Without question Treasury nominee Timothy Geithner didn’t pay some of his taxes. Even though the IMF warned him about them and reimbursed him for them. One can argue whether this was an honest mistake, but it looks a bit dubious. However, give him teh benefit of the doubt. He also didn’t go back and pay what was due on previous years after being audited. Certainly this was a conscious decision: the IRS hadn’t noticed and/or the statute of limitations had run, so big whup (or whew, that’s a relief!) probably was his reaction. Until that wonderful Cabinet nomination came along, at which point he quickly paid.
My friend Timothy Carney over at the Washington Examiner reflects on how the rules have changed:
Did Geithner, a former high-ranking official in the Clinton Treasury Department, really not know he wasn’t paying Social Security and Medicare taxes after he moved to a new job at the International Monetary Fund in 2001?
What was he thinking when he signed papers pledging that he would pay those specific taxes? And what was he thinking when he accepted the IMF’s customary reimbursement for taxes he had not paid?
Those questions are why we have confirmation hearings. Geithner’s problems are serious, and they deserve a complete airing. But there is a bigger issue in the Geithner situation, and it is this: Should an offense that would have sunk a nomination in years past be considered acceptable today?
There’s no doubt that Geithner’s tax problems, even what we know about them before a full public hearing, would have killed a cabinet nomination in 1993, or 1997, or 2001, or 2005.
The real questions are: have the rules changed only for Democrats, and only during economic emergencies? Only time will tell.
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