Iowa Senator Tom Harkin says he’s still on the fence over how he’ll vote Monday on the nomination of the man President Obama wants as his treasury secretary. Reports say Timothy Geithner failed to pay taxes on $34,000 of income during recent years while he held a key position at the International Monetary Fund. Harkin, a Democrat, says he finds Geithner’s mistakes troubling.
Harkin says, "I am very concerned about his failure to pay his payroll taxes for a number of years while he worked for the IMF. Seems hard to understand how he could do that for several years, plus, if I’m not mistaken, when he was apprised of this and he volunteered to pay his taxes, he didn’t seem to be forthcoming about the fact that there was some previous taxes he hadn’t paid either."
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, voted against Geithner’s nomination this week, though the panel approved it and sent it on to the full chamber. Harkin says it’s clear Geithner’s made some careless errors.
"On the other side, I’m told he’s one of the most experienced people in working out complex financial problems," Harkin says. "That’s certainly an important skill. I’m still considering this but right now, I just don’t know." As head of the U.S. Treasury, Geithner would take the lead in the Obama administration’s efforts to rescue the nation’s ailing economy.
On another topic, Harin says he backs a Congressional proposal to delay next month’s planned switch to digital television broadcasts. The Iowa Democrat says too many TV watchers are still fuzzy on the change.
Harkin says, "A consumers report shows 63-percent of Americans are unclear about how it’s going to effect them. This is a significant change, going from analog to digital. There’s been a lot of ads on TV and stuff like that but quite frankly, there’s a lot of people out there who still don’t know how this is gonna’ work."
The switch is scheduled for February 17th, but the legislation Harkin supports would push it back a minimum of three months. He says coupons that offered people a rebate to buy a converter box so they could receive digital signals on analog TVs ended up being a disaster. At least one million people are on the waiting list for coupons and there’s a deep backlog of requests for the converter boxes.
"Those coupons were valid for 90 days however a lot of people didn’t get them," Harkin says."They weren’t able to use them prior to the expiration date. There was a lack of boxes in stock at local retailers. I think a delay is what we need."
Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley has introduced a bill to address the backlog of coupon requests, allowing people who haven’t gotten them to claim a one-time credit of up to $80 on their 2009 tax returns.
Anyone with cable or satellite TV, or a new set that uses the digital signal, won’t have to worry about a converter box. The number of Iowa households that rely on broadcast-only TV is around 225,000, or nearly one-fifth of the population.