To hear the top hat of Republicans cavorting at their convention, you would think that until he entered the White House Barack Obama had never held a job and barely understood which button to punch on an office phone to get an outside line.
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, in a tortured effort at humor, cracked that Obama's shortcomings as president were understandable. "A lot of people fail at their first job." Cue the rim shot.
Pawlenty has been among the many speakers during the Republican National Convention to suggest Obama's prior lack of private sector experience has led the country to doom and gloom. The not-so-subtle intimation is that there is a generational transitioning and that the GOP's future captains of industry and commerce — who have a keen grasp of economics — are readying themselves to take over the tiller of power post-2012.
Really? If the rap on Obama is that (even after nearly four years as the chief executive officer of the world's foremost superpower) he still couldn't manage a lemonade stand, the cadre of waiting-in-the-wings Republicans possess all the private sector experience of a Cuban five-year agricultural planner — but with a better taxpayer-funded health care plan.
Let's begin at the top of the Republican ticket. As Mitt Romney's choice for vice president, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan has never worked an adult day in the private sector. Well, you could count his time spent thinking at Jack Kemp's think tank, where presumably Ryan was paid per thought.
Since he graduated from Miami University in Ohio, when he wasn't wiling away the hours think tanking, Ryan has spent his entire adult life working as a congressional staffer, or since 1999, a member of Congress, collecting a government check and health benefits.
He has never met a payroll, or fretted over a company budget, or sold so much as a widget. But because he managed to read at least some of that great literary doorstop Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand without lapsing into a coma, Ryan is now regarded as the intellectual leading light of capitalism.
Pam Bondi also is considered an up-and-comer. Yet she too has spent her entire career in the public sector, first as an assistant Hillsborough state attorney and now Florida's attorney general with all the attendant taxpayer-funded perks. She has never gotten within a dry martini of a billable hour. The closest she has ever come: appearances as a commentator for Fox News.
Last night, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio introduced Mitt Romney for his acceptance speech. This was a bit like Popeye's Wimpy ("I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today") setting the stage for Warren Buffett.
Rubio has been lathered up in government largesse since his late 20s when he was elected to the Florida House of Representatives, rising from a gofer factotum for Speaker Johnnie Byrd to eventually claiming the top job himself.
Now Rubio is widely regarded as the beefcake boy of GOP conservatives and especially those government-is-the-tool-of-Moscow tea party worrywarts. All this adulation for a chap who also has spent at best 20 minutes in the private sector — as a lawyer.
The man who will introduce Mitt Romney as the face of private sector success couldn't even manage the payments on a Tallahassee home, which eventually fell into foreclosure. And apparently Rubio had a hard time distinguishing the difference between his personal credit card and a Republican Party-issued credit card on which he charged off any number of personal expenses.
Today, Rubio is a United States senator, collecting a $174,000 public paycheck, exquisite government health care and eventually a tidy taxpayer-supported pension, while railing against big government intrusion into the lives of Americans.
Ryan, Rubio and Bondi, the Peter, Paul and Mary of the public trough, are supposed to represent the next generation of fiscally tight-wadded champions of the working classes fending off the oppressive, ham-handed faceless bureaucrats, while they owe their entire careers (and political celebrity) to that very same government they claim to want to rein in.
If it wasn't for government, they might actually have to go out and get real jobs. Maybe there's a lemonade stand in Chicago that could use a few new employees.