Wednesday, January 14

Confirmation hearings drama. Not.

I've not really been following the confirmation hearings for the Obama Cabinet nominations, but I couldn't help but hear about the rather intriguing issues swirling around Timothy Geithner and his nomination as Treasury Secretary. I saw the news bulletins throughout the day and heard the story reported on NPR.

So the guy who is going to be in charge of the United States Treasury and the policies regarding all things financial for the United States had trouble understanding some rules about his taxes? Let me sum up: he made a mistake in his personal tax returns in 2001 to 2003 and owed $34,000. The shortfall has been paid, apparently fairly recently. As reported in the New York Times and NPR, Geithner's mistake with these tax returns and some IMF issues are common. But this is the guy who is the current president of the Federal Reserve Bank. Wouldn't you think that a guy with this much financial savvy would be able to a) hire a really outstanding tax accountant to keep him error-free or b) know enough to file his taxes correctly? In the NPR interview, the accounting expert was asked if Geithner's error is a sort of commentary on the complexity of the tax code. The expert said that the take-away here is to be sure to hire a really good tax guy. Mr. Geithner: I hope you do better with your taxes once you are Secretary of the Treasury than you've done so far in the 21st century. I'm not getting warm fuzzies thinking about you in control of our financial well-being.

I also heard about the Eric Holder confirmation hearing that is scheduled for Thursday, January 15. Apparently it is going to be a rocky confirmation that will be easy. I'm confused, too. I've seen headlines suggesting Holder will have a tough go of it, but NPR's Ari Shapiro sets the confirmation hearing will be easy. Apparently the Senate Republicans have some issues with Holder when he was Deputy Attorney General because of his role in Clinton's pardons and commutations, but there's also the issue that Holder did some legal work for the now infamous Illinois Governor Blagovich. And the Los Angeles Times wonders if Holder will be more than a "yes" man to the president; if he will, in fact, provide solid and objective legal skills and advice.

Other than the fuss people raised over Leon Panetta as the CIA director and some obvious lapses in protocol communication, there hasn't been a lot of drama with Obama's Cabinet picks. Even the Sentate dust-up over Roland Burris has been much ado about nothing. Yep, the guy is an affable and amiable dork who couldn't get elected to the Senate and now he can legitimately inscribe on his mausoleum that he was an Illinois Senator. And yep, he should enjoy the ride while it lasts because he probably won't get re-elected. But it torques me that I have to pay his salary because the seat is likely to be wasted on him.

Maybe everyone is being reasonably nice to Obama because he's mostly reintroducing Clinton-era folks and people know their capabilities and have a degree of comfort with those nominees. It's like welcome old friends back to the neighborhood. Yep, change is great, isn't it?

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