Paul Ryan’s ‘vinogate’, Clarence’s yacht trips… conservatives flaunt the good life while Americans struggle

Paul Ryan enjoys not one, but two $350 bottles of pino noir. And how YOU doin'?

It’s not that Republicans don’t care about the poor, the struggling and the jobless, it’s that they’re too busy enjoying the good life to notice that they’re there.

I mean, Paul Ryan works really hard trying to think up ways to dazzle the Beltway media with exciting proposals to turn Medicare into a coupon program, hand Social Security over to his Wall Street friends, and strap the poor to rickshaws so that they can carry Ryan to his various amusements. Ok I made that last part up.

To the Ryan wine scandal:Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), a leading advocate of shrinking entitlement spending and the architect of the plan to privatize Medicare, spent Wednesday evening sipping $350 wine with two like-minded conservative economists at the swanky Capitol Hill eatery Bistro Bis.

The pomp and circumstance surrounding the waiter’s presentation, uncorking and decanting of the pricey Pinot Noir caught the attention of another diner who had already recognized Ryan sitting with two other men nearby.

Susan Feinberg, an associate business professor at Rutgers, was at Bistro Bis celebrating her birthday with her husband that night. When she saw the label on the bottle of Jayer-Gilles 2004 Echezeaux Grand Cru Ryan’s table had ordered, she quickly looked it up on the wine list and saw that it sold for an eye-popping $350, the most expensive wine in the house along with one other with the same pricetag.

Feinberg, an economist by training, was even more appalled when the table ordered a second bottle. She quickly did the math and figured out that the $700 in wine the trio consumed over the course of 90 minutes amounted to more than the entire weekly income of a couple making minimum wage.

“We were just stunned,” said Feinberg, who e-mailed TPM about her encounter later the same evening. “I was an economist so I started doing the envelope calculations and quickly figured out that those two bottles of wine was more than two-income working family making minimum wage earned in a week.”

She was outraged that Ryan was consuming hundreds of dollars in wine while Congress was in the midst of intense debates over whether to cut seniors’ safety net, and she didn’t know whether Ryan or his companions was going to pay for the wine and whether the two men were lobbyists. She snapped a few shots with her cell phone to record the wine purchase.

And she wondered if the two men were lobbyists, in which case the ‘spensive vino could have amounted to an ethics violation, depending on who paid for the bottles. The Atlantic picks it up from there:

Feinberg confronted Ryan after dinner and demanded to know “how he could live with himself.” Confronted by TPM, Ryan did not deny the story, but lamely pleaded ignorance about the cost of the wine. And he was rather ungallant to Ms. Feinberg, whom he called “crazy.”

Back to TPM for the actual factuals:

After ending their meal and paying the check, Feinberg decided to give Ryan a piece of her mind. She approached the table and asked Ryan “how he could live with himself” sipping expensive wine while advocating for cuts to programs for seniors and the poor. Some verbal jousting between Feinberg and the other two men ensued. One of the two men said he had ordered the wine, was drinking it and paying for it. In hearing how much the wine cost, Ryan said only: “Is that how much it was?”

The clash became especially heated when Feinberg asked the men if they were lobbyists.

“F—- her,” one of them replied and stood up in a menacing way, according to Feinberg’s account. Feinberg said her husband then “puffed out his chest” in response before the manager and a waiter came over and Feinberg decided she had said her piece and it was time to leave.

TPM goes into further detail, including Feinberg’s account that Ryan and his friends, whom he said were economists, not lobbyists, were chatting loudly about how liberals think if someone is rich they’ve done something wrong. Confronted by the site, Ryan claims he thinks it’s “stupid” to pay that much for a bottle of wine, which may be why he paid for one of them (out of an “abundance of (stupid) caution.”)

You can read the transcript of the TPM Ryan interview here.

And you can read HotAir’s lame defense of Ryan here.

Of course, as fate would have it, Ryan’s inelegant show of wealth comes in the same week the unemployment rate for the little people ticked up to 9.2 percent, amid weak job creation that netted out to just 18,000 positions added in June. Not good PR when you’re already the guy trying to snatch grandma’s Medicare away and hand her a lousy voucher.

Meanwhile, when he’s not helping to doom Americans incarcerated overseas by signing off on the killing of foreign nationals in Texas, or turning American elections over to his corporate friends, our man Clarence Thomas likes to tool around on the yachts of his wealthy friends. Well, now some plebeian hater has gone and filed a FOIA:

A non-partisan watchdog group has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in an attempt to determine whether conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas improperly disclosed the use of private jets and a yacht.

Common Cause’s FOIA request (PDF) to the U.S. Marshals Service encompasses travel on seven dates between 2007 and 2010.

“The request is aimed at determining whether Justice Thomas traveled on a plane owned by developer and political activist Harlan Crow on seven occasions over the past four years, and if so, whether those trips were properly disclosed,” the group said in a statement.

A New York Times investigation last month raised ethics questions about the justice’s relationship with Dallas real estate magnate Harlan Crow.

In 2004, Thomas was heavily scrutinized after he reported receiving $42,000 in gifts over six years. Since that time, he has not reported another gift.

I wonder what kind of wine they sipped on Crow’s wee little boat…

So what else is the ruling class up to?

Well … there’s wealthy scion Jon Huntsman, who has perfected the “pretending to be a poor guy who eats street tacos” routine, but not doing so well on the whole “running for president” thing.

Or our pal Multiple Choice Mitt, who spends his time bonding with the little people, by pretending that he too is unemployed.

And on the international front, there’s Rupert Murdoch’s son, who’s getting busy paying off a few bobbies.

Or former BP CEO Tony Hayward, who’s always up for a delightful try at the memory game.

So there, you see? The rich really are just like you and me, only better.

BONUS Read: the 10 scariest GOP governors

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3 Responses to Paul Ryan’s ‘vinogate’, Clarence’s yacht trips… conservatives flaunt the good life while Americans struggle

  1. If Ryan were the good little Randroid he claims to be, he wouldn’t apologize for spending hundreds of bucks on a bottle of wine. He’d deliver a 90-minute speech on the virtues of selfishness and call anyone who disagreed a “looter.”

  2. Flo says:

    The talking point of the affluent: “They want to punish us for our success.”
    Shared sacrifice? No way.

    Betty knows her Ayn Rand.

  3. Pingback: Things fall apart: debt ceiling deal unraveling as Boehner retreats from $4 trillion goal : The Reid Report

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