This country still being — more or less — a democracy, we’ll cast our vote for the following: Timothy Geithner is the worst Treasury secretary in the history of the United States of America.
In the firestorm that’s erupted over the targeting of tea party-affiliated nonprofits by the Internal Revenue Service, it has gone largely unnoticed that the IRS is actually part of the U.S. Treasury. In fact, the IRS comprises the bulk of the Treasury’s annual budget.
And the person at the helm of the Treasury while all this went on was none other than Geithner, a person whose reputation is almost sure to get more and more tarnished as time goes on.
Even before his elevation to the Treasury from president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Geithner was exposed as a tax cheater. He failed to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes on his pay at the International Monetary Fund and was forced to appear before Congress in 2009 to explain how he somehow missed the boat on his 2001-2002 taxes. Eventually he ponied up $25,000 in penalties and back taxes.
The 75th person to hold the title of Treasury secretary, he presided over the first downgrade in the U.S. credit rating in its history. At the time, Geithner’s complaint was that S&P was playing politics. But as a master political manipulator, he should have seen it coming.
To top it off, there is his failure to give President Barack Obama the so-called Grand Bargain that would have fixed entitlement programs for the long haul, raised taxes modestly and put the Federal Budget back on track. Instead we have a last minute deal that raised taxes arbitrarily, a budget cut blitz that’s incomprehensible and no long-term resolution on raising the federal debt ceiling.
The claim by some members of the GOP that the White House conspired to mount an IRS-led assault on Tea Party organizations and their tax-exempt statuses may or may not be true. And it will be extremely difficult to prove.
But, in the final analysis, the buck on the IRS affair starts and stops with the secretary of the Treasury. It’s his or her department to manage and clearly the IRS staff was allowed or directed to run amok when it came to auditing tax-exempt organizations.
Geithner stepped down in February after four years on the job, and his legacy appears to be this: He’s a tax cheater who failed to defend the credit rating of the United States and who could not manage his way out of a paper bag.
He is yet another example of a loyal Obama Administration insider who undermined the one thing that the president was elected to do — restore trust in the United States government.