Our frequent reaction, when we see famous people get busted for not paying taxes, is “Wait, you can just not pay them?” (We obviously know this is the case, but somehow, every April, it just doesn’t seem like an option.) Our second most common reaction is “Why is it always people in politics and finance who aren’t paying them?” During hearings for the confirmation of Timothy Geithner as Treasury secretary, for example, came not only news that Geithner had failed to pay self-employment taxes for four years, but also that he had a household worker who didn’t have working papers for part of her tenure in his home.
It wasn’t a ton of money, but really? Did you really not know those taxes were coming those four years? Apparently that’s the line Obama is selling. “He’s dedicated his career to our country and served with honor, intelligence and distinction,” the president-elect’s spokesman said. “That service should not be tarnished by honest mistakes, which, upon learning of them, he quickly addressed.” It’s not the suspicion that Geithner is somehow corrupt that gets laypeople worried, though. It seems to us (and apparently also to Jim Cramer) it’s the concern that he might not know exactly what’s going on. You know, financially.