early and often

If Timothy F. Geithner Can Fix Our Economy, Does It Matter Whether He Paid His Taxes?

A mini tempest is brewing in Washington over revelations that Barack Obama’s Treasury secretary nominee, Timothy Geithner, had previously failed to pay over $40,000 in taxes and interest from his time working at the IMF, and employed a housekeeper whose working papers weren’t up to snuff for the last few months of her tenure. In other words, the classic Washington double-whammy. As we wrote yesterday, it’s odd, to say the least, that these tax oversights always seem to happen to people with financial expertise. But it was also a complicated enough tax system that in 2007 the IRS offered a settlement to employees of embassies and international organizations, like Geithner, to deal with any discrepancies. Though Geithner’s candidness (well, now) and the enormity of the economic crisis will help him stay afloat, not everyone is ready to grant him a clean slate.

• Marc Ambinder says “there certainly seems to have been no ill-intent on Geithner’s part,” but that calls into question “whether Geithner’s intelligence can be knocked for not knowing all the rules of the tax code.” He is, after all, the Treasury secretary. Ultimately, though, “it would be hard to fault … his judgment or his qualifications, and it really has little bearing on the job he was nominated to do.” [Atlantic]

• Andrew Malcolm wonders how you can tell there was no ill intent after the fact. [Top of the Ticket/LAT]

• Chuck Todd and friends claim that “there is just no political will out there — from either Democrats or Republicans — to kill Geithner’s nomination in this current economic climate.” [First Read/MSNBC]

• Jennifer Rubin bets that if Geithner were a Republican, he’d be “toast.” Since he isn’t, we’ll have to see. But in light of this discovery, in addition to Bil Richardson’s woes, you have to wonder “what the heck is wrong with the Obama vetting process.” This scandal is “one more unforced error the new team did not need.” [Contentions/Commentary]

• Maureen Dowd writes that “Geithner’s transgressions may seem petty given the kind of transgressions that have taken place in the Bush administration,” but Obama promised “a shiny new kind of politics” and now we’re once again seeing “the smart being dumb, the rich being greedy, the powerful being sketchy.” [NYT]

• Glenn Reynolds also suspects that a Republican would find himself in hotter water, but points out that this proves our tax system is too complicated. If even Geithner can’t keep his “taxes straight, how can the government expect the rest of us to?” [Instapundit]

• Felix Salmon contends “[t]here’s no realistic chance that Geithner will fail to become Treasury secretary as a result of this scandalette,” but it will instead “act as a baptism of fire for Geithner, toughening him up for the nastiness which lies ahead.” It may actually do him some good. [Market Movers/Portfolio]

• Byron York focuses his sights on why Geithner, after learning from the IRS in 2006 that he owed taxes from 2003 and 2004, didn’t also report the taxes that he owed in 2001 and 2002. That is, until he was about to be nominated for Treasury secretary. [Corner/National Review]

• Alex Koppelman doesn’t believe this will “prove fatal to Geithner’s nomination. The Obama team is sticking with him, saying the infractions are a small matter compared to the economic crisis the next Treasury secretary will have to deal with.” And as for the housekeeper thing, it’s a common enough problem that even the Department of Homeland Security employed illegal immigrants in its cleaning services. [War Room/Salon]

• Steve Benen thinks the scandal seems “like small potatoes, especially given the seriousness of Geithner’s responsibilities at the Treasury Department in the middle of an economic crisis.” It would be surprising “if anything came of this.” [Political Animal/Washington Monthly]

• Matthew Yglesias mocks the idea that we’d focus primarily on Geithner’s housekeeper’s work papers “as we think about filling key economic jobs amidst a huge crisis.” [Think Progress]

• Sam Stein calls the revelations “the type of embarrassing public relations headache that the Obama team disdains” but that are actually “quite common in nature.” [HuffPo]

• John Breshahan and Martin Kady II write that “a full-court press by Barack Obama’s transition team” is likely to save Geithner’s prospects for confirmation. They note that the “extraordinary effort to save Geithner stands in stark contrast to the Obama team’s handling of commerce secretary nominee Bill Richardson.” [Politico]

If Timothy F. Geithner Can Fix Our Economy, Does It Matter Whether He Paid His Taxes?