A word about Timothy Geithner

I recognize that dealing with the world financial/economic crisis is the most important next thing the Obama Administration has to do. Without detailed knowledge, I am willing to accept that Geithner is a crucially well-prepared member of the team that will help in this effort -- and that getting the right team is a first-order national priority. I don't know him, but friends who do know him like and respect him. Fine.

I also think that it is sensible to move past the Zoe Baird / Kimba Woods era (look it up) when any tax irregularity of any sort could be taken as an absolute bar, in itself, to service in any position subject to confirmation. Some standard of reasonable judgment has to be applied here.

So by the standard of what the country needs right now, I would probably vote for Geithner's confirmation as Treasury Secretary, if I were in a position to do so.

But I do not believe, and will never believe, that his failure to pay his own self-employment tax while at the IMF was an "oversight" or a "mistake." I have many many friends who have worked for this and similar organizations. I have myself over the years juggled the complexities of what is self-employment income and what is W-2 income and how to handle income from non-US sources  -- and I have a lot less financial acumen than any Treasury Secretary aspirant should and must have. (Though I also use Turbo Tax!) Not a single person I have known from the IMF or similar bodies, not a one, believes that Geithner could have "overlooked" his need to pay US self-employment tax. When I have received similar income from international sources, the need was obvious even to me -- and I wasn't receiving and signing all the forms to the same effect Geithner would have gotten from the IMF. I could go on with details but I'll just say: if this were a situation more average Americans had experienced personally, he would not dare make his "mistake" excuse because everyone would say, "Are you kidding me???"

So we're back to a judgment call. I accept the argument that he is a necessary part of what has to be the best possible team America can assemble at this moment. But I don't like the fact that he is obviously dissembling on this point, and that he obviously was not playing it straight over a long period of years.