Congressman Charlie Rangel (D-NY) is about as corrupt and arrogant a bully as ever bellied up to the public trough. But thanks to the crushing power he wields as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, you’ll find few folks willing to call him on his sins. That makes the one-two punch the New York Times and the Washington Post delivered this last week all the more remarkable. Either Rangel has exceeded his standard wickedness so flamboyantly that Leviathan’s mouthpieces can no longer bury his evil, or he enraged someone even more powerful into siccing the Times and Post on him. Whatever, let’s hope the twin blows are enough to knock him out of the Congressional seat he’s exploited for 19 terms.
On July 11, the usually gutless New York Times revealed that Rangel leases four rent-stabilized apartments in one of Harlem’s most luxurious buildings. He combined three of them into a home so opulent that a recent book on interior design devotes several pages to it; he turned the fourth into a campaign office.
This has New York City in an uproar. Its rent-control laws permit each tenant only one such cut-rate apartment, and it must be his "primary residence." No living elsewhere and keeping the apartment for occasional visits to the City, no converting it into a storeroom or office, even for campaigns. But — and can’t you just see the legislators grinning at this little loophole? — such usages and multiple rent-controlled leases become illegal only when a landlord objects. Believe me, landlords object — unless the offender is a powerful politician who can put them out of business.
Rent-control has cursed New York since World War II, when it transferred decisions about where and how residents will live from us to the legislature. But tenants don’t see it that way. Instead, they rejoice that politicians save them from a horror more dreaded than terrorists: free-market rents. And politicians rejoice that tenants, who vastly outnumber landlords in the voting pool, are that gullible. Ergo, Our Rulers force certain entrepreneurs to subsidize some of the apartments they lease. Exactly which landlords, buildings and even apartments within those buildings depends on so many variables that it keeps battalions of lawyers in court. At the end of the war, some apartments rent for only a fraction of what the same space across the hall costs. The landlord eats the difference.
This immorality produces a host of evils so obvious you would expect even the City’s illiterate public-school graduates to understand them. For example, New York’s legislature endows tenants with more rights to the apartment than the owner, including the rights to inherit and to retain the lease indefinitely. That puts many wealthy folks in flats their late parents rented for years while homeless families wander the streets. Nor is this the only way rent-control victimizes those on life’s lowest rungs. Poor people who do manage to snag a cheap apartment find it acts as a barrier to their moving up, first into a better place and eventually to a home of their own: even folks who can finally afford it balk at paying $2000 per month for comparable space in a nicer area instead of their current $350. It’s much easier to sue sleazy slumlords who don’t heat the building or replace frayed wiring — though landlords who aren’t subsidizing rents have the funds and the incentive to provide not only necessities but amenities. No wonder landlords resent the legalized thieves masquerading as tenants; in turn, the parasites hate their host because he isn’t giving them even more. A couple of landlords have actually killed rent-controlled tenants to end their decades of sponging. Trust politicians and their socialist laws to pervert a mundane situation like renting an apartment into a dangerous nightmare.
Rangel is one of rent-control’s biggest champions. He routinely condemns landlords for expecting tenants to support themselves like adults. Apparently, entrepreneurs ought to invest in apartment buildings while paying water, heat, electricity, insurance and tax bills for the sheer joy of housing their fellow man. Anyone hard-nosed enough to charge rent evicts "hardworking families… We are not going to have people pushed out," Rangel blusters. "We are not going to see our community die just because of the greed of the real estate industry.” Meanwhile, Rangel’s greed impoverishes not just communities but an entire nation: he pulls down "$169,300 base pay" for lording it over us, which princely sum he’s voted to increase time and again. And that’s to say nothing of the ruinous taxation his committee imposes.
Nor have we exhausted this charlatan’s iniquity. Though investment of capital and hard work stocks the rental market with apartments, Rangel lauds legislation he wrote for adding "over 6500 affordable [rental] units" to northern Manhattan. He’s taking them off the market at a good clip, too, given the quartet he’s hogging. That despite "the colony of homeless living under [a] railroad trestle [near Rangel’s apartment], including Junior Carter, 53, a former printer, who sat in a wheelchair with all his belongings on the street and said he would be happy to take one of Mr. Rangel’s apartments. u2018I ain’t got a room right now," he said. u2018I ain’t got nothing…" Ah, the ironies of rent-control: politicians with a millionaire’s net-worth and second homes in the Dominican Republic collect rent-controlled apartments like stamps while the handicapped squat beneath bridges.
