Originally Published: November 18, 2010 10:01 p.m.
If Congress can't agree on whether or not to censure one of its own for gross financial misconduct, better evidence that the entire system in Washington is rigged in favor of politicians and against John Q. Citizen would be impossible to produce.
The House ethics committee's chief counsel recommended Thursday that veteran Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) be censured. Rep. Rangel's record of financial and fundraising misconduct, at this moment in our nation's struggles, supercedes any of his past achievements as a sitting congressman since 1971.
You know the list by now. Tax evasion and acceptance of corporate-funded junkets rate the highest on Rep. Rangel's rap sheet. The average Joe has his favorite of Rep. Rangel's improprieties: Is yours the one when he copped to not paying taxes on rental income and instead blamed his wife and a language barrier? Or were you enraged the most when - in the thick of the recession in November 2008 - he led a Citigroup-funded congressional junket to the Caribbean? The list is tragically consistent. Arguably the most egregious is the fact that the man who once said a middle-class tax hike was "very possible" did not pay taxes on a Dominican Republic vacation villa for 17 years.
It's sad enough that Rep. Rangel chairs the House Committee on Ways and Means, which, for those who forgot their civics, is the committee with jurisdiction over all taxation.
Worse, though, is the timing. Crooked transgressions in Washington are as old as the Potomac, but the American people are now struggling through the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. We've been through enough bailouts now to recognize the blurred line between recovery aid and corporate payoffs. Because of a continuing increase in property taxes and sales taxes to offset government shortfalls, Americans are taking it in the pocketbook like never before. The public is wiser and far less apt to shrug off the predictable traditions of politicians' misconduct.
We're tired of the whole show, and if it means making a loud, blaring example out of a veteran congressman, that should be the easiest choice. The loudest censure in the history of the Hill should be clocked in record time.