The lame-duck session of Congress, and the president's deficit commission debacle, illustrate what happens as a result of such vice and incompetence.
In short, they're flying this plane into the sheer cliffs of a mountain of debt -- sure to bail out themselves before impact.
A 40-year New York congressman, Rangel, as of Thursday only the 23rd member of the House of Representatives in history to be shamed by a formal censure from his colleagues, represents all the toxic elements of a careerist Congress: limitless self-aggrandizement; nest-feathering and profiteering; imperiously living above the rules they set for others; skirting tax laws and more.
Until recently the influential chairman of the all-powerful House Ways and Means Committee, Rangel evaded taxes for 17 years on rental income from property in the Dominican Republic; he lied about his assets in congressional disclosure forms for 10 years; he used congressional resources to solicit "donations" to a center at the City College of New York named after him; he sought "donations" from businesses and foundations that had congressional business before his committee; and the list goes on.
Yet, even after the remarkable but mostly symbolic censure -- and despite the fact that an ordinary citizen might be in prison for such behavior -- Rangel, like the sovereign he believes himself to be, posed as a victim, a good guy, an innocent man who was "found not guilty of corruption and self dealing."
Rangel's alarming self-delusion could be fodder for both political science and psychological text books.
Here is your poster child for term limits, friends.
And Mr. Rangel is not alone. The level of naked corruption in Washington is matched only by the arsenic upon which these life forms draw sustenance for precious self-perpetuation. In some cases, entrenched members of Congress must be carried out on a gurney.
In the meantime, the damage from a self-serving ruling class continues to mount.
The lame-duck session of Congress is fiddling while our economy burns: Democrats' insistence on tinkering with other major social issues (without so much as an evidentiary hearing or two), and their lust for class warfare (in proposing huge tax increases on the job-creating class) is putting us all at risk.
U.S. News and World Report warns that Congress' continued failure to decide whether to extend the so-called Bush tax cuts "will spark a stock market sell-off starting Dec. 15 as investors move to lock in gains at a lower rate than the 20 percent it would jump to next year ...
"While it is unclear how bad the sell-off could be, it could wipe out the year's gains, (analysts) warn."
If some in Congress are thinking they can avoid the problem by passing retroactive legislation in January, after procrastinating now, they're mistaken: Experts say investors won't wait for the hope of belated tax cuts next session; they'll sell now.
More bad news: The president's 18-member blue-ribbon deficit commission failed Friday to reach the 14-vote threshold needed to send its ambitious deficit-cutting package to Congress for one-vote approval. Website Politico.com warned of the failure in advance, notably citing the intransigence of commission members who were appointed by current members of Congress. Former politicians, business people and others on the commission were much more courageous.
That -- and Charlie Rangel -- tells you everything you need to know about the state of leadership in this country today.