Sunday, December 05, 2010

A Totally Corrupt and Dysfunctional Government

The Independent Report seeks to analyze economic events in an apolitical manner. The goal is objectivity, an unbiased analysis and, well, independence.

So much of what passes for news these days is highly politicized, and the goal here is to analyze and dissect economic developments minus the political spin, and absent any particular ideology.

Normally, The Independent Report doesn't focus on politics. In fact, politics is typically avoided because of the ugly circus that it is.

It is clear is that our political system is broken in many ways. Washington appears quite divided and highly partisan.

But one political event (or, rather, charade) occurred this week that is worth mentioning because it revealed just how broken, how corrupt, and how dysfunctional our government truly is. And it also revealed that, when push comes to shove, Congress isn't nearly as divided as we're typically led to believe.

Once again, Congress proved that it is an old boys network whose members even include women. And that club takes care of its own, no matter how egregious, how unscrupulous, how unethical, or how illegal its members behaviors are.

This week, the House of Representatives chose to merely censure Rep. Charles Rangel, despite behavior that should have led to his expulsion, arrest and prosecution.

The 80-year-old Democrat admitted he had failed to pay all his taxes, filed misleading financial statements, and improperly sought money from corporate interests in exchange for a college center bearing his name.

That's typically known as tax evasion, taking bribes, a quid pro quo, and an abuse of one's power and authority. And all of it is illegal, in addition to unethical.

Last month, the House ethics committee found Rangel guilty of 11 of 13 charges of financial misdeeds, overwhelming evidence of his misconduct and guilt.

Yet, the chairman of the ethics committee, Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, said Rangel simply "violated the public trust." However, it's far more accurate to say he violated the law — in numerous ways.

Despite this fact, Rangel's colleagues chose to merely censure him, which amounts to a slap on the wrist.

It was only the 23rd time in the nation's history that a House member has been censured. Yet, there is no real punishment, other than to say, "Mr. Congressman, this will go down on your permanent record."

What a sham. What an injustice.

Rangel's many friends and staunch allies in the House — including members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the New York delegation — tried to reduce the punishment to a simple reprimand, though that effort failed. But it didn't really matter. The punishment is the same; nothing at all.

Clearly, Congress protects its own, just like cops do.

Even Rangel's constituents seemed to care little about his conduct or the charges against him. Rangel was re-elected to a 21st term last month with more than 80 percent of the vote despite being under an ethics cloud for more than two years.

Despite the overwhelming evidence of his guilt — which was the opinion of his colleagues — Rangel hubristically argued that censure is reserved for corrupt politicians — and he's not one of them. That reveals the height of Rangel's delusion and arrogance.

The reality is that Rangel ignored rules of conduct and avoided paying his taxes despite his knowledge of tax law due to his long service on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. In other words, Rangel knew the rules because he helped write them. He also thought he knew how to circumvent them. How precious is that?

Rangel chaired that panel until last March, when he stepped down after the committee — in a separate case — found that he improperly allowed corporations to finance two trips to Caribbean conferences.

That is simply stunning. Rangel was booted from the committee on separate charges! This is a man who is utterly and consistently corrupt, and who is devoid of any decency or ethics.

Rangel shortchanged the IRS for 17 years by failing to pay taxes on income from his rental unit in a Dominican Republic resort. He filed misleading financial disclosure reports for a decade, leaving out hundreds of thousands of dollars in assets he owned.

He used congressional letterheads and staff to solicit donations for a monument to himself: a center named after him at City College of New York. The donors included businesses and their charitable foundations that had issues before Congress and, specifically, before the Ways and Means Committee. That's called a conflict of interest.

Rangel also set up a campaign office in the Harlem building where he lives, despite a lease specifying the unit was for residential use only.

The representative is obviously a man of enormous ego and hubris. He believes he is as important as he is powerful.

But instead of expelling Rangel and ordering his prosecution, his Congressional colleagues chose to merely censure him. Besides the embarrassment, censure carries no practical effect. The next level of punishment was expulsion, and yet Congress stopped short of that. In the process, it stopped short of assuring justice.

It is abundantly clear that Congress is a kangaroo court and that it cannot — will not — police itself. It is an elitist old boys network, where they all watch each others' backs. Congress is a totally corrupt institution and it is plainly despicable.

Like any other American citizen who is convicted of such charges, Rangel should be in jail. But instead he remains a Congressman. How disgusting.

This is what passes for justice in America. It clearly proves that there are two justice systems in the land of the free and the home brave; one for the powerful and connected, and one for everybody else.

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