The fellow who writes tax law for the entire country can't even get his personal tax returns right.
That's why Speaker Nancy E. Pelosi (D., Calif.) should remove Rep. Charles Rangel (D., N.Y.) as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. The post requires Rangel to be above reproach, and he has not met that high standard.
Rangel admitted that he owes the IRS as much as $5,000 for failing to report income from a beachfront villa he owns in the Dominican Republic. He will end up owing New York state and New York City another $5,000 or so.
This is the guy who plays a powerful role in deciding the winners and losers in every new tax law approved by Congress. He ought to at least inspire confidence among taxpayers that he's living up to regulations that he imposes on others.
Rangel said his mistake was unintentional. He said he tried to get the correct financial information from the resort's managers, who collect the rent. But he was stymied by a language barrier - they speak Spanish.
Rangel's excuse is
. Half of his congressional district speaks Spanish, and his Web site can be translated into Spanish with two mouse clicks. Surely the chairman could have found someone who understands the U.S. tax code and Spanish to unravel his financial liabilities before a reporter did.
Even if it were an innocent mistake, Rangel's gaffes have been piling up. He also faces ethics probes for allegedly misusing rent-controlled apartments in New York and writing letters on congressional stationery seeking donations for an education center that is named after him.
Rangel won't step down as chairman, and wants his detractors to wait for the outcome of the ethics probe. Pelosi said she won't remove Rangel. She should reconsider.
Voters in Rangel's district can decide in November whether they still want him as their congressman. But somebody who owes back taxes shouldn't be chairman of the House committee in charge of tax laws.