In the most ridiculous story of the weekend, Rutgers professor Susan Feinberg used her intellectual savvy, oenological know-how and cell phone camera to uncover an explosive story that leaves the likes of Woodward & Bernstein in awe: Winegate.
Apparently GOP Rep. Paul Ryan enjoys a pricey glass of wine from time to time when dining with friends. TPM gossip columnist senior editor Susan Crabtree reported:
“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.”
OMG, you guys! $700 for wine?!
I love how Feinberg's outrage is apparently relevant because she is "an economist by training." I also love how Ryan spending $700 of his own money on a personal luxury warrants such attention while Obama flying thousands of taxpayer-paid miles aboard Air Force One to host political fundraisers for $30,000+ a pop is so blasé. The White House routinely serves wine and spirits worth hundreds of dollars per bottle and no one bats an eye even though the taxpayers pick up the bill. I suppose this blatant double-standard is acceptable because Obama has no interest in cutting out-of-control government spending while Ryan rightly demands it.
Perhaps even more disappointing than the attention this "news story" has garnered is Ryan's response:
Ryan claims that his guests made the wine choice, and that he had just a single glass. When Ryan learned of the wine’s price he admitted it was “stupid” to pay that much for a bottle of wine, and said he would make sure not to do so again.
Despite only drinking a single glass, Ryan picked up the tab for a whole bottle along with his share of the meal. Upon request Ryan provided TPM a copy of his receipt from the meal, showing a charge to Ryan’s credit card for $472 — $392 for his meal and the bottle of wine and a generous $80 tip.
Now, I understand that Ryan is far too classy to respond to Feinberg's criticism in the same manner as one of his dining companions did -- "F*** her!" -- but why would Ryan even offer up a response to this nonsense? Since when does anyone have to account for the way they spend their own money on completely legal and harmless leisure?
Ryan should have told this professor/undercover sleuth that how he spends the money he earns is none of her business. Just because he's an elected official who demands the government spend taxpayer money responsibly does not give Feinberg or anyone else the right to make demands of how Ryan spend his personal fortune.
Bottom line: I like Paul Ryan but I'm disappointed in the way he seemingly apologized for acting completely human and exercising his personal freedoms.
That said, I feel it'd be irresponsible to criticize Ryan without offering up how I would've alternatively acted if I had been in the Wisconsin congressman's shoes. Needless to say, I, too, am not as classy as Paul Ryan and would've responded thus:
FEINBERG: Oh my non-specific gender-neutral deity! Do you have any idea how much that wine costs?! How dare you punish the poor by not punishing the rich while you sip such pricey vino?!
ME: Thanks for your concern, but I've worked hard all my life to earn my money and feel confident I can afford such a luxury from time-to-time. The moment I ask the taxpayers to help me pay for this wine, I'll be sure to consult you on how much I should spend on it. But while we're on the subject of practicing what you preach, let's take a look at your table, shall we?
Ah, I see you are enjoying an $80 bottle of wine. Why drink wine when tap water is FREE? Are you planning to recycle that wine bottle? Were the workers who stomped the grapes for your wine unionized?!
How many vegetables did you have with your meal? What was the sodium content of your dinner? Did you follow Michelle Obama's guidelines and mirror MyPlate.gov?
FEINBERG: Well, I, uh...
ME: Was that pretty white table cloth hand-washed and steamed by a worker who earned a minimum wage with guaranteed health care coverage? Or was it washed in a machine that wastes water AND uses energy generated by "dirty" coal?
Did you eat steak for dinner? Don't you think that methane from cows is "warming" the planet?
FEINBERG: Look, I was just trying to...
ME: Did you park your car tonight using the valet service or did you save $20 by doing it yourself? Don't you care about the "poor" valet attendant who has kids at home to feed? Why do you hate children? And why did you drive a "gas guzzling" car when you could've taken public transportation?!
And that fancy cell phone you used to snap photos of what my dinner companions and I were drinking -- isn't that made in China? So not only are you undermining both American productivity and tax revenue, but you're also supporting slave labor in China. Why do you hate America? How do you sleep at night??
FEINBERG: ::stares blankly::
ME: I'm going to back to enjoying my dinner and savoring my delicious wine. Before you think about regaling us with anymore liberal idiot talking points, think about who is actually acting like a complete hypocrite. God bless!