Barack Obama continually promised on the campaign trail that if elected, he would change the way that Washington works.
Yes, we shouldn’t pay too much attention to the rhetoric used by a candidate when he is running for office - especially someone like Obama whose Cotton Candy Candidacy was short on specifics and long on meaningless drivel.
But when you consider that the man made such a huge deal about bringing a “new kind of politics” to Washington and reforming the government, Obama’s attachment to Treasury Secretary Designate Timothy Geithner is both puzzling and troubling.
The DC Examiner thinks Geithner should get the hook:
Timothy Geithner, President-elect Barack Obama’s nominee for Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, didn’t pay his federal self-employment taxes for four years because he “forgot.” That is no longer a credible explanation in view of yesterday’s reporting by National Review’s Byron York. The claim that he forgot simply doesn’t square with the fact that for four years Geithner accepted reimbursement from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to cover federal taxes he had not paid, according to Senate confirmation documents examined by York. The IMF is an international agency and as such does not pay federal or state taxes owed by employees who are U.S. citizens.
More specifically, he failed to pay self-employment taxes - Social Security or Medicare - while employed at the IMF until he was audited by the IRS in 2006. At that point, Geithner made good on his 2003 and 2004 obligations, but still failed to pay the amounts due for 2002 and 2001. It was only after he was named by Obama to succeed Henry Paulson at Treasury that Geithner took care of the obligations for 2001 and 2002.
This is especially damning because on the IMF’s Annual Tax Allowance Request, Geithner promised to “pay the taxes for which I have received tax allowance payments…” If, as The Wall Street Journal reported, Geithner was told by one of his accountants that he wasn’t obligated to pay the taxes, he shouldn’t have signed the IMF document promising to make the payments. Clearly, he should not have accepted the reimbursements.
Geithner also received an annual reminder from the IMF that he was responsible for paying his taxes. He applied for a reimbursement each year from 2001 through 2004, but then pocketed the cash instead of forwarding it to the IRS. Doing so four years in a row is not merely an “honest mistake,” as the Obama transition team maintains.
Geithner is lying when he says he “forgot” to pay his taxes. This is a given. It also insults our intelligence when he claims that his failure to pay the IRS what he owes is an “honest mistake.” We will now see if the rest of the Washington Democratic establishment plays along with Geithner and pretends they believe his lies, thus perpetrating a “business as usual” climate in the Obama government rather than the promised reform that so many believed so passionately he could bring about.
It is a little lie, a white lie, but telling nevertheless. And like Republican lawmakers preaching “family values” who get caught with their pants down around their ankles, anyone who preaches reform and changing the way Washington does business and then tolerates the bald faced lying of Geithner can and will be rightly accused of rank hypocrisy if they don’t do the right thing and yank this tax dodge from consideration for any high office in the Obama Administration.
Or are Democrats to be allowed a different standard of hypocrisy because of bad economic times? Politico’s Alex Burns thinks so:
It’s not that the usual voices are silent. But faced with a made-to-order personal financial scandal, there’s been only a half-hearted response in the political echo chamber, and the consensus among Washington and media elites seems to be that the economic moment is too serious to be distracted by Geithner’s tax problems.
It’s easy to imagine how things could have turned out differently.
Bill Clinton saw two nominees for attorney general go down when the public responded with fury to revelations that they’d hired illegal nannies. George W. Bush lost a cabinet nominee in the same way. And in 2006 members of Congress found themselves on the wrong end of totally unexpected outrage over a deal to lease American ports to a foreign company, Dubai Ports World.
In many or most of these cases, media commentators and even members of Congress initially reacted with shrugs. Only later, after public anger flared, did Washington join the frenzy.
To date, only a few major voices have spoken out to criticize Geithner. And if there’s a reserve of populist resentment over his appointment, it hasn’t yet erupted into the national media, as in previous nomination controversies.
Perhaps the “consensus” (read, Groupthink) among the press is that Geithner is irreplacable, that the Treasury position is so vital in these perilous financial times that any and all transgressions committed by the nominee must be overlooked for the good of the country.
I don’t think even the Bush Administration would have made that argument and they had a few doozies over the years. But incredibly, even Republicans agree with it:
Revelations that Timothy Geithner failed to pay some of his taxes have derailed Democrats’ efforts to install him quickly as President-elect Barack Obama’s treasury secretary, but senators in both parties say his tax problems won’t torpedo his chances for confirmation.
Obama said Wednesday that the disclosures that Geithner had failed to pay $34,000 in taxes between 2001 and 2004 were embarrassing, but added that Geithner’s “innocent mistake” shouldn’t keep him from taking the helm of the new administration’s urgent efforts to revive the economy. Several Republicans agreed that Geithner would get Senate approval and said their party had little appetite for a partisan fight at a precarious time for the economy.
GOP opponents of Geithner should “think this through,” said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah., a member of the Senate Finance Committee that’s considering his nomination. “They’re not going to get anybody better than him from this administration for treasury secretary.”
GOP Senators won’t make a stink because the issue of Geithner’s taxes isn’t on the radar. And the reason its not on the radar is because the press is not covering the issue the way they should and frame it as an “Epic Fail” (a term we will be using a lot over the next 4 years I suspect) of the Obama Administration to live up to their own campaign promise to reform Washington and change the way the government does business.
In a smart political move, the new Administration has put a temporary hold on Geithner’s confirmation hearing. They are waiting for the issue to blow over when, we assume, both Republicans and Democrats can spend the hearings trying to outdo one another in praise of the candidate’s qualifications and integrity.
Welcome to the new Washington. Same as the old Washington.