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Why Are the Media Protecting Geithner?

January 19, 2009

The Obama Transition Project says that Timothy Geithner, its Chinese-speaking Treasury Secretary nominee, made "honest mistakes" on his tax returns. This line comes from the same group that is telling us that a nearly $1 trillion "stimulus" bill taking us further into debt can be called the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act." Polling and focus groups came up with that brilliant deception.

Our "mainstream" media have quickly adopted the new party line. The NBC Nightly News dutifully reported Geithner's "honest mistakes" in the graphic it showed on Tuesday night in a story about the serious tax problems. Officially, the Obama team calls them "tax concerns." But it's nothing we are supposed to be concerned about, even though he is going to be in charge of the federal department with jurisdiction over the IRS.

There were some holes in the brief NBC News story, which followed a more serious report about cold weather possibly threatening the celebratory atmosphere surrounding Obama's inauguration. Reporter Kelly O'Donnell's story failed to disclose that Jeffrey Immelt, chairman and chief executive officer of NBC parent company General Electric (GE), is on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, whose president is Timothy Geithner.

It is also interesting to note that a subsidiary of GE, GE Capital, is getting some of the federal bailout money that Geithner, if he is confirmed, will have a role in managing. Conflict of interest, anyone?

Connections like this help explain why Geithner's tax problems won't become a scandal or even much of a controversy for major elements of the media. But GE's media properties, including NBC News, MSNBC, and CNBC, won't be alone in trying to put this scandal to rest.

Another member of the board of the New York Fed is Lee C. Bollinger, the president of Columbia University, who serves on the board of the Washington Post Company. This is the media conglomerate whose media properties include the Washington Post newspaper, Newsweek, and Slate.

From the point of view of the major media, it's better to remain on the good side of Geithner as well as Obama. That is why Geithner's tax problems have to be whitewashed and senators of both parties have to be provided with an excuse to confirm him.

These were just "errors," according to the Washington Post story by Michael D. Shear and Lori Montgomery. Geithner insists they were "unintentional." Case closed. Let's move on.

But according to the Washington Times, some of the delinquent taxes were "paid only after he learned that Mr. Obama was considering him for the post."

According to Jackie Calmes of the New York Times, even some Senate Republicans are saying that Geithner was only guilty of "technicalities." This is not a scandal or even a controversy. It is a "flap," the Times tells us. The American people should know that a "flap" is nothing to get alarmed about.

Geithner tax documents identify the "most significant tax concern" as Geithner's "failure to pay social security taxes during his entire tenure at the IMF, which began in 2001 and concluded in 2003 (some compensation was not paid until calendar year 2004). He paid no FICA taxes or self-employment taxes with respect to the IMF during that time." However, the IMF provides its employees with several documents throughout the year "to help employees understand and meet their tax obligations." What's more, "Mr. Geithner acknowledged receiving all of these documents," the material reveals, and he "has experience with social security tax issues." So why didn't he pay up at the time?

In addition to failing to pay his taxes on time, Geithner employed some "household help" whose "legal working status" had "lapsed" for a time. At least this is how the Obama team is describing the situation.

The "household help" consisted of three different "persons." He did not obtain the required form "at the time they were hired to verify their legal work status," the material says. One person did not have "legal work status" for some of the time she worked for Geithner.

In an official statement,  incoming White House press secretary Robert Gibbs says that Geithner was "unaware that his part-time housekeeper's work authorization expired for the last three months of her employment."

However, the documents indicate that he was unaware because he did not want to know. It says that "the Geithners did not follow up with the employee to confirm" whether she had renewed her legal work status.

Nevertheless, Gibbs says that Geithner is the "right person to help lead our economic recovery during these challenging times" because he's "dedicated his career to our country and served with honor, intelligence and distinction."

But based on the documents that have come out, he is either a tax cheat or a dummy when it comes to his basic personal finances and tax matters. Do we want either one as head of the Treasury Department?

The obvious answer is no. But Geithner has to be protected because he's one of the go-to guys on the matter of getting the Communist Chinese to buy our debt, for the purpose of financing never-ending bailouts and even the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act." Not only does Geithner speak Chinese, he spent some time living there. Plus, he's a member of the secretive "Group of 30" that includes the governor of the powerful People's Bank of China, the central bank of China.

It looks like Geithner would be just as much of a pawn of the Communist Chinese as Henry Paulson has been.

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