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Time For Tim Geithner to Step Down, Too

Tuesday, 3 Feb 2009 | 4:13 PM ET
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner
cnbc.com
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner

Now that Tom Daschle has withdrawn his nomination for health secretary because of his failure to pay taxes, and Nancy Killefer, who was appointed chief performance officer and deputy OMB director, has also withdrawn because of non-payment of taxes, it is time for Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner to do exactly the same.

Geithner never answered the question put to him by senators Kyl and Bunning: Would he have paid his back taxes if he were not nominated to run the Treasury?

His issue has never been resolved.

He will never have the full trust of the country.

Consider this: Daschle said today that he would not have been able to lead a reform of the nation’s health-care system “with the full faith of Congress and the American people.” Well, Geithner will not be able to lead a reform of the nation’s financial system either. Mr. Geithner will not have the full faith of the American people or Congress, where 31 no votes were cast against his nomination — by far the largest nay vote for a post-WWII Treasury secretary.

Ms. Killefer was appointed chief performance officer to monitor the incredible spending increases now under consideration for the so-called stimulus package. Similarly, Geithner is the chief performance officer of the U.S. economy. What does it say about him, that he neglected to pay taxes?

What does it say to ordinary Americans that Geithner was in effect a tax cheat right up to the point he was appointed to one of the highest offices in the land? Will he ever be trusted? It is doubtful.

For all of Mr. Geithner’s apparent skills and knowledge and other professional qualifications, he still has a tremendous ethical problem. Pres. Obama has made much of the need for a new era of responsibility and ethics.

Obama is right.

But Mr. Geithner is wrong.

He should follow Daschle and Killefer by submitting his resignation.

This is a matter of personal character and accountability. It is a matter of honesty. Too many of our leaders suffer big deficits in these areas.

Pres. Obama should wipe the slate clean with a Geithner resignation. No one is irreplaceable. There are no supermen. In fact, somewhat ironically, new commerce secretary Judd Gregg would make an excellent Treasury secretary.

It is time for Mr. Geithner to step down.

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  • Lawrence Kudlow is a CNBC senior contributor. Previously, Kudlow was anchor of CNBC's prime-time program "The Kudlow Report"