The new U.S. Treasury Secretary was an architect of the first failed bailout and is a blatant tax cheat to boot. The 60 senators who approved him this week knew he had deliberately stiffed the IRS, but apparently thought his strong determination to spend another trillion or so taxpayer dollars in future bailouts overcame his deficiency in character.
The 34 who opposed him did so largely on the grounds that Timothy Geithner was not a great choice for an administration insistent that it is out to set a gold standard in ethical behavior.
Opposition came from Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, moderates and ex-Ku Kluxers. Such Senate luminaries as John McCain (R.), Tom Coburn (R.), Russ Feingold (D.) and Robert Byrd (D.) cast “Nay” votes. Sen. Jeff Sessions, the Alabama Republican and a former prosecutor, laid out a case indicating Geithner might well have indulged in criminal conduct.
On the Senate floor, Sessions produced official materials showing that Obama’s pick had been repeatedly instructed by the International Monetary Fund to pay Social Security taxes out of a special allowance he was given for that purpose, documents which he wantonly ignored.
You have to credit National Review’s Jonah Goldberg for making a terrific case against Geithner. His column was used effectively in the debate over his nomination by Sen. Charles Grassley, the senior Republican on the Finance panel.
Geithner’s explanation that his failure to pay was just an oversight “doesn’t pass the smell test,” Goldberg wrote. When the IRS busted him for his mistakes in 2003 and 2004, he decided to take advantage of the statute of limitations and not pay the thousands of dollars he also failed to pay in 2001 and 2002. That is, until he was nominated to become treasury secretary.
Obama defends Geithner, saying that his was a ‘common mistake,’ that it is embarrassing, but happens all the time. My National Review colleague, Byron York, reports that, at least according to the IMF, Geithner’s ‘mistakes’ are actually quite rare.
Indeed, it’s almost impossible to believe that the man didn’t know exactly what he was doing, given that he would have had to sign documents, disregard warnings, and all in all turn his brain off to make the same ‘mistake’ year after year.
But you can take this to a safe, bailed out bank: Geithner—who will now govern the IRS–isn’t going to let other tax cheats off so easily.
(See Senate debate in Jan. 26 Congressional Record –pp. S.800 to S. 820)