Newsflash! Rich Man Drinks Expensive Wine!
Silly report at TPM by Susan Crabtree about Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, "a leading advocate of shrinking entitlement spending and the architect of the plan to privatize Medicare," who -- shockingly -- "spent Wednesday evening sipping $350 wine with two like-minded conservative economists at the swanky Capitol Hill eatery Bistro Bis."
So...he ordered it and couldn't pay? Or...he ran out on the check? Nope.
But, he and the wine did catch the eye of another diner. Writes Crabtree:
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.
Then, Feinberg rudely marched over to their table and accosted them:
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?"
Read Ryan's interview with TPM here -- scroll down:
TPM: ...she was saying, is it appropriate for you guys to be ordering that kind of wine $350 dollars-a-bottle?
Ryan: "A.) I didn't order it. B.) I had no idea what it would cost, and C.) ...I bought one of these bottles even though I drank a glass, and I always pull my own weight for my meals."
TPM: That was very smart. ... But do you think it's appropriate now that you know how much the wine cost to be drinking [such expensive wine] when you're advocating cuts for seniors?
Ryan: "I think it's stupid to pick up that much for a bottle of wine under any circumstance."
TPM: But you had to pay for it...
Ryan: "Yeah, I was like this is ridiculous. Who buys wine that expensive? It surprised me, and I think it's stupid under any circumstance to pay anything close to 100 dollars for a bottle of wine.
TPM: So you wouldn't do it again?
Ryan: "Well, of course not, because I think it's too much money to pay for wine. Yeah, I don't really know what exactly it cost. It was expensive. But um, 250 maybe it was 250, I don't really remember."
Matthew Hurtt has it right, in his take on the woman's thinking:
Because Paul Ryan believes government should live within its means, he can't buy a $350 bottle of wine. Well, let's see. According to Ryan's most recently available tax returns, he's worth anywhere from $590,000 to $2.4 million, which means that two bottles of wine at $350 each is somewhere between .03% and 1.19% of his total net worth. Clearly, he's drinking the cheap stuff.
And if Ryan and his two other dinner associates went dutch (this becomes important later), then the wine purchase is a fraction of that (approx. 1/3, according to my math).
...If Ryan's net worth were broken down hourly, he'd earn anywhere from $295 to $1,154 an hour. In the 90 minutes Ryan and his friends sat at the restaurant, he'd make more than enough to pay for one bottle -- maybe even two.
But that's the sneaky part. Miss Crabtree slides that bit of wealth envy into the column like it matters. It doesn't. At all.
Feinberg (CV and website) asserts her economics background once again. And she was outraged. For what? Because Ryan was spending money... money he had earned? FOR SHAME!
Whether Ryan spends HIS MONEY on fine wine or lights dollar bills on fire, it's really none of anyone's business. What's done with the taxpayers' dollars, on the other hand, should be of concern to all of us. Hurtt points to a link by Erick Erickson:
Ms. Crabtree felt the need to go to DEFCON 1 for this outrage that a member of Congress and his two economist friends would buy expensive wine with their own money. She's never, ever written horribly about Barack Obama using taxpayer money for fancy wine at State Dinners. She's never written salaciously about the liquor bills on Nancy Pelosi's government funded plane.
But by God you get some failed Rutgers economist out on a birthday date with her husband at a hotel restaurant who gets all jealous that she's not cool enough to hang out with Little Eddie Munster and his econ pals and . . . well . . . fire up the broom stick and quill pen, we've got a hot story and a little scandal on our hands.
And regarding expensive wine, I was talking about this this evening with Gregg. A friend of his in France once ordered wine that was something like $150 while at lunch with us (I saw what he was ordering and I about fainted). It was good and all, but not $150 worth of good. To me $40 wine tastes fantastic, and anything more expensive than that is just wasted on me, and probably on a lot of people.
(Note to the universe: The 80s [and even the 90s] are way over.)
Still, if you order sushi and fine wine for lunch, or a steak made from a cow that spent its entire life having its ears massaged while sleeping on velvet pillows, I don't think it's a sign that you hate poor people, but a sign that you like sushi and fine wine or pampered cow.
As long as you don't plan on running out on the check, and as long as we taxpayers aren't paying for it, have at it!
P.S. Ryan tips nicely. (He produced the receipt after TPM later approached him outside the Speaker's Lobby after a vote.)