A Word About a Word About Timothy Geithner

James Fallows says he would swallow hard and vote for Geithner even though Fallows thinks he’s lying (basically) when he says that he failed to pay taxes by mistake.

I think there may be a generational thing here. Fallows is from the generation that still believed in do-it-yourself. Geithner (like myself) is from the outsourcing generation. I can’t prove that Geithner isn’t lying – that he knew he owed taxes and just didn’t pay them – but I find that explanation highly implausible. Rather, I’d assume Geithner simply put the question of taxes into a box called “things my accountant worries about” and never opened the box. And never fully briefed his accountant about what his obligations might be. I know countless individuals who have done similarly.

And as for the statement that a Treasury Secretary should clearly have known his obligations – yeah, and you’d think PhD mathematicians should be able to do simple multiplication in their heads. And, from personal experience, I can tell you they frequently can’t.

It’s not admirable to fail to take personal charge of your legal and financial responsibilities in this manner. It’s risky even if you never plan to be nominated to the President’s cabinet. But it’s quite common. That’s the way the overclass rolls these days.