By Michael Minns
The New Broadway play, “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” opens next year and our office will be there to see it. It’s the singing story of a window washer who reads a book by the same title and goes from window washer to CEO during a two hour musical. One of my favorite numbers is when he sings to himself in a mirror “I believe in You,” about how he is the only person he can trust. I saw this play in Houston with my Mom when I was about ten. It stuck with me. Fun tunes you sing back to yourself, and a fun story. A man with no education or talent becomes the head of a major corporation (sort of like Dick Cheney and Halliburton). It’s really funny as a kid because you know it couldn’t happen in real life. I missed it last time it came back. It is filled with what we call “irony”… the hero really isn’t a hero, and he wins, in a world of trickery by pretending to have integrity when he really is just like all the rest… He wins through fake connections – pretending to be like the others – pretending to have their back grounds… and in the end, he sort of does.
But the new play I’d like to write, and direct and produce would be: “How to Succeed in Business by Rangeling your way out of taxes.” Charlie Rangel sat on the most powerful committee in Congress, as its chairman, the most powerful seat on the committee – Ways and Means. Essentially it is the way to tax, and the means to take our money – the rules. If you are at the top of the rule writing and interpreting division of taxes in our government shouldn’t you know the rules?
Well one of the many things Rangel is now being censored for is not paying taxes for as much as 17 years. And his reason – he is disorganized. A good guy – just disorganized. Whining on the Congressional stairs he asks for mercy because what he did was just what all the Congressmen do. He writes the rules of the game, and then he cheats, he passes go, stops on do not pass go, go directly to jail, or “pay sale tax” or “pay income tax” on property you got with subsidies for the poor and rent you got on your off shore “luxury property” – but he says he didn’t know the rules he wrote and can’t pay. In a country which is now going after thousands of working Americans who put money off shore… how does ole Charlie get out of it when he has been caught red-handed and doesn’t even offer a defense?
There is hardly a tax case alive where I don’t sympathize with the defendant – but if Rangel were indicted for breaking the laws he passed and makes us follow, I’d vote to convict him. The fact that the President was impeached for not telling the public, under oath he ran around on his wife, makes me wonder what sort of government does that to the President, but lets the head of the taxing committee not pay his taxes, and not go to jail, and not even get kicked out of Congress, after he has been found guilty – which happened only after he fled the trial wherein they found him guilty. He only returned after being found guilty to throw himself on the mercy of his Congressional Friends. And his friends, both Democrats and Republicans are sad for him. They praise his past service but they tell him out right – “Charlie we nailed you. Sorry. Now we are going to punish you.” And, what is Charlie’s unbearable punishment that brings tears and trembling to his voice? All of Congress will “censor” him. They will publically embarrass him. There are a lot of people who would gladly be publically embarrassed if they didn’t have to pay taxes for 17 years – or if they couldn’t be indicted.
Charlie – Why didn’t you just do it legally like IBM did or the Tobacco Industry or the Hedge Fund dealers or the Billionaires who don’t pay estate taxes this year? Why didn’t you just pass a law making it legal for Congressmen not to pay any taxes at all?
In the musical Charlie would sing: “I believe in me…” and “I believe in you… paying taxes… but I don’t believe in me paying taxes… because I really don’t understand the laws I pass every year.” Then he would do the two-step and dance into the next act. Curtain down… Applause, Laughter.
The next number could be one about lobbyists. “Oh why did I let IBM off the table, with all the loot and not pass a number for myself?” We’d call it “Lobbyists ever after…” I’ll pass your lobby bill; I’ll cancel your tax, but be a good sport and cancel mine too. OK?
The musical could end happy ever after once the final act was over. The part where things look bleak and then the sun comes up and then we move to the happy ending.
The congressional ethics committee could say: “Charlie Rangel we find you to be unethical.” Charlie and his family looked stunned and amazed. It’s all a little sad for a moment. Then the artificial sunlight comes on, the stage brightens up, then the chairman smiles and says: “Charlie lighten up. It doesn’t mean anything. You’re still our buddy. We won’t even make you pay the taxes unless you want to… and you can stay in Congress… you just can’t write the rules anymore.” Laughter. And Charlie dances off the stage singing… “I believe in me… I love this country… I just don’t like paying taxes…” A dozen scantily clad young beauties would dance after him: “We love you Charlie… O yes we do… We love you Charlie and we’ll be true- ooh. Cause you’re a Congressman, and you are you… oh, Charlie we love you…”
Lights out. An usher will tax the audience as they leave – telling them that they have to pay Charlie’s taxes.