Accuracy in Media

As Cliff Kincaid has reported for AIM, the media seems all too willing to chalk Timothy Geithner’s tax troubles up as an “honest mistake” or “unintentional.” 

“Our 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,” writes Kincaid.

He later adds, 

“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.’”

New evidence from the Senate Finance Committee–relayed by National Review Online’s (NRO) Byron York and Michelle Malkin–strongly undermines the “honest mistake” argument. According to York, 

“The IMF did not withhold state and federal income taxes or self-employment taxes — Social Security and Medicare — from its employees’ paychecks. But the IMF took great care to explain to those employees, in detail and frequently, what their tax responsibilities were. First, each employee was given the IMF Employee Tax Manual. Then, employees were given quarterly wage statements for the specific purpose of calculating taxes. Then, they were given year-end wage statements. And then, each IMF employee was required to file what was known as an Annual Tax Allowance Request. Geithner received all those documents.

The tax allowance has turned out to be a key part of the Geithner situation. This is how it worked. IMF employees were expected to pay their taxes out of their own money. But the IMF then gave them an extra allowance, known as a ‘gross-up,’ to cover those tax payments. This was done in the Annual Tax Allowance Request, in which the employee filled out some basic information — marital status, dependent children, etc. — and the IMF then estimated the amount of taxes the employee would owe and gave the employee a corresponding allowance. 

At the end of the tax allowance form were the words, “I hereby certify that all the information contained herein is true to the best of my knowledge and belief and that I will pay the taxes for which I have received tax allowance payments from the Fund.” Geithner signed the form. He accepted the allowance payment. He didn’t pay the tax. For several years in a row.”

So, Geithner claimed a reimbursement for his unpaid taxes, signed a sworn statement that he had paid them, and regularly received literature on the need to pay his Social Security and Medicare taxes. 

This went on for three years and stopped after Geithner learned he might become Treasury Secretary.  Still sound like an honest mistake or just a “speed bump”?

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