Tuesday, March 03, 2009

And it's not just Obama's cabinet nominees with tax problems

While it's become a rather ho hum story these days to hear that another prominent Obama choice for his cabinet has some sort of tax problems, it seems that the story is not limited to just the nominees for the top posts but also for the nominees down the line. Paul Volker is complaining that Tim Geithner is working solo at the Treasury because his deputies haven't been approved.
"The secretary of the Treasury is sitting there without a deputy, without any undersecretaries, without any, as far as I know, assistant secretaries," Volcker said, "at a time of very severe crisis."

President Obama's press secretary, Robert Gibbs, asked by a reporter for comment, said he "wouldn't quite agree with everything that our friend Mr. Volcker said," adding: "I don't think that the secretary is alone at the Treasury Department. I think there are many able people assisting him."

Maybe so, but Secretary Timothy F. Geithner still does not have a deputy or Senate-confirmed undersecretaries or assistant secretaries to help him. And it's not because the Senate has been going at its traditional, snail-like pace confirming people. (That will be, as sure as night follows day, a problem down the road.) The fact is, the White House has sent no nominations to the Senate for any of those positions.
And why not? It's not like Geithner didn't know early that he was the Treasury nominee and couldn't have busied himself with coming up with some creditable nominees with whom he'd like to work at Treasury. No, the problem is that they're rescrubbing possible nominees' personal records to see if they have the Geithner problem of not having paid their full taxes. While it might have been okay for the boss, they don't want to put forth more nominees with the same sort of problem. And boy, a lot of them seem to have that problem.
And the problem, as Volcker also noted, is a severe case of Daschle-itis -- with a strong dose of Geithner-itis -- that has sparked an intense spate of re-vetting of potential nominees. We've heard the process compared to some rather unpleasant medical procedures. According to one estimate, as many as a third of potential nominees were found to have had some tax questions to answer.
A third? Wow! Our options are that up to a third of Democratic nominees for upper level appointees in the Treasury Department are cheating on their taxes or they're just too dumbfounded by the tax code to fill their forms out correctly. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and opt for the latter option. Even more reason for these guys to get in and start reforming that tax code.