A career as a rough-and-ready entrepreneurial job creator just ain't what it used to be. I'm thinking about Cyrus McCormick sweating his brow off at the smithy on his dad's farm in Virginia where he eventually banged together the first horse-drawn reaper in 1831, or Henry Ford 65 years later banging together that first gasoline-powered "Quadricycle" in the garage behind his house on Bagley Street in Detroit.
The comparison would be with that great latter-day Texas job-creator, Jeb Hensarling, who sweated through his coveralls first as an aide to Texas Senator Phil Gramm, then was spotted by Dallas' own billionaire Wyly brothers, pioneers in the off-shore asset-hiding game. He sweated away for a while working for the Wyly brothers' vulture fund, then went back to Washington and grew calluses on his hands as a hard-working member of Congress.
My own favorite moments in Hensarling's leadership career include his attempt two years ago to exempt vulture funds like Mitt Romney's Bain Capital from reporting requirements on the argument that making them do all that paperwork