My Itty-Bitty Protest

Tuesday, January 18, 2011, 07:04 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

The hoopla has died down, but back in the early days of the Obama administration, the tax problems of many of the President’s appointees were all over the news. Perhaps the most troubling example was Timothy Geithner, nominee for Secretary of the Treasury, who, despite the new President’s confidence in his ability to oversee the federal department that includes the Internal Revenue Service, had a less-than-stellar past where paying Uncle Sam was concerned.

(January 14, 2009) Timothy Geithner didn’t pay Social Security and Medicare taxes for several years while he worked for the International Monetary Fund, and he employed an immigrant housekeeper who briefly lacked proper work papers.

Those issues, and a series of other tax matters, scuttled a tentatively scheduled confirmation hearing Tuesday for Mr. Geithner as Treasury secretary, Senate Finance Committee aides said…

In 2006, the IRS audited Mr. Geithner’s 2003 and 2004 taxes and concluded he owed taxes and interest totaling $17,230, according to documents released by the Senate Finance Committee. The IRS waived the related penalties.

During the vetting of Mr. Geithner late last year, the Obama transition team discovered the nominee had failed to pay the same taxes for 2001 and 2002. “Upon learning of this error on Nov. 21, 2008, Mr. Geithner immediately submitted payment for tax that would have been due in those years, plus interest,” a transition aide said. The sum totaled $25,970.

That’s right, Geithner was audited and told he owed the taxes back in 2006, but he didn’t pay up until late 2008, after he knew he was going to be nominated for a cabinet position. And did you get the part about the penalty waiver? Try getting a similar deal from the feds if you’re not a well-connected big shot.

A few creative bloggers decided that if the new President himself wouldn’t stand up for what’s right and ditch his tax-evading nominee, then they would find other ways to punish him. One idea was to use the presence of Geithner’s signature on every Federal Reserve Note minted during his tenure as an opportunity to remind everyone about the caliber of people in charge of passing judgment on the rest of us. How? By buying a rubber stamp that says, “TAX CHEAT,” and stamping it over Geithner’s signature on every bill you can find. I, for one, thought that was a fabulous idea.

After the idea had made the blog circuit for a while, Glenn Reynolds published a warning by blogger Beldar advising that such a stunt might not exactly be legal under chapter 18, section 333 of the U.S. Code, which states:

Whoever mutilates, cuts, defaces, disfigures, or perforates, or unites or cements together, or does any other thing to any bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt issued by any national banking association, or Federal Reserve bank, or the Federal Reserve System, with intent to render such bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt unfit to be reissued, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.

As an slightly related aside, I am a long-time user of Where’s George? (and, when in Canada, its counterpart Where’s Willy?). Where’s George? is a nifty website that lets people enter and track bills they receive and then put back into circulation. When entering a bill in the database, the user also marks the bill with the web site address so that others who receive it, being curious about what the site is, might in turn enter it and add to its travel history. Whenever someone re-enters a bill, everyone who entered it before gets a notification and can see where it has gone. It’s great fun; my bills have been re-entered by people in 21 states, the District of Columbia, and Mexico. Money gets around.

Since I already periodically mark and enter my bills into the Where’s George? database, I realized it would be easy for me to take note of which ones were issued under Geithner and mark them accordingly, and that marking would in turn travel all over the country. So, Beldar’s legal warning notwithstanding, I have begun adding my own hand-written protest to bills I see with Geithner’s signature. Here’s an example of a bill with both Where’s George? and “tax cheat” marks:

One dollar bill - click to view larger

And here’s a close-up of the Geithner protest:

Geithner signature

Notice that, unlike what is shown on the web site, I have taken care to not write over the signature or any other part of the bill, leaving it fully fit “to be reissued.” I have also obscured the serial numbers on the image so no one can print it and make me an accomplice before the fact to counterfeiting. If the Secret Service decides to come after me anyway, well then, I guess I’ll just have to become the test case for the legality of this rather mild form of civil disobedience.

  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s