Roger L. Simon

Rangel: Corruption for Mr. Every Congressman

Political corruption is as old as politics and crosses party lines as easily as the proverbial chicken crosses the road. Everyone knows that except some Internet trolls (see amusing examples in posts below) who assume because you criticize a politician in one party you think politicians in the other are exempt from criticism. Yawn.

I add that preface because I am interested why Charlie Rangel – who happens to be a Democrat – has been able to maintain his position as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, despite being so publicly corrupt. Now admittedly Rangel is a smalltime chiseler – a tax cheat of the garden variety sort, no Madoff by a long shot. But he is the US Congressman who chairs the committee that oversees the writing of our tax laws. Even so, a huge majority of his peers (most Democrats and even some Republicans) voted to allow him to continue in this position yesterday, during the investigation of his malfeasance, however many millennia that might take.

I suppose the excuse given by his defenders is indeed that this is still under (endless) investigation. In such circumstances, however, the normal thing would be to suspend his chairmanship until such time as a final decision is made. I imagine if you polled the public, you would get such a reaction by a large margin. Not from our Congress. Sleaze is fine with them. Is it because they don’t fear the public or have a majority of them been playing the same corrupt games themselves? When will they act like grown-ups? When Burnham Wood comes to Dunsinane? [That happened.-ed. Read your MacBeth. Okay, when Chicago comes to Rio.]

Perhaps the solution is serious public humiliation. Instead of being stripped of committee chairmanships or similar punishments, corrupt public officials should be stripped literally. I remember reading somewhere in Thomas Hardy – I think it was The Mayor of Casterbridge – that in rural England of that time adulterers were stripped and tied on carts, to be paraded naked in front of the entire community. It was called a “skimmity ride.” How about “skimmity rides” for corrupt Congress critters (no, not adulterers – the real deal)?

[We could start with Rangel and Murtha.-ed. Deserved but we need at least one Republican. Too bad Tom Delay’s out of office. He’s been punishing himself, breaking his foot on ‘Dancing with the Stars.”)