Timothy Geithner

Timothy Geithner

Photo from Wikimedia Commons / Author of Photo: United States Treasury Department


* First went to work in Treasury Department in 1988
* Went to work for the Council on Foreign Relations in 2002
* Was appointed to the office of President of the Federal Reserve Board of New York in 2003
* Was nominated for Treasury Secretary by President-elect Obama in 2008
* Failed to pay $35,000 in back taxes prior to 2009
* Favored the imposition of a tax hike on middle-class Americans

Timothy Franz Geithner was born on August 18, 1961 in Brooklyn, New York. He spent most of his early years living abroad and graduated high school from the International School in Bangkok, Thailand. He went on to study Mandarin in two universities in China in 1981 and 1982, and then returned to the U.S., where he earned a B.A. in government and Asian Studies from Dartmouth College in 1983. Two years later Geithner received an M.A. in international economics and East Asian Studies from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.

During the early 1980s, Geithner’s father oversaw the Ford Foundation‘s microfinance programs which Ann Dunham Soetoro, Barack Obama‘s mother, was developing in Indonesia. The elder Geithner met Ms. Soetoro in person at least once.

In 1988 Timothy Geithner went to work for the Treasury Department, where he held various positions before leaving to join the Council on Foreign Relations in 2002. He was also the director of the Policy Development and Review Department at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) from 2001 to 2003. In 2003 he was appointed to the office of President of the Federal Reserve Board of New York. In 2008 he arranged the sale of Bear Stearns and helped Henry Paulson, the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, in deciding to bail out the failing AIG Insurance Company.

In November 2008, then President-elect Obama nominated Geithner to be Secretary of the Treasury. During Geithner’s Senate confirmation hearings, it was discovered that he had failed to pay $35,000 in back taxes for income he had earned during past periods of self-employment. In response to this revelation, Geithner blamed his transgression partly on Turbo Tax (a software package designed for people who wish to prepare their own income taxes), and partly on his own mistaken belief that he was an employee (whose taxes had been automatically withheld from his paychecks) rather than a self-employed contractor while he worked for the IMF. A Senate report, however, stated that Geithner had been clearly informed of his status as a self-employed contractor at that time.

In March 2009 Geithner told the House Ways and Means Committee that the Obama administration would be targeting people who attempted to use tax shelters to minimize the amount of taxes they owed.

When President Obama attempted to float the idea of imposing a tax hike on middle-class Americans — a move that would have broken one of his major campaign promises — he selected Geithner to deal with the media’s questions about the matter. When asked whether the Obama administration was planning to tax people earning less than $250,000 per year, Geithner did not rule out that possibility. His answers were vague and noncommittal. For example:

  • “[I]f we want an economy that’s going to grow in the future, people have to understand we have to bring those deficits down. And it’s going to be difficult, hard for us to do. And the path to that is through health care reform. But that’s necessary but not sufficient. We’re going to do some other things as well.”
  • “[W]e’re not at the point yet where we’re going to make a judgment about what it’s going to take.”
  • “Well, I think that what the country needs to do is understand we’re going to have to do what it takes…. We’re going to do what’s necessary.”

In 2009 Geithner told the Senate Finance Committee that the federal government’s annual deficits would be “alarmingly high” for the foreseeable future. He stated that the Obama administration not only wanted to make permanent some expenditures in the $787 billion stimulus, but also hoped to enact yet another stimulus bill — though it would likely be dubbed a “Jobs Creation Bill” due to the unpopularity of the first stimulus bill and, by extension, the American public’s visceral hostility to the word “stimulus.”

In April 2011, Geithner steadfastly maintained that there was “absolutely” no chance that the U.S. credit rating would be downgraded from AAA, despite the fact that Standard & Poors had warned of the possibility. “No risk,” Geithner told Fox Business at the time.

In June 2011, Geithner said that a deal to raise the legal debt limit, which he expected lawmakers to complete within a few weeks, would be only a short-term “down payment” on solving America’s debt problem, and that it would be “irresponsible” to try to reduce the massive federal deficit with spending cuts alone. What was needed, he said, would be a longer-term deal calling for “revenue increases through tax reform” — i.e., tax increases.

In early August 2011, S&P did in fact lower America’s credit rating — to AA+ — for the first time in the nation’s history.

In August 2012, The Daily Caller obtained emails showing that Geithner’s Treasury Department “was the driving force behind terminating the pensions of 20,000 salaried retirees at the Delphi auto parts manufacturing company,” and the move, according to The Daily Caller, “appears to have been made solely because those retirees were not members of labor unions.” These emails contradicted sworn testimony by the White House and Treasury Department, which had consistently maintained that the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) — the only government entity with the legal authority to initiate termination of a pension — had “independently made the decision to terminate the 20,000 non-union Delphi workers’ pension plan.” For additional details on this scandal, click here.

On May 18, 2014, Geithner was interviewed on CBS’s Face the Nation, where he said: “How well you do in life today, how good your education is, how good your health care is, depends too much on the color of your skin or how rich your parents is [sic]. And that’s something that should worry all Americans. Now, those are things government can do things about.”

After he left the Obama administration, Geithner joined the Council on Foreign Relations as a Distinguished Fellow.

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