"Washington is abuzz over Treasury Secretary-designate Timothy Geithner's $34,000 self-employment tax 'mistake,'" said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. We'll have to wait for the confirmation hearing, now delayed, to find out how a reputed financial wizard could have overlooked his Self-Employment Tax liability for four years." Democrats insist this is no big deal, but if that's so maybe they'd consider an amnesty for everyone else who confesses to avoiding taxes only after getting caught.

It's hard to simply dismiss this as an honest mistake, said The New York Times in an editorial. Geithner had signed a document for his then-employer, the International Monetary Fund, acknowledging his obligation to pay self-employment taxes. He paid up when an audit showed he failed to do so in 2003 and 2004, but didn't volunteer that he had made the same mistake in 2001 and 2002. For a guy who'll be boss over the Internal Revenue Service, that's "a cavalier attitude" toward paying taxes.

"The complex rules that trip up financial sophisticates such as Geithner are a minefield for the honest and a gold mine for cheats," said Rosa Brooks in the Los Angeles Times. "It's long past time for Washington to whittle down the tax laws" to create "a system that simply raises the money needed to fund the government in a fair and equitable way. Then, perhaps, we can spend more time talking about nominees' expertise and less about their tax returns."