Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What's Good for the Goose...

Representative Charles Rangel (D), the House Ways and Means Committee chairman -- you know, the committee that writes the tax laws -- well, he owes a lot of money in back taxes, but he is now wanting to impose "double penalties" on the rest of us even if we make honest mistakes.

Somehow, he conveniently didn't report rental income from his vacation home he's owned in the Caribbean since 1988. He has now disclosed $75,000 in income over the past five years only, but what about those other years? His excuse for failure to pay his fair share on this income was: "While over the years I delegated to my staff the completion of my annual House financial disclosure statements, I had the ultimate responsibility." Ya think?

But there's more discrepancies in Mr. Rangel's income reporting. Seems he, or someone else, found somewhere between a half million and three-quarters of a million dollars tucked away in a checking account. Hmmm? That's not easy to forget about since you get monthly statements on this type of account, right? DOH! So he's now disclosed some of these "mistakes", but has he adjusted his income and revised his tax return and paid any additional taxes that were due, not to mention the penalties?

Wait, that's not all. There are some questions about nondisclosure of his sizable investments in JP Morgan, Merrill Lynch, Oppenheimer and BlackRock. WHAT? And what about not paying property taxes on a couple lots he owns in New Jersey that have been valued at "as much as" $15,000 each. Where can you buy land anywhere in the northeast at that price? Really, I'd like to know.

So, Mr. Rangel wants to punish you with double penalties for not paying all your taxes, even if there was an honest mistake made. And guess what, he's trying to get that clause slipped into the healthcare bill. Give me a break! Give us all a break! Everything gets back to that albatross healthcare bill, doesn't it?

I guess that's because this healthcare bill is so complex, no one would notice. You think? And since we already know members of Congress have a Golden Parachute in regards to their own healthcare and they won't be affected by this bill, perhaps the new IRS penalties wouldn't either?

Under the Congress's healthcare plan, they have full coverage and no out of pocket expenses. Yet, they are wanting the rest of us to have this healthcare plan that, when restructured according to their imposed guidelines, will produce reduced care quality. Never mind philosophically, just logistically that's true. You cannot provide the same quality health care we presently are getting to the majority of people when you add 45, 46, 47 million people (depending on which politician you listen to). There aren't enough doctors available. The daily calendars of doctors are already triple booked, as you can attest to by your long waits already. It stands to reason that you can't force that many more people into the system without additinonal doctors. Ah -- but I digress. Sorry.

As questions about Representative Rangel's tax indiscretions was coming to light, Republican Congressional leaders called for him to be replaced as chairman of Ways and Means saying that Mr. Rangel's tax indiscretions had grown to the point where he "cannot effectively carry out his duties as chairman."

In a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D), Rep. John Boehner (R), the House Minority leader, wrote, "You, as the speaker of the House, must insist that Representative Rangel step down from his Ways and Means chairmanship pending an investigation of his ethical lapses." Her response through a spokesperson was, "The American people would be better served if Republicans would stop playing politics and allow the bipartisan ethics committee to do its job." Well, I'd like to see them actually do their job! Perhaps they're impeded by their own unethical behaviors or perhaps they're indentured in some way to their own parties. Whatever the issues may be, it takes an enormous amount of time to act against a member of the House, the resulting penalties for offense have generally amounted to a slap on the wrist or a censure. OUCH! That hurts, right? And the IRS doesn't even seize their assets.

And let's not forget that there's plenty of Senators that need to be investigated and properly reprimanded as well. Unethical behavior is not occurring in just one party; it's both. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives have their share of offenders and they need to be held accountable. They have got to realize that they are not above the laws that they have imposed on the country at large.

So, I'm declaring that Congress has got to be reigned in. Let me reiterate that. Congress has got to be reigned in and held accountable. They have gotten so far out there that they aren't even orbiting the rest of us. They must be made to realize that they are not immune to prosecution for violations of the very laws they have written and enacted.

You know what? Congress works for us, the people. They really do. And most of them, because of having held office so long, have forgotten that. So, it's no wonder they feel as if they can write their "own ticket". They have learned how to fly just under the radar as they build wealth and political power. They get in bed with lobbiests. They barter their votes.... our votes.... for political gain. It's just wrong. It's all wrong. It's really unethical behavior all around. We must demand that they represent us and not the interests of lobbyists or their colleagues. Why are we allowing this behavior to continue?

Besides our own complacency, what gives Congressional members who violate the very laws they enacted immunity against prosecution? What gives them a lesser penalty than what we would be charged? In regards to these issues like Rangel's, it is up to us to get tough on Congress and demand that they adhere to these laws that they are imposing on us? All the laws. And if they don't, we need to make sure that the Ethics Committee will follow through with appropriate action. We all should be held responsible for our own actions and face the consequences for our irresponsible behavior. No one, regardless of who they are and what position they hold should get a free pass. This preferential treatment given to office holders in Washington, DC has got to stop! This has got to stop - now!

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