By Michael Barone, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
If I were a senator, I'd be inclined to vote for the nomination of Timothy Geithner to be treasury secretary, for reasons suggested by Nina Easton. By all accounts, he's very able and knowledgeable, and he's already been part of the nation's lead economic team as chairman of the New York Fed. And it's very important to have a treasury secretary in place these days. But I have to say that his failure to pay self-employment tax is troubling and could certainly provide a reasonable basis for a senator to vote no. I have income from which no taxes are deducted and I make sure to pay my taxes on it (today, by the way, is the deadline for filing your quarterly returns). I can't imagine what he was thinking when he didn't pay.
Barack Obama has known about Geithner's tax problem and decided to appoint him anyway. He could have avoided the embarrassment of Geithner's failure to pay taxes by leaving him in at the New York Fed and nominating Larry Summers to be treasury secretary instead. Summers held the job in the Clinton administration and is superbly well qualified. And Obama would have had the benefit of Summers's advice just as he will having him at the White House. But the feminist left had a problem with Summers: the frank and accurate comments he made about women in science and math that got him ousted as president of Harvard. We don't know if that's the reason Obama didn't put up Summers for a post that, unlike the one he got, requires Senate confirmation; but it could be one of the reasons he didn't.
Anyway, now Obama is paying a price--and so are all of us. Our tax system relies heavily on voluntary compliance, and having a treasury secretary who failed to pay his taxes as he should have tends to increase cynicism about taxpayers' obligations and perhaps to undermine the impulse to comply with the law. As I said at the beginning, I'd still be inclined to vote yes on Geithner. But I'd be darned irritated at him for causing a problem that should never have existed.
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By Michael Barone