Sunday, September 07, 2008

The noblesse oblige life of an 18-term Congressional committee head.

On top of having four rent stabilized apartments ... and not reporting $75,000 of rental income from a Caribbean villa ... that he owned using an interest-free mortgage obtained through one of his fellow NYC power brokers ... now yet another scandal threatens Democratic law-maker Charlie Rangel. Yes, the Chairman of Congress's Ways and Means Committee that writes the nation's tax laws (unreported income and interest-free loans?), elected from my very own home borough of Manhattan! ...

You may not realize it, but members of the House of Representatives can lease a car and have it paid for by you -- the taxpayer. And it's not just the car, but gas, registration, insurance … the works ... there's no limit on how much they can spend.

Congressman Charles Rangel was recently seen getting out of his Cadillac DeVille, which he leases for $774 per month...

Members of the House who choose to lease through the program have had a great deal of leeway. Congressman Anthony Weiner of Brooklyn, for example, leases a 2008 Chevy impala for $219/month....

Rangel spoke to CBS 2 HD by phone about the seemingly extravagant expenses being racked up on the taxpayers' dime:

CBS 2 HD: "How would you answer those people who say, 'Well, but it's taxpayer money. Instead of $700 a month, could you find something for, say, $300 a month?'"

Rangel: "I could probably ... and then I think my constituents would say, 'With all the money that he gets, this is the respect he shows us?' ... It really pleases me that (my constituents) appreciate driving in a comfortable car, especially the senior citizens ... it's an important part of doing my job and my constituents appreciate it."
Ah, that's our Charlie! OK, it's not the car, that's not much compared to all the rest -- it's the attitude he takes to it that makes the man special to all of us here.

He's obliged to indulge his comfort on so many others peoples' dimes for his constituents, so we can proud of him. For us!

That's pretty much the attitude he had in his no apologies defense of having those four apartments. "They're legal! (Well, three of them, anyway. Because the walls between them were torn down to connect them into a single primary residence. But the one he used as an office -- not so legal.) So why apologize? Flaunt 'em, baby". Which he has long done hosting "notorious" parties that have had "every political journalist in the city in these apartments". Which raises the interesting question of just who's decided to "out" Charlie now through this campaign of exposés, and why. But that's a 'nother story.

As an aside to this one, a powerbroker having four rent-controlled apartments is just the sort of thing that rent control can be expected to produce with regularity.

Of course, the purported purpose of rent control, as endlessly repeated by its advocates, is to preserve the number of low-cost apartments for low-income individuals

What actually results from it is is hoarding of apartments -- people do well by collecting things that cost less than their value -- that reduces the number of apartments on the market, and thus increases the market cost of housing to those who don't have it but need it.

Moreover, because of all the arcane rules and regulations in rent-control systems, the hoarding tends to take place not by "low-income" types, but by those well enough off to know how to game the system and have connections.

As it happens, the building hosting Rep. Rangel's four apartments also is the rent-stabilized home of Governor Patterson, and of host of other New York political figures. What a coincidence!

And while the landlords of New York are well-known for bribing and harassing and using every means at their disposal to get rent-regulated tenants out of their buildings all over the city, it never happens at Lenox Towers. Go figure.

Well, in 2008 (so far) Rep. Rangel has collected $400,000 in campaign donations from real estate interests, so maybe his rent stabilization discount and that Caribbean villa are the least of things.

But does he really have to burn all that gasoline driving a Caddy DeVille? For that, some Democrats might actually get mad at him!