Geithner Admits Fault On Taxes, Defends Bailout

The man President Obama has picked to head the Treasury, Timothy Geithner, is appearing before the Senate Finance Committee this morning. The panel is deciding whether to recommend confirming Geithner, who was most recently the head of the New York Federal Reserve Bank.

The hearing had been delayed after Geithner acknowledged that he failed to pay tens of thousands in Social Security taxes.

As NPR's Jim Zarroli tells Steve Inskeep, Geithner admitted that avoiding the tax payments was his fault — but that he had not done so on purpose. The mistakes came from tax-preparation software, he said.

"These were careless mistakes, they were avoidable mistakes but they were unintentional," Geithner said. "I should have been more careful."

As the chief of the New York Federal Reserve, Geithner was closely involved with the bank bailout that Congress approved last year. But he refused to apologize for controversial aspects of the bailout.

Of the bailout, Geithner said, "Senators, the ultimate cost of this crisis will be greater if we do not act with sufficient strength now. In a crisis of this magnitude, the most prudent course is the most forceful course."

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