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So What about Geithner?

January 21, 2009

Deciding on whether Geithner should get appointed as Treasury secretary is a tough call. His tax evasion (and his acceptance of reimbursments for unpaid taxes) is embarrassing and calling it an “honest mistake” as the Obama Team has done is either utterly naive or an attempt to play down a serious infringement. Either way it doesn’t speak well of the new President. It is understandable, though, that Obama wants to keep Geithner. His competence and general acceptability on both sides of the aisle make him a reasonable choice. Still, it must be seen as an early disappointment that the new President winks at Geithner’s mistake.

Obama has presented himself as the “change” guy who will usher in a new age of politics. He sure made it sound as if he would set a high ethical standard for himself and the members of his administration. But giving someone a pass on tax evasion to make him Secretary of the Treasury seems ironic and unfair. M Geithner will be forging tax policies that he himself failed to abide to in the past and the average Joe will wonder why he shouldn’t cheat on his taxes since not even a smart economist like Timothy Geithner seems to believe in the authority of tax law – and it doesn’t even prevent him from getting a cabinet post.

So, Obama doesn’t send a good signal with his nomination of Geithner, mostly because many expected Obama to live up to higher ideals. But, on the other hand, while Obama winks at Geithner’s failure, many are willing to wink at Obama’s, so his decision might not hurt the new President much.

While giving Geithner a pass may not have been the ideal move by M Obama, it is a different thing for the Republicans.  Newt Gingrich insists that M Geithner should be barred from the position at Treasury. But the French Cowboy believes that the GOP should accept Obama’s decision – and leave him with the responsibilty of it.  It is one thing to express dissatisfaction with the President’s choice, it is another to block his guy from the position because of a rather small matter.

If the economy looked all rosy, the French Cowboy would probably judge differently. But with the financial system bleeding and businesses as well as households pessimistic, it shouldn’t be the Republicans to make things difficult because of 40k or so dollars that the otherwise competent Geithner has paid back by now. If they do they will give the impression of wanting to lay stones unto Obama’s path for the mere sake of it. M Geithner will be able to do a good job at Treasury and it shouldn’t be petty nitpicking by Republicans to prevent him from it.

Different from the case of Eric Holder or Mme Clinton, it cannot be said that what speaks against Geithner can reasonably lead to the conclusion that he won’t be doing good work in the position he is supposed to take. Actually, the fact that Timothy Geithner obviously resented paying taxes is good news for Republicans: it might mean that the appointee is a low-tax guy at heart.

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