Gary Harmon Column January 29, 2009

Obama’s in charge and it’s ssssssweeeeet!

The Age of Obamious is upon us, and there really is only one word to describe it:

The age got off to a roaring start with the appointment of Timothy Geithner as secretary of the treasury, which is the position, as we learned from the last administration, that has control over the big safe where all the money is kept.

Er, was kept.

Anyway, it seems Secretary Geithner is perfectly suited to represent all American strata in that he’s a highly educated, internationally traveled, well-groomed Eastern banker type who could fit nicely into any number of organizations dedicated to the proposition that the feds ain’t got no bidness collectin’ taxes.

Yes, our new treasury secretary seems to have some documented difficulties with both the tax code and the notion of separation of his and theirs.

Back when he was scraping by as a lowly international banker, he worked for the International Monetary Fund, a caring organization that paid its employees in full.

The IMF didn’t withhold state and federal income taxes or self-employment taxes such as Social Security and Medicare from its employees’ paychecks.

Instead, the IMF gave employees an annual, one-time allowance that was supposed to go to the government.

Employees, Geithner included, signed forms promising to make the government whole.

Geithner signed the form and pocketed the dough. The money stayed in his pocket until there was serious talk about him getting the keys to the really big safe.

Then he ponied up. Sort of. Seems that the statute of limitations had expired for two of the four years, and so he wanted to hold onto that cash until he was shamed into writing a check for the full amount.

We should all feel good about the fact Geithner glommed onto Uncle Sam’s slice of his pie.

It suggests the new treasury secretary believes the money is actually worth something.

These days, that’s what passes for reassurance.

Willie Sutton used to rob banks because “that’s where the money is.” It’s a good thing Willie didn’t know he was qualified to be treasury secretary.

Geithner can’t do too much harm, though. It’s not like he wants to run the Secret Service or anything.

Oh. Wait. The Secret Service is an arm of Treasury.

So what next? By his own standards, Geithner could appoint John Hinckley, what with his rare perspective on Secret Service operations, to be in charge of the guys who pack heat for the prez.

And what of poor Bill Richardson, languishing in Santa Fe and wondering what might have been?

Richardson was all set to ditch that jerkwater burg and head back to the bright lights of D.C. with a cool title, secretary of commerce.

And then somebody found out that a grand jury was interested in whether Richardson had financial relations with a political contributor.

Richardson withdrew, presumably after being pushed. Had he known where the bar would be set, he might have hung on.

For the rest of us, who needs hope and change when there’s self-dealing, tax-dodging, double-billing and, oh, a little pardon-selling going on?

Forget Washington. We’re all south-side Chicagoans now.

Nothing’s off the board anymore, except maybe Steve Bartman for commissioner of baseball.



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