New York Rep. Charlie Rangel has stepped aside from the House Ways and Means Committee. Under fire the past two years for various ethics and tax controversies, Rangel is likely at the end of his political career. To put him in proper perspective, Rangel is the first black to hold a seat on Ways and Means, has been a representative since 1971 (assuming Adam Clayton Powell Jr.’s seat), and is 79 years old. A Korean war veteran, attorney, and champion of civil rights, he has had a tremendous impact on the social fabric of the United States. A lifetime of public service, now embroiled in controversy that overshadows even his role in the Nixon impeachment proceedings.
Congress critters are now busy looking for his replacement on the committee. Their actions are somewhat funny, reminding me of “The Sidestep” song and dance Charles Durning performed as the Governor in “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” Their prancing about can be understood—as Ways and Means is one of the most powerful committees in Congress. It is responsible for creating all of the taxation and revenue raising policy for the federal government, and oversees things like Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, and most federally funded welfare programs. No small potatoes.
Rangel is not the first chairman to run off the tracks—many will remember the horrid comedy of Wilbur Mills and stripper Fanne Fox. A hopeful parallel here is that Mills went off to a successful private career of working with alcoholics and practicing law. He too had been in office for 38 years and chairman for 18 years (compared to Rangel at 39 years and 3 years, respectively). Folks, that’s just too damned long for anyone to be in elected office. Continue reading “You Kids Get Off the Grass” »