Sunday, July 10, 2011

Paul Ryan's bottle of wine and the devaluation of public service

I'm enjoying the controversy to do with Rep. Paul Ryan's apparent taste for a fine bottle of wine or two. What I'm enjoying mostly is the indignant response from those on the right, who think this is a trivial matter and nothing to get excited about.

The funny thing is that I agree with them. I happen to value the work done by politicians and despite what many may think, they typically work very long hours, frequently far away from home. A great many are likely foregoing large private sector compensation to tend to the public's business. And, accept it or not, people elected to national office or tapped to work for elected officials at the highest level are usually very talented people.

I don't think politicians and their staff need to live like monks to prove they are one with their constituents. I don't care if they partake of an occasional high-priced beverage.

I know that this is not the common view, which is that they are all incompetent freeloaders living lavishly off the taxpayer's dime, and that their compensation and associated perqs should be extremely modest as a result. I just don't agree.

I don't have a problem with Paul Ryan having an expensive glass of something or other every now and them.

Here's the problem:

Ryan's party has for a long time done everything they can to undervalue public service. When Ronald Reagan said that government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem, he set a tone that comes close to suggesting that politicians and public servants are stealing by the very act of being fairly compensated for their work.

This past week much was made of White House staff salaries. It seems that 141 Obama aides, nearly one-in-three, earn more than $100,000 a year. Twenty-one Obama aides earn the top-dollar of $172,200. This also means that two-in-three don't earn as much as $100,000 a year.

I'm not saying these are not good salaries, only that these are the people who are providing support to those making the biggest decisions about the future of our country. Even if I'm alone on this point, I still think they're worth the money.

And if Paul Ryan has to take a dig or two about the cost of a bottle of wine, he has only himself to blame. His mantra and that of his party serves to devalue public service almost to the point that any compensation seems too much. The assault on public sector unions nation-wide is only one part this narrative. One simply has to listen to most of the garbage that comes out of New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie's mouth to validate that observation.

Yes, Rep. Ryan, you have succeeded in getting people to think very little of the kind of work you have committed your life to do. Hope you feel good about that. Drink up.

(Cross-posted to Lippmann's Ghost.)

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  • they typically work very long hours, frequently far away from home?!?!?


    define work please

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:42 AM  

  • Years ago, Peter Boyle portrayed senator Joe McCarthy's rise & fall in a made for TV movie. In it, the young McCarthy is seen during his first successful campaign declaring that his opponent had accrued such-and-such an amount of wealth during his years in office. The clear implication being that he betrayed the public trust in lining his own pockets. One constituent turned to his wife after hearing the accusation and remarked, "Wouldn't that just about amount to the salary that he's earned having served over 20 years in congress"? Which, of course, it was. McCarthy acually did that during that campaign, betraying the sinister streak that later catapulted him to prominence. It goes to show the power of insinuation, and how easy it is to disparage with the intent to destroy. That wing of the GOP that McCarthy so loyally served did consolidate power in 1980, and has since used every dirty trick they can to retain it-- up to and including engineering a Big Lie War. They are, in other words, a domestic enemy.

    I really, really don't like those people.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:50 AM  

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