Turns out TPM’s inane story did produce something useful after all — a bona fide metric of conspicuous consumption keyed to ideology. If you oppose letting entitlements cannibalize the budget until we’re at the point of fiscal collapse, then yeah, $350 for vino is too much. If, however, you support that collapse in the name of “protecting the poor,” then you’re fine at $80 a bottle.
Question: What if you support a combination of modest tax hikes and significant reforms to entitlements in the name of sustainability? Can you get away with a $150 bottle then? $200?
On Saturday, I sent Feinberg an email asking a few questions about the incident and about her unhappiness with Ryan. First, the photo she snapped of Ryan and two men sitting a few tables away appeared to be taken from her own table, and on that table was a bottle of wine. (Feinberg told TPM that she and her husband had shared a “bottle of great wine.”) A check of the Bistro Bis wine list — in much the way that Feinberg did at the restaurant — shows that the wine was a Thierry et Pascale Matrot 2005 Meursault, which is $80 per bottle at Bistro Bis. Was that, in fact, Feinberg’s bottle of wine?
I asked Feinberg, an economist, what price constituted outrageous in her mind. Would she have been as upset if Ryan’s wine were $150 a bottle? Or $100 a bottle? Or perhaps $80 a bottle, like her own — which is, after all, more than a day’s labor for a worker making the minimum wage.
If the problem was not just the wine’s cost, then what other factors were involved in Feinberg’s anger? Was it because she thought Rep. Ryan was a hypocrite for drinking expensive wine while recommending reduced spending on Medicare and Medicaid? Was it because she believed Rep. Ryan was corrupt for drinking with two men she suspected were lobbyists? And finally, did Feinberg believe she behaved appropriately in the matter? Would it be appropriate for a conservative who felt strongly about, say, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, or Rep. Barney Frank, to do something similar to them under similar circumstances?
Feinberg’s response was brief: “I’m sorry. I have no comment on this.”
Ace asks a good question. Why didn’t this moron bide her time in the restaurant until Ryan and company had paid their tab? Once she freaked out and put him on the spot, it was a lead-pipe cinch that he would scrupulously cover every cent of his share of the meal to avoid any ethics suspicion. That’s not to say he wouldn’t have done so anyway, but the angry outburst erased any chance of finding out. A toast then, my friends, to mindless, counterproductive liberal rage: Pop open a bottle of $350 wine for this one if you’re got it.
Two exit questions for you. One: Given her long track record of caring, how expensive a bottle could Pelosi get away with drinking? Whatever the answer is, rest assured, she can afford it. And two: Isn’t the news today about Michelle Obama scarfing down burgers kinda sorta the flip side of Wine-gate? Granted, the detail about a political opponent screaming hysterically at her is mercifully absent, but FLOTUS never said you can’t indulge occasionally. Or did she? As a New Yorker in the age of Bloomberg, I’ve lost track of all the clean-living guidelines I’m supposed to follow.