The media are making much of the news that the US House of Representatives has decided to try Rep. Rangel, former chairman of the committee that writes tax legislation, and Rep. Maxine Waters, who leads the Congressional Black Caucus, on charges of misbehavior which could result in their being expelled from the House. Both of them have asserted their innocence vigorously and without the slightest sign of contrition.
One of the reasons the Republicans lost their majority in the House in 2008 was corruption - the media were full of Alaska Sen. Steven's $400 million "Bridge to Nowhere," for example. Nancy Pelosi campaigned on a promise to "drain the swamp" of corruption in Washington and promised the "most ethical Congress ever."
Our view was that her only objection to Republican corruption was that she wasn't in on it. The moment her party recaptured the majority, the Democrats started stealing our money with the same vigor as Republicans had. As a prominent Republican recently remarked, "the swamp is alive and well in Washington"; the only difference is that the media are more reluctant to write about corrupt Democrats than about corrupt Republicans.
We first heard of Rep. Rangel's tax evasion and other fiscal wrongdoings in the New York Times of September 9, 2008, nearly two years ago. Their article stated that Rep. Rangel didn't realize that he had to report the income he received from renting out his beach-front villa at $500 or more per night. Since then, he's been accused of violating New York rent control laws by having four low-priced rent-controlled apartments in the same building, and of shaking down large corporations for contributions by sending letters on House stationery.
Naturally, Rep. Rangel maintains that he's done nothing wrong. He is, however, not alone.
Both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times reported in March of 2009 that Rep. Waters had pressured Federal officials to give $12 million of TARP funds to the Boston-based OneUnited Bank in which her husband holds stock. If in fact OneUnited wasn't eligible for Federal funds, this would appear to be a crime in addition to a possible violation of House ethics rules. Mrs. Waters also maintains her innocence.
Both Rep. Rangel and Rep. Waters maintain that they've done nothing wrong in spite of doing things that would land ordinary people in jail. Commentators have mostly assumed that either they're right and the charges are false, or they're just lying to cover up.
There's another even more frightening possibility, however: what if they're telling the truth as they see it? In other words, what if the things they've done are in fact, not wrong as they understand right and wrong?
When Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who worked in LBJ's Department of Labor, wrote The Negro Family: The Case for National Action in 1965, he pointed out that the increasing number of out-of-wedlock births would undermine the Negro community. Liberals uniformly trashed him for "blaming the victim," for "imposing white values on Black people" and for "being insensitive to Black culture." The fact that the widespread abandonment of Black babies by their fathers is very bad for the Black community doesn't matter to liberals who insist that we must be sensitive to Black cultural norms no matter how self-destructive they might be.
That lesson wasn't lost on Boston University. When the Wall Street Journal reported on Nov 9, 1990 that scholars had found that more than half of Martin Luther King's doctoral dissertation had been copied from other people's writings without giving them credit, the university decided not to revoke his doctorate.
By the academic standards of the day, "Dr." King was a copyright criminal who stole others' ideas and presented them as his own, but Boston University decided that it wasn't fair to hold King to the same standards as every other scholar for the precise reason that he was Black and had a different tradition.
According to the postmodern logic of BU, in times past most Black Africans were illiterate and passed on ideas by "oral tradition." By definition, any "work of literature" passed on in this way can't help but build on the uncredited work of the storyteller's forebears. Expecting "Dr." King to adhere to white academic standards would have disrespected Black culture.
The bottom line? Having stolen ideas that weren't his, King retained a degree he hadn't earned.
The large number of high school and college students who routinely copy term papers off the internet would suggest that this practice is becoming the norm for white culture as well. Whether this practice is healthy for morals or scholarship remains to be seen, but clearly there is ample precedent for allowing renowned black leaders to violate centuries-established "white" norms.
Africa gave the world the concept of the "Big Man," someone who takes power and uses it shamelessly to advance his personal interests with no pretense of furthering the general good. From ancient times through today, African autocrats maintain power by permitting their associates to steal whatever they can from the public purse.
Far from serving the public, most of the purpose of going into African government "service" is to get better opportunities to steal. The story "Big Man Disease Killing Africa" which appeared in the Kenyan Daily Nation said:
The cult of the Big Man is the tap-root of Africa's suffering. That culture has to change- Africa's leaders should be the laughing stock of the world, and ordinary Africans should know it. Where is the satire, where the anger, where the mockery and derision, that these brutal boobies deserve?
It is patronizing to think these criminals and crackpots can't help it because they are black. They should be exposed to universal hatred, contempt and ridicule. We should sneer, rail and scoff, as we did with the leaders of apartheid South Africa. The populaces before whom these jackasses puff themselves up should know - that they are led by outcasts. [emphasis added]
Black culture as practiced in Africa states that it's OK for a government official to enrich himself by any means possible.
King Mswati of Swaziland has spent £500,000 on eight Mercedes cars with gold-plated number plates, £8 million on palaces for his 13 wives and £330,000 on his 36th birthday party. Swaziland received £15 million in aid in 2003. In other words, all of Swaziland's annual foreign aid is only enough to purchase about 45 birthday parties for the king!
As with plagiarism, this African practice of government officials enriching themselves and their families has spread to America. Even though Mr. Obama promised to end earmarks once he became President, the stimulus bill contained thousands of earmarks by which members of Congress or the Senate directed money to specific contractors, projects, nonprofits, or other well-connected recipients.
Although the ethics rules state that a member can't write an earmark for an organization in which he or she has a "financial interest," the rules also state explicitly that getting campaign contributions from an organization for which you've earmarked funds is not a "financial interest." That means it's perfectly OK for members to send our money to an organization from which they expect to get money back as bribes, except that they call them "campaign contributions" instead.
Predictably, the Congressional Black Caucus has publicly charged the investigations of Reps. Rangel and Waters as racist; the usual race-baiters like Al Sharpton are banging on the same drum. Most ordinary Americans view such ideas with derision, but by long-established standards applied to black leaders, they actually have a point.
It's clear that, when compared to what America has tolerated in the past, criticizing Rep. Waters for pressuring the Feds to give money to her husband's bank and Rep. Rangel shaking down various large companies for contributions is indeed disrespectful of Black culture. But what about Rep. Rangel's tax evasion? Don't even Africans expect to pay taxes?
In not paying his taxes due, Mr. Rangel is continuing a well-established tradition established by big-name Democrats. When Mr. Geithner, who's now Secretary of the Treasury, worked for the World Bank, the Bank withheld no income taxes from his salary because it is an international organization and cannot be required to do so.
Mr. Geithner personally was obliged to pay his own full taxes due, much like independent contractors and small businessmen, and he even signed papers acknowledging that he had been told that. Nevertheless, he "forgot" to pay the taxes.
When this came out, Mr. Obama said it was a "mistake"; Mr. Geithner simply wrote a check for what he should have paid years ago and called it even. Not being able to find any qualified Democrats who hadn't cheated on their taxes, the Senate confirmed him as Treasury Secretary.
So many of Obama's appointees were discovered to have skipped out on taxes that the subject became a long-running joke early in his administration. Despite the squawks, though, nothing much changed; the majority of the appointed crooks followed Geithner's example and sit in seats of power today.
In what way is what Rangel and Waters did any different from what dozens of white Democrats have done, and gotten away with? All lied and cheated on their taxes; all expressed no shame whatsoever. Yet Rangel and Waters, the blacks, are at some hazard to their careers, whereas the white guys aren't.
Clearly this is disparate impact, and by the standards that the Left applies to the rest of us, racism must be assumed. Again, the CBC and Sharpton's gang have a persuasive argument.
The bottom line seems to be that these representatives are being accused of crimes which they are convinced really aren't crimes, at least by modern American standards. As plagiarism seems to be ceasing to be a crime, could it be that our government has become so corrupt that stealing taxpayers money and extorting contributions is no longer considered to be wrong? Is it only OK for Black politicians to exercise "Black cultural norms" and steal from us? Or is it only OK for Democrats to do this regardless of their color?
We're already seeing signs that the "Big Man" theory of governance is coming to America. Instead of letting the law take its course, President Obama extorted $20 billion from BP and insisted that one of his political pals be put in charge of spending the money. The ethical code of the US House of Representatives states plainly that it's OK for members to receive bribes from people or organizations to whom they earmark money, although the regulations sugar-coat this blatant invitation to corruption by calling the payments "campaign contributions."
Perhaps Rep. Rangel and Rep. Waters are merely ahead of their time. It won't be the first time an innovator went to jail - Michael Milken, who invented the "junk bond" market, was put in jail for what are now standard financial transactions. If what we're seeing in Washington is what Mrs. Pelosi meant when she promised to "drain the swamp," it's time to throw all the rascals out.