The Bailout Brothel

Article excerpt

Byline: Paul Begala

Right-wingers hate spending--unless they pocket the cash.

I don't know if it's a conservative thing or a wealth thing or just a jerk thing, but I've been appalled lately at the complete lack of self-awareness of rich right-wingers. The hypocrisy of Republican millionaires who say they want to cut government spending while simultaneously asking for a government handout is staggering. How can they be that clueless? Are they missing the gene for embarrassment? Or does having your ring kissed dull the shame receptors of the soul?

Take Joe Ricketts. The billionaire businessman recently landed on the front page of The New York Times for considering a proposal to fund $10 million in ads attacking President Obama's former minister, Jeremiah Wright. But let's set aside the content of the ads. Focus, instead, on the stated purpose of Ricketts's super PAC, which is nicely captured in its name: Ending Spending. That's right: it doesn't aim to trim or reduce government spending but to end it. How? In part by outing hypocrites who "say one thing and do another" on the subject.

So imagine my surprise when I heard about how Ricketts and his family have used the beloved Chicago Cubs as a hostage to persuade (a less charitable person would say "extort") taxpayers to give them welfare. The Cubbies last won a World Series 103 years ago, but during the Ricketts reign they have gone from lovable losers to cynical hypocrites. After hints that the family might move the Cubs' spring-training home from Arizona to Florida, the panicky people of Mesa handed the owners $99 million of their money.

Now Mr. Ending Spending and his son Tom Ricketts are trying the same trick on the people of Chicago, seeking $150 million of taxpayers' money to renovate Wrigley Field, plus a share of amusement-tax revenue until the end of time--which, by the way, is coming sooner than a Cubs World Series victory. As the indispensable ThinkProgress blog noted, Joe Ricketts has smugly declared, "I think it's a crime for our elected officials to borrow money today, to spend money today, and push the repayment of that loan out into the future on people who are not even born yet." And yet that's precisely what he is trying to do in Chicago. In Texas we call that chutzpah.

Ricketts, oddly, is not the only right-wing hypocrite in baseball. Former pitcher Curt Schilling should be inducted into the hall of shame as well. …