Paul Greenberg

The country now has a new secretary of the treasury who sounds a lot like the old one. Maybe because Timothy Geithner was at Henry Paulson's right hand when that now former secretary of the treasury was doing everything he could think of (and re-think of) to save the country's and the world's financial superstructure. Which is still unsteady, Some say unsteadier.

To quote Mr. Geithner's boss over at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, who's also new on the job: "Tim's work and the work of the entire Treasury Department must begin at once. We cannot lose a day because every day the economic picture is darkening here and across the globe."

Some of us just hope Mr. Geithner will move faster on the country's problems than he did on his own, specifically his back taxes, which he neglected to pay for years, then paid only in part.

He'd made the same "careless mistakes" in earlier years, but Citizen Geithner was by now beyond the reach of the law for those way-past-due taxes, and he didn't pay them. Why do more than the minimal if you don't absolutely have to? So long as you're doing the legal thing, why bother about doing the right thing?

Not till he was being considered as secretary of the treasury did Tim Geithner cough up all the money he should have paid in the first place. That was surely the most troubling aspect of his nomination; it hints at calculation rather than just carelessness.

To quote The Hon. Robert Byrd, West Virginia's very senior senator, on Mr. Geithner's ethical threshold in these matters: "Had he not been nominated for treasury secretary, it's doubtful that he would have ever paid those taxes." For once Sen. Byrd, that great muddy font of endless oratorical folderol, may have said something short and to the point. No wonder a number of senators (34) refused to confirm Mr. Geithner's nomination.

But now Timothy Geithner is going to be responsible for collecting taxes from those of us who obey the law -- or at least make a stab at it, for the monstrous Internal Revenue Code is scarcely decipherable even to certified public accountants.

No, this is not a propitious start for an administration of Hope and Change, which is now just trying to do its best with what it's got -- perhaps not the most idealistic course but a realistic one.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.