"Two-faced, lying, thieving scum" hardly does credit to Rangel and his double standards. Still, he’s hoarded his apartments for 20 years: why did his fellow-travelers at the Times decide to out him now?
We’ll presume our hypocritical hustler was still reeling at their betrayal when lo and behold, the Washington Post chimed in with more evidence of his venality. It seems Chairman Charlie has been leaning on corporations with matters pending before Ways and Means to contribute to his favorite "charity" — named for himself, predictably enough: the "Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service" at the City College of New York. A "project," the Post helpfully adds, that "Republican critics dubbed…Rangel’s u2018Monument to Me.'”
It’s monumentally racist, too. A spokeswoman for the College announced, “This is an effort to make sure that America’s government looks like America" — or at least like its Black Congressional Caucus. It’s also an effort at indoctrinating students in Leviathan’s logic. The "Monument’s" website promises to achieve both goals by training "members of under-served communities" (code for, "Yo, Whitey, don’t bother applying") in the scam politicians and their academic sidekicks now dignify as "public service."
Whatever our color, we poor saps have already "contributed" to this boondoggle. Rangel "won a $1.9 million congressional earmark to help start it" last year as well as "two Department of Housing and Urban Development [HUD] grants totaling $690,500." Rangel grabs grants out of poor people’s hands as eagerly as he does rent-stabilized apartments. The money HUD steals from us on behalf of the politically-connected is "supposed to finance housing and public facilities rehabilitation and construction for the benefit of low- to moderate-income people." But in this case it will fund City College’s “planning, design, construction, renovation and build out” of the "Monument to Me." Nor does the rapacious Rangel shy from picking our pockets further: “I will be trying again to get earmarks.” But hey, it’s for a good cause: “It is a personal dream of mine to see this Center at City College," he rasped, "which resides in my congressional district…" Touching, isn’t it? And so long as Rangel realizes his "personal dream," it’s worth losing your house because you blew the mortgage money on taxes.
Rangel is an indefatigable revenuer who refuses to rest content just because he’s plundered the public’s purse. He’s also shaken down his corporate cronies for about $9 million of the $30 million the "Monument to Me" requires. But his victims defended the chairman of Congress’ most intimidating committee when his pungent ethics set the Post to snorting. One CEO who personally ponied up $500,000 and then matched it from his company’s coffers alleged, "I don’t need any special favors that I’m aware of." The infamous Donald Trump hasn’t yet written a check for the "Monument"; perhaps he’s hoping a fulsome falsehood will save him some dough: “Charlie Rangel is the most honorable, honest politician in Washington…" That’s not the lie, of course: given the rascals infesting Congress, The Donald’s undoubtedly right. Here’s the whopper: "…and, frankly, anything he’s concerned with is 100 percent straight up.” Yeah, just like The Donald’s hair.
Rangel’s partner in crime, Rachelle Butler, testified to his probity as well. Rachelle is a "vice president for development" at City College, which means our taxes pay her to raise money beyond what the school swipes from what the State swipes from us. “As far as Congressman Rangel goes," she announced, "starting with his war record and through 40 years of public service, he’s a man of great integrity and he’s proved over and over again his dedication to the public good. He’s a giant today.”
Oh, he’s a giant, all right — of arrogance. When a reporter asked Rangel "whether he thought the publicity about his apartments would harm his chances for re-election or put any pressure on him to resign," Rangel "dismissed the question with sarcasm. u2018Yeah, I’ll have to give that some serious thought,’ he said. u2018Yes, I may give up the chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee and give up the seat I’ve had for 38 years and say, u2018Whoa, whoa, whoa, how could this happen to me?’" Rangel answered another question by "scold[ing]," "Are you doing this deliberately or are you just stupid?" Is it me, or does that sound like a threat?
Meanwhile, Rangel’s "grateful that the GI Bill [sic for u2018money the Feds stole from you and gave to me’] provided me — a poor high school dropout… — with the education to become a lawyer and to eventually make my way to Congress where my position on the Ways and Means Committee is allowing me to make a difference in the lives of my constituents, friends and neighbors."
It’s time those constituents returned the favor by making a difference in his.
Becky Akers [send her mail] writes primarily about the American Revolution.