Yesterday's post noted the pressure on Rangel to resign as chair of the powerful Ways & Means taxwriting committee. This morning, he announced that he is taking a leave of absence while the ethics investigation continues. A replacement has not yet been announced.
This is as it should be. One of the problems of the four decades of GOP anti-government noisemaking starting with Reagan's "the government is the problem" (even while the GOP continued to expand government, of course) is the growing lack of trust among the public. When there is lack of trust, it is easier for money and power to hold sway, rather than harder. The public needs to understand the importance of government, and their role in ensuring the accountability of those who are part of the government. The investigation of wrongdoing and the public denunciation of those who do wrong are a vital part of that. Though nobody is perfect, and public servants should be given some slack for human error just as all of us should be, there are some breaches of faith that are simply too substantial to set aside when committed by those in office. Rangel's breaches of ethics in his tax reporting and travel gift reporting are examples of them.
Now let's also get on to holding others accountable as well. ('m thinking of people like Jim Bunning, the GOP senator who singlehandedly decided to keep poor unemployed people from receiving extensions of unemployment compensation by holding Congress hostage for a provision he wanted. That foolish-individual ability to kill legislation is symptomatic of a greater problem in Congress--when those representing a very few Americans prevent Congress from passing legislation supported by the vast majority of American citizens and that, indeed, can make the difference between life or death for the naysayers' own constituents, as health care reform and unemployment compensation can do.