"I was in South Carolina recently and a (black) guy brought me his grandson and said he was so excited to have the kid shake the hand of the chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. And the kid grabbed my hand and asked, 'What was the Ways and Means Committee?' And the grandfather said, 'I don't know but it's awesome.'"
-- Charles Rangel,
quoted in National Journal
WASHINGTON -- On the eve of the Democrats' capture of the House in the 2006 elections, Rangel, the Harlem congressman, was asked if he would want to be addressed as Mr. Chairman. He replied, "I don't want to be treated any differently than any other world leader." He has a sense of humor as well as a sense of his place at the epicenter of the debate that will rage as the Bush tax cuts approach expiration in 2010.
At 22, Rangel was a high school dropout pushing a hand truck in Manhattan's garment district, but he also was a war hero -- the "since" in the title of his memoir "And I Haven't Had a Bad Day Since" means since Korea. By 30, he was a high school, college and law school graduate. At 77, the ebullient legislator has opened the tax debate with a proposal that suggests something startling: Regarding two matters, Rangel is a Reaganite. Ronald Reagan opposed using the tax code "as a means of achieving changes in our social structure." Rangel -- in his 19th term, a man of House proprieties -- says "I don't think the tax code should be a substitute for the appropriations process in making social change." Social policy should be, he thinks, the province of "the standing committees." The question for tax writers "is not just what is fair and equitable but what is good for the economy."
Furthermore, Rangel proposes reducing the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 30.5 percent, a rate that still would be higher than the average corporate rate among major industrialized countries. Rangel would entertain arguments for an even lower rate if compensatory revenues could be found.
The rate actually should be zero, for three reasons: Corporate taxation discourages investment by reducing the return on capital; it is a hidden tax passed along to corporations' customers; it is double taxation because corporate earnings are taxed again as dividends. Still, it is heartening that the Democratic chairman of the tax-writing committee favors reducing corporate America's tax burden.