Confession is both good for the soul and column fodder.
So I’ll plead guilty to the charge that whenever some politician says or does something incredibly dense, the first thought that leaps to mind is "Ca-Ching!"
President Donald Trump has suggested that Democrats who chose not to stand in rapturous awe and applaud until their palms bled over his every utterance during the State of the Union address fit the description of traitors who hate America.
To be sure, the dour Democrats’ lack of support was in stark contrast to the Republicans on the other side of the aisle, who every time the president burped looked like all those teenage girls who swooned over the Beatles when they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show.
But if expressing loyal opposition qualifies as sedition, then the Republicans who sat in Easter Island statue-like silence during President Barack Obama’s addresses to Congress probably deserved to have been sent off to Guantanamo Bay, too.
This is what happens in Washington, where Potomac Fever attacks that portion of the brain which controls reality.
Dissent becomes disloyalty. And a $1.50 a week is viewed as a windfall.
Over the weekend, House Speaker Paul Ryan tweeted his praise of the recently passed $1.5 trillion tax cut and cited as proof of its monumental boost to the middle class: "A secretary at a public school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, said she was pleasantly surprised her pay went up $1.50 a week ... she said [that] will more than cover her Costco membership for a year."
We pause here for a forehead slap. Or perhaps spit-take of coffee. Whatever works best for you.
Politicians are often taken to task for being out of touch with their constituents. Sometimes the criticism is fair. Sometimes it isn’t. In Ryan’s case this certainly rises to the level of "What the &^%$#&%# where you thinking?"
It’s worth remembering that Ryan is second in the line of succession to the presidency. He is one of the most powerful political figures in the nation, wielding vast influence over legislation passing through Congress.
And yet this singular figure somehow arrived at the notion a secretary hauling in an extra $1.50 a week is now rolling in clover all thanks to the GOP tax bill. Perhaps he was channeling his inner Man of the People. Unfortunately, the man turned out to be Ayn Rand’s John Galt.
How does this sort of "Let them eat Cheez-Whiz!" myopia happen?
Ryan can’t be oblivious to the numerous critics of the tax bill, which will disproportionately benefit the wealthy upper reaches of society. Indeed, a number of analyses of the tax bill have noted Trump is likely to see anywhere from $22 million to more than $40 million in net savings from the revised tax code — a tad better than $1.50 a week. Of course, we could nail that number down in more detail if Trump actually released his tax returns. But, alas.
The speaker deleted his tweet, perhaps after someone on his staff slapped him upside the head for coming off as a clueless Washington elitist. But Ryan can never delete what he believes.
This is, after all, a man who while decrying big government has never held of a private sector job since graduating from Miami University in Ohio. Now 47, for the better part of the past 25 years Ryan has been face down in the public trough as a congressional staffer, or an elected member of the House from Wisconsin, rising in leadership before ascending to the speakership in 2015.
Ryan has never had to worry about where his next $1.50 a week comes from.
There is some validity to the argument that when you’ve spent as much time as Ryan being kow-towed to, with lesser minions bowing and scraping before you, while you may pay lip-service to your humble roots, it is all too easy to lose touch with the folks back home.
Ryan’s claim that a Pennsylvania school secretary was beside herself with gratitude over her eight-bit bonanza reflected how far removed the speaker is from daily middle class lives. It also has encouraged ironworker Randy Bryce, a Democrat, who is running against Ryan, to solicit donations of $1.50. According to Roll Call, Bryce has taken in roughly $60,000 in contributions of just $1.50.
What might we call this? The Ryan’s Shrug heard around Wisconsin?