Edifice Rex

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John Fund examines the unseemly rush to use taxpayer money to pay for monuments to living legislators. Charlie Rangel is just the latest example of a politician soliciting funds from businesses with interests before his committee. This has been going on for years. Pols are paying for their self-named edifices with taxpayer money.

Charles Rangel, chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, is intent on raising $30 million for a new academic center in his New York district — a center with his name on it. After securing an earmark and two other federal grants totaling some $2.6 million for the project, the Democratic congressman wrote letters on his congressional stationery to businesses with interests before his committee. They sought meetings to help him fulfill his “personal dream” of seeing the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service completed.

The House Ethics Committee will examine the legality of Mr. Rangel’s requests, but the bigger question is why Congress hands out money to name buildings, bridges — everything under the sun — after its own living members. Until roughly the 1960s, people had to die before a grateful nation memorialized them in granite. The Lincoln Memorial wasn’t dedicated until a full half century after the Great Emancipator’s death. Ditto for Franklin Roosevelt. George Washington had to wait 89 years for his memorial.

Now it seems almost every committee chairman gets some “Monument to Me” named after himself with the tab going to the taxpayer. There’s a navigation lock in Pennsylvania named after Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young, the former GOP chair of the House Appropriations Committee. He represents St. Petersburg, Fla. — his only connection to Pennsylvania is that he happened to be born there. Nor is that Mr. Young’s only monument. The C.W. Young Center for Bio-Defense and Emerging Infectious Disease was dedicated at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., last year.

The real champ at this is Edifice Rex himself, Robert “Porky” Byrd of West Virginia. He has at least three dozen edifices named for him – or for his late wife. Some states are trying to crack down on this, but with only varying degrees of success. Actually, they are mostly unsuccessful.

That’s our money they are glad handing away. If they want a building named for them, they should be paying for it out of their own pockets.

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4 Responses to Edifice Rex

  1. Larry Sheldon says:

    Let’s don’t forget the Albert Gore Memorial Highway System.(You thought I was going to say "Internet" didn’t you?)

  2. Straight8 says:

    Maybe only bridges should be allowed to be named after politicians. Then we’d be sure they’d be well-built.

  3. martian says:

    This whole idea of having  a building, bridge, highway, etc. named after oneself smacks of delusions of grandeur. However, isn’t some level of self-delusion an absolute necessity for a politician? The prime example is the Obamessiah. Here is a man who’s only real accomplishments in his entire life are that he won a couple of elections and he gives a pretty good speech. All of his other claims of accomplishment have been shown to be exagerations, at best, and outright fabrications, at worst. However he feels he has the experience, judgement and wisdom to be the Chief Executive of the only super power left on earth. He has had no military training or experience, yet he thinks a couple of days visiting Afghanistan and Iraq will magically prepare him to be Commander in Chief of the US Armed Forces in a time of war. This isn’t just niavette, it is arrogance to the point of borderline ego-mania!

  4. George Bruce says:

    Require that all naming of public works for politicians be posthumous.  Then, if anything is named for a politician while he or she still lives………well, let’s stick to the rule above.

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