Last week, when when I blogged on the failure of President Obama’s nominee for Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to pay taxes, I quoted blogress Jennifer Rubin to note that a Republican nominee in similar circumstances would be “toast.”
Well, it doesn’t look like this Democratic nominee will be toast. “The Senate Finance Committee on Thursday cleared the nomination of Timothy Geithner as treasury secretary despite unhappiness over his mistakes in paying his taxes.”
The vote was 18-5, with all five of the “no” coming “from Republicans, including the top GOP member of the panel, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.” Kudos to those guys for doing the right thing. As Wyoming Republican Mike Enzi put it, “I am disappointed that we are even voting on this. . . . In previous years, nominees who made less serious errors in their taxes than this nominee have been forced to withdraw.
Some may say that, given the times we’re in, we need a Treasury Secretary in place as soon as possible.Â And by all accounts, Geithner is more than qualified for the job.Â But, it sets a poor example to have a man who failed to pay taxes as the guy in charge of the IRS.
To be sure, Geithner apologized for what he called his “careless mistakes.”Â But, even in 2006, after he learned of his tax liability in 2001 and 2002, he failed to pay his back Â taxes. Â He only paid them when the Obama team was vetting his nomination. When this comes up for a vote before the full Senate, I expect the majority Democrats to vote in lockstep with their colleagues on the committee, let’s hope Republicans show as much backbone as did Grassley, Enzi and three of their committee colleagues and vote against confirmation.Â They may fail to prevent his confirmation, but at least they’ll stand for principle.Â That will be one step toward restoring our credibility as a party.
While I was initially somewhat ambivalent on Geithner’s tax problem, the more I think about it, the more I believe Geithner should not be confirmed.Â When, last year, the IRS alerted me to an error in my 2005 return, I reviewed the problem and recalling that I had received an amended form related to some outside income after I had filed my initial return. I paid the taxes they claimed I owed (as well as the penalty).Â And I’m not a finance guy.
If a man who, by his own admission, made “careless mistakes” doing his own taxes, can we trust him to manage the federal treasury, that is, all of our tax dollars?
UPDATE: Paul Mirengoff weighs in:
One might think that, at a time of an economic crisis commonly said to have been caused by irresponsibility on the part of the financial elite, Geithner’s failure properly to pay his taxes would be a deal-breaker.
. . . .
There is, though, at least one person who, according to the same conventional wisdom that exalts Geithner, could run Treasury at least as well as Geithner. That man is former Secretary of Treasury Lawrence Summers.
Unfortunately, Summers committed an offense far graver in a potential Treasury Secretary than non-payment of taxes owed. He expressed politically incorrect views about why there are more men than women in high-end science and engineering positions.