Sunday, January 25, 2009

Praising our tax protester in chief

The American people have figured out that Treasury-secretary designate Tim Geithner is the next Kimba Wood or Zoe Baird, but (so far) the president is standing by his man.

Apparently this economist is so smart that he is “the most qualified candidate for the job” but he’s not smart enough to do what we expect every plumber, carpenter or other self-employed American to do: pay Medicare and Social Security taxes. When caught, he paid the 2003-2004 taxes but wasn’t going to pay his 2001 and 2002 until he was nominated for Treasure Secretary.

The Wall Street Journal — like other media elites — argued that this “isn’t a disqualifying offense,” even as it criticized his evasion during the Senate hearings. However, the Saturday the paper published eight caustic letters (obviously from a supply of hundreds or thousands) taking them to task:

Geithner's Nomination for Treasury Invites Ridicule

I believe your Jan. 22 editorial "Geithner's Tax Code" is wrong to conclude that Tim Geithner's failure to pay payroll taxes for several years "isn't a disqualifying offense." As one who has prepared his own taxes for years, using TurboTax, and who has worked as a contract consultant and had to pay both employer's and employee's share of payroll taxes, I am familiar with the matter at hand. While agreeing that we have an "insane tax code," it is also true that the tax requirement at issue is not horribly complex.

Therefore, it is my view that Mr. Geithner's behavior admits only two possibilities. Either he intentionally committed several years' worth of tax fraud, for which he should face prosecution, or the man is dumber than a box of rocks. In neither case should the job of Treasury Secretary await him. Anyone thinking this was an "innocent" or "honest" mistake is actually saying Mr. Geithner falls into the second of these possibilities, and the person making that assertion probably belongs there, too.

Bob Augusta
Simsbury, Conn.

Aa a tax professional, I have seen many instances of unsophisticated taxpayers making essentially the same error as Tim Geithner. The difference is that what for Mr. Geithner is an "innocent mistake," for Joe the Plumber is an "intentional disregard of the rules and regulations" for which penalties are assessed.

Robert E. Stigger
Oak Park, Ill.

I think Mr. Geithner's plan to boost the economy is perfect. Forget TARP and forget choosing which politically favored banks and industries to save. Simply tell each taxpayer to forget to pay some taxes. This will have a direct impact on spending and will boost consumer confidence

Paul Dembry
Los Gatos, Calif.

My friends employed at the Internal Revenue Service state that if they committed the same or similar violations for even shorter periods of time as Mr. Geithner, on federal, state or local tax laws, they would be terminated, let alone get hired for a new job. And why would anyone now ever have to pay penalties under the "Geithner standard"? Maybe those things should have been considered before the Journal uncharacteristically endorsed another double standard in Washington, D.C.

Jeffrey Felman
Beachwood, Ohio

President Obama should now consider how much Mr. Geithner's confirmation would undermine the strict ethical tone that President Obama's Jan. 21 orders on ethics rules are attempting to create.

Carol Penskar
Orinda, Calif.

Mr. Geithner seems to be a member of the Leona Helmsley culture: "Taxes are only for the little people." What a farce.

Ron Kunzelman
Sun Lakes, Ariz.
L’Affair Geithner is another example of how the American republic (not being a direct democracy) insulates “public servants” from accountability to public opinion. President Obama’s three predecessor must be envying how the political and media elites have closed ranks behind his choice, a show of unquestioning support they did not enjoy.

While Geithner has been attacked by a few right-wing nuts here and abroad, he has also won support from at least some potential right wing critics. The blog Radioactive Liberty praises Geithner as a new symbol of American freedom:
Although many have criticized his minor oversight, I believe that Geithner is just the kind of person that we need in charge of our money. President Obama has made a shrewd choice in selecting this American Patriot to this important government office.

The Treasury Secretary in waiting understands that his money is HIS money and not the government’s money. This is one of the core principles of conservatism. In fact, our country was founded upon a stubborn refusal to pay taxes.
Since everyone expects Geithner to be confirmed, his appointment will give tax protesters a new spokesman in the highest levels of government. Perhaps we’ll see Wesley Snipes doing public service announcements or even a special agent for the Treasury Department.

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