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Mark Shields
Mark Shields
13 Feb 2016
Make America Great Again -- at Torture!

The undisputed front-runner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination who, like every other remaining … Read More.

6 Feb 2016
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"Do you ever get the feeling," asked humorist Robert Orben, "that the only reason we have elections is to … Read More.

30 Jan 2016
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Mark Shields is off this week. The following is a column by Joe Conason. In our polarized politics, the … Read More.

Cemeteries Are Full of Indispensable Men


I do not personally know Timothy Geithner, the lone individual out of some 306 million Americans whom President Barack Obama, in confronting the nation's gravest economic storm in 75 years, chose to be U.S. secretary of the treasury.

Friends of mine whose judgment I respect do know and speak highly both professionally and personally of Geithner, who may well very well be a superb father, husband, scholar, neighbor and friend. He may even turn out to be "the greatest secretary of the treasury since Alexander Hamilton" (which is what President Bill Clinton publicly called his own treasury secretary, Robert Rubin, for whom Geithner served as under secretary.)

But is he the only possible treasury secretary in whom president Obama can place his confidence? Charles DeGaulle, a man not know for either authentic or false humility, offered this timeless insight: "The cemeteries of the world are full of indispensable men."

Yes, Geithner may well be a first-rate intellect and a uniquely experienced professional. But what he is not is a wise and conscientious citizen.

This is a man, recall, who served in increasingly higher and more responsible Treasury posts from 1988 to 2001 before moving to the International Monetary Fund, where he worked until being named president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in late 2003. American citizens who work for the International Monetary Fund — like their fellow citizens who work at World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank — because they do not have their Social Security and Medicare contributions deducted from their paychecks, are four times a year given a separate check, over and above their regular paychecks, which covers the amount of the undeducted payroll taxes.

Employees, including Geithner, sign a document that states, "I will pay the taxes for which I have received tax allowance payments."

A wise, conscientious and patriotic citizen pays what he owes in taxes. America, as the sage Will Rogers observed, "is a great country, but you can't live in it for nothing." When Geithner was audited in 2006 by the Internal Revenue Service (which is the largest bureau in the Treasury Department over which the secretary presides), he was found, predictably, not to have paid the Social Security and Medicare taxes he owed for 2003 and 2004.

He then paid what he had failed to previously pay for those two years, but did not pay what he had to have known that he had not paid, as well, for 2001 and 2002 (some $42,702 in all) until he was chosen in November 2008 for the treasury's top job by Obama. Under oath before the Senate Finance Committee considering his nomination to be secretary, Geithner attributed his failure to pony up his 2001-2002 unpaid taxes — until the hot spotlight of public and press scrutiny awaited him — to "careless mistakes."

The senators, so many of whom showed themselves to be towers of Jell-O in 2002 when they were stampeded into voting to take the country to war against Iraq by George W. Bush, are just as scared in 2009 about the dark economic night now gripping the country. They do not want to be seen as obstructionists who hamper any possible economic recovery by holding up the popular new president's choice at Treasury.

Barack Obama, knowing all these unanswered and uninspiring details, still went ahead, at the real risk of collateral political damage to his young presidency, and named Geithner to be secretary of the treasury. The president thus rejects the words of Charles DeGaulle and instead must believe that in Timothy Geithner he has found his indispensable man.

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at




2 Comments | Post Comment
Sir;....Thank you for this article, Mr. Shields...How much public honor can we expect from one who has proved to have no private honor??? One must presume that Mr. Geithner is Jewish, and as such was born with an instinctual, or innate understanding of Captialist economics....Look at how often these people have been done in by history with all affairs tossed into to the air, and yet they always land on their feet like so many cats... It must be instinct that makes their minds so nimble and quick.... So what does it tell you if this farsee of the economy does not want to put his money into social security or medicare??? Smart people put their money in the bank, or invest it; and others flush theirs down a social toilet where it will never be seen again...Social security has never been funded as it should have been...When the government borrowed against SS they paid not even the minimum of interest...Now; you are likely to see these money men means test social security until it is seen as only another public funded welfare program.... Could the truth be that to avert revolution and give people hope in the future of capitalism that the powerful and rich  made promises not one of them intented to keep???Could it be that so soon as the program was accepted they went about cutting the guts out of it, not funding it; and not making it certain, but instead kept the price low to inflate profits ??? That is what I think...Just another pap lie to tell the people... Another Ponzi...I don't want it means tested... The income tax was means tested...It was made to soak only the rich, and accepted because it justly soaked the rich;  but it has been used to pauperize the middle class... Certainly the rich don't need it...No one understands that fact better than they; so they have always resisted it... But if this country will make promises, it should keep them... Having paid my share dutifully; I can see that this was money out of my budget that I worked hard for... The amount my father paid was money taken from my generation, just as money I paid was taken from my children...Some of us should get it, sooner or later, with interest... You have to be able to see through their nonsense... If they say two people are supporting one on social security; so what??? One person can produce more than ten could only a few short years ago; and the price of that progress has always been denied to those who sweated it...And they knew that people were changing their behavior, having less children, and living longer...They could have adapted the program to meet the changes...That is a legitmate obligation of government....They did not do their jobs...They put the problems of tomorrow off for another day...And now it is here, and they want us to bear the cost... Timothy Geithner better be Merlin in a crash helmet... He better have a few Jewish brains cells in his head, or he may find he is secretary of a house of cards... Thanks...Sweeney
Comment: #1
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sat Jan 24, 2009 5:57 AM
Ah yes, the Jellocrats. I know that party well. That quivering mound that looks from some angles like a mountain after the Republicans have practically dug themselves down to China. Let's hope to God we don't see too many more Geithners, and next time that idiot Harry Reid offers an august opposition to THE WRONG WAY TO DO THINGS like he did to Blagojevich's Roland Burris, it will be time to bet big money on the absence of everything but jello in his spine.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Masako
Sun Jan 25, 2009 8:04 PM
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Mark Shields
Mark ShieldsUpdated 13 Feb 2016
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13 Feb 2016 Make America Great Again -- at Torture!