Geithner: Arrogance or Ignorance?

By now everyone knows about Barack Obama's pick for Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, and his failure to pay his taxes. $34,000 in back taxes is no small measure, but we're now being told that it was just an "honest mistake".

For anyone who has ever made an error on their tax return, it is painfully obvious that the IRS does not patiently await the balance of the tax due from the offender. On the contrary, they will pester you and hound you, expending perhaps more than you owe on correspondence alone, just to get you to pay up. It is not possible to forget unless you don't open your mail. One would feel assured that a financial person such as Geithner would certainly open notices received from the IRS, which he may end up heading.

Geithner worked on the IMF, which did not deduct payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare from his paychecks, but they did provide Geithner paperwork regarding the tax liability. His errors occurred from 2001 to 2003, so the liability has been hanging over his head for over five years. In all that time, he has not noticed? I again direct your attention to the IRS' relentless pursuit of money owed.

Yet, we're being fed the "honest mistake" line anyway. So the question must be asked, if Geithner was so cavalier about his obligations as a citizen, is he the right person to take control of the finances of the entire nation? And if it was not ignorance - which poses the spectre then of incompetence - but arrogance, I would submit that that would also preclude him from wielding such power.

This is not the first time we're witnessing such trivialization of serious events. Sandy Berger was "just sloppy" when he was caught stealing documents from the National Archives, an infraction that would land any regular citizen behind bars, to be sure. And Charlie Rangel was upset about his own tax fraud because it was all the fault of the media. He still sits on the House Ways and Means Committee.

So it stands to reason that democrats will not exercise due diligence in regards to Geithner's confirmation process. That makes it all the more incumbent on republicans to grill him hard. With the current state of the economy, it is crucial that a grave mistake is not made with this appointment.

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