There's an old saying from the bowels of the Beltway bureaucracy: "Screw up, move up." Rewarding failure is an immutable trait of the bipartisan Washington political culture. Just ask Barack Obama's Treasury Secretary nominee Tim Geithner and the Senate Republicans who are blindly standing by him.
The Senate Finance Committee revealed this week that Geithner failed to pay some $43,000 in federal self-employment taxes for four separate years -- and only coughed up the remaining $26,000 of that debt when he was named Obama's Treasury Secretary-designate in November. The brilliant and meticulous Geithner didn't catch the lapses. The Internal Revenue Service and Team Obama's vetters did.
Recall that Joe the Plumber, an average guy with no Ivy League degrees in business or finance, was crucified for his $1,182.98 Ohio tax lien (the state had sent a notification to a prior residence he had vacated). One might give a common man some leeway for making common mistakes. But Geithner is no "common" man -- and "$43,000 in unpaid taxes is a common occurrence" simply does not wash as a credible alibi. Supporters have dubbed Geithner "too big to fail." Try "too smart to care."
Geithner is the Dartmouth- and Johns Hopkins-educated president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank who, according to his extensive biography, has also "studied Japanese and Chinese, and has lived in East Africa, India, Thailand, China and Japan." Apparently, he has been too engrossed in his foreign language studies and too busy traveling abroad to pay attention to crossing the t's and dotting the i's of his household records. In addition to his failure to pay four years' worth of federal taxes (you try getting away with that without getting thrown behind bars!), Geithner also illegally employed an immigrant maid for three months after her work authorization papers had expired.
But wait. That's not all, folks. Geithner's employer at the time of his serial tax-dodging was the International Monetary Fund. The agency reimburses its employees for their self-employment taxes. The allowance was made to keep IMF and World Bank workers' salaries on par with their foreign peers. IMF employees receive an Employee Tax Manual outlining their obligations. (Maybe if it were written in Japanese or Chinese, Geithner would have paid better attention?)
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