Friday, March 30, 2012

Paul Ryan Gets In Touch With His Inner Toff

Paul Ryan Gets In Touch With His Inner Toff

Over the last few days, I have had this intense desire to articulate some profundities about the train wreck that is soon to become Obamacare.  But I’m absolutely stymied.  I think it might be the shock and awe of watching an exterminator and pool supply salesman  decked out in a three corner hat proclaim himself a Constitutional law expert. 

I admit, I am off my game.  Fortunately, ours is a moment in history where the irony is so thick that there is always something to fortify me for the task ahead.  Paul Ryan, and George Osborne, have come to the rescue.

Paul Ryan, as most people know, is the brave and brilliant Congressman and resident intellectual muse of the GOP. He’s the man who makes the numbers sing-who can conjure up increasing tax revenues on the one hand by reducing the  tax burden on the wealthy to zero, while encouraging everyone else to work harder for less, thus giving them the positive vibe that can only come from true altruism.  Rumor has it that he’s the inspiration for the Wall Street Journal’s annual “Remember the Not-Neediest” charity drive. 

George Osborne is a little more obscure to most Americans, but I’m happy to report that, if an unfortunate accident should ever befall Ryan, Osborne would be more than ready to step in.  Osborne is Great Britain’s exceedingly well-groomed Chancellor of the Exchequer, and whether he knows it or not, a true soul mate of his American cousin. 

There’s a delicious piece in today’s New York Times about Osborne’s grand plan to right the British economy through the shared sacrifice of all but the wealthy.  He wants to impose a 20% tax on pasties. What’s a pasty, I hear you cry?  When I first read it, I wasn’t wearing my glasses, and I thought he wanted to tax “pastries”, which seemed a bit odd, but you could understand why a Brit would want to tax the sale of Napoleons and Petit Fours.  But I was wrong.  A “pasty” is not some foo-foo confection, but a savory British bulldog of a meat pie.  It is apparently a favorite food of the working and middle classes looking for an inexpensive mid-day meal. A pasty goes for somewhere between $1.50 and $2.00, depending on the haute cuisine of the filling.  Throw in a 20 percent Osborne Tax, and you get a lot less pasty for your Pound, or pence.

I think the Brits have more fun than we do. Mr. Osborne works for Mr. David Cameron, the current PM, who is also quite the gentleman.  Both are well educated, both Oxford graduates.  Mr. Osborne, however, one-ups his boss, as he will inherit from his father the title of “baronet”.  Mr. Cameron, no doubt, will be given the K, or perhaps some life peerage, but nothing is quite like an inherited title, I think we would all agree. 

That distinction, no doubt, is why Mr. Cameron at least made a heroic attempt at showing his one-ness with the people by saying he, too, liked the odd pasty.  Mr. Osborne was a bit more truthful, admitting that he does not frequent Greggs, the nationwide pasty chain beloved by all (or, at least those without landed estates.)

Where does Paul Ryan fit in as a luminary in the culinary universe?  Mr. Ryan is the Congressman from Wisconsin’s First Congressional District, which according to his website, “is a land of rolling fields and pastures and a multitude of fine lakes and streams.”  That’s not unlike the “green and pleasant land” of  William Blake’s “Jerusalem” .

A kinship is born.  From those strands of commonality between the righteous among the nations, the same zealous desire to protect the patriarchy springs.  Paul Ryan is ready to sacrifice.  His new budget projects a balanced budget-by 2040 (no, that’s not a typo).  The Ryan Plan extends and makes permanent the Bush Tax cuts and reduces the tax rates for the highest earners and corporations. It also puts Medicare on the road to its inevitable extinction, and makes deep cuts in a wide swathe of domestic programs. When fully implemented, domestic spending will be a tiny fraction of what it is today.

The reaction from conservatives and their sympathizers in the press, has been nothing short of rhapsodic.  It’s bold and brave and farsighted and essential and just absolutely phenomenal.  Michael Gerson, former speechwriter for George W. Bush, sums it up in the Washington Post “It averts a fiscal calamity that would be an economic catastrophe”.   The brave man himself (that would be Ryan) takes credit for doing the “morally right” thing.

And who could disagree?  Certainly not David Cameron and George Osborn.  My mind wandered to a state dinner where those two worthies would visit with President Ryan. What might be served?  Ryan is a man of his roots, not corrupted by the dissolute elite of Washington.  He’d want to show that.  So, I visited the Wisconsin Blue Book for hints.  There would be an appetizer, muskellunge, a fish prized by anglers for their ferocious fight and large bodies.  Deer and dairy cows are also state animals, so perhaps a venison entrée with a wide variety of cheeses.  Honeybees will gratefully provide their secretions to adorn a cranberry-based dessert. Rather predictably, milk is the state beverage, so some allowances will need to be made.

Not a pasty in sight! With proper tailoring, I think it could work out between these three.

I feel myself comforted.  Maybe I will make a run at Obamacare.