What Paul Ryan has in common with Marie Antoinette

Well surprise, surprise!

It turns out that Paul Ryan isn’t really the salt of the earth, son of toil, dude-out-of-a-Springsteen-song-type he is so fond he is so fond of portraying himself as. I know. Shocking, right?

As the L.A. Times headline reports “Despite working-class image, Ryan comes from family of wealth.” The story definitely deliver the goods. For instance:

In the year after his father’s death, Ryan’s maternal grandmother set up the Ryan-Hutter Investment Partnership, which remains an important part of Ryan’s finances with assets of up to half a million dollars, according to the congressman’s 2011 financial disclosure statement. Ryan continues as the general partner running the entity for the family.

Court records indicate Ryan’s father left a probate estate of $428,000, though the number of assets existing outside the will or the probate remains unknown. Ryan was to receive $50,000 when he turned 30.

In addition to the Ryan-Hutter Investment Partnership, Ryan also benefits from another family entity, Ryan Limited Partnership, which was established in March 1995 by an aunt. Ryan’s share of that is worth up to $500,000. Ryan makes no investment decisions in either partnership, the campaign spokesman said.

That all sounds pretty damn sweet to me (and I say that as something who never has inherited, and does not stand to inherit, a dime from anyone).

Not only did Ryan inherit wealth, he also made money the old-fashioned way: he married it:

Of the Ryans’ maximum estimated assets of $7.6 million, Janna’s holdings account for about $6.5 million. She is the daughter of Dan and Prudence Little, two lawyers in Madill, Okla., who over the years have overseen a vast network of land and oil and gas mineral rights in the Red River area straddling southern Oklahoma and northern Texas.

The wealth derived from Janna’s grandfather, Reuel Winfred Little, a self-made millionaire several times over in oil and gas interests and other ventures.

The LAT piece also notes that Ryan

was born into one of the most prominent families in Janesville, Wis., the son of a successful attorney and the grandson of the top federal prosecutor for the western region of the state. Ryan grew up in a big Colonial house on a wooded lot, and his extended clan includes investment managers, corporate executives and owners of major construction companies.

Ryan’s family connections have been instrumental, not only in providing with cushy jobs and comfortable upper crust lifestyle, but also in bankrolling his political career:

Ryan’s rise to political power and financial stability was boosted by family connections and wealth. The larger Ryan family has repeatedly helped the candidate along in his career, giving him a job when he needed one and piling up tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions.

It looks like Paul Ryan, like so many Republicans before him, is one of those dudes who was born on third base and is desperate to persuade the world he hit a triple. Yes, like practically every other teenager of his generation, he worked a few low-paid service jobs for some pocket change when he was in high school. But for him to distort that experience and try to pass himself off as “blue collar” is a grotesque masquerade. Historically, it calls to mind nothing so much as the antics of Marie Antoinette and the ladies of her court, who from time to time would amuse themselves by donning shepherdess drag and play-acting at being pure and simple folk, modest toilers of the earth.

I’m pleased to see that at least one major media outlet is calling Mr. Ryan on this piece of outrageous bamboozlement.

Kathleen Geier

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee