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January 14, 2009

SOME READERS THINK I’VE BEEN TOO EASY ON GEITHNER: Ila Peralta writes:

I beg to differ with you regarding the importance of Geithner’s tax “lapse”. Why would anyone neglect to pay taxes? Forgot? Not a good sign. Procrastination? Not good. Didn’t know about it? Maybe o.k. for a plumber, but… Above it all? Won’t get caught? Didn’t have the money? (I’m self-employed, too, and I make sure I have the money). Doesn’t believe in taxes? Can you think of one good reason for not paying taxes that portends well for a Secretary of the Treasury? I’d feel better.

And reader Jeff Carlson emails:

I’m sorry but if you do your own taxes and don’t use one of simple, cheap and easy programs available then you are too ignorant to be the Treasury Secretary. And if you did use one it would have prompted you to calculate those SS and Medicare contributions. Only by ignoring them could you have “forgotten” to pay them … for 4 years in a row. Doesn’t pass the smell test. These are not complicated calculations like actual income tax, they are straight percentages.

Yeah, he could have saved himself a world of embarrassment for a mere $42.99. And Jim Treacher is right to note the discrepancy between the press’s ho-hum treatment of Geithner’s unpaid tax problems and its very different treatment of Joe The Plumber’s. But, see, Geithner’s not showing the press up.

Now that said, if we had a Treasury Secretary under Obama who “doesn’t believe in taxes,” well, I could live with that — as long as the hostility extended to taxes paid by other people, too . . . . Meanwhile, here’s a roundup of reactions.

UPDATE: Reader Brian Gates emails: “I’m not questioning Geithner’s taxes . . . but isn’t Joe Biden concerned about Geithner’s patriotism?”

And Donald Hertzmark writes: “I know a lot of yanks working at the Bank/Fund. The personnel department makes a VERY BIG DEAL about making sure that you understand to pay your FICA. This does not wash. Just another chiseler, like Rangel.”

Speaking of Rangel, reader Bob Beales emails: “Maybe we should be nominating Tim Geithner and Charlie Rangel to head up the Internal Revenue Service. They may have a little more compassion for us ‘little guys.'” You’d think so, but it seldom seems to work out that way . . . .

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Chris Carolan writes:

Yes – “they” are all crooks – but only one crook gets his name on the dollar bill – and in these days of handing out $trillion$ of dollars, the U.S. govt is going to need to borrow those and many more $trillions from foreigners. And that ability to borrow is directly linked to the govt’s ability to get money from the people via the tax code. Anything that encourages people to think that there are two sets of rules, one for us and one for them, erodes the government’s ability to gain tax compliance from the populace. The fact is, this issue and this office are both at the nexus of the ability to fund the future of this country through the tax and borrowing mechanism. For that simple reason, should Mr. Geithner take office, he will do grave harm to our nation.

It does look rather bad that way, and certainly some people will see it as a reason to be less scrupulous regarding their own taxes.

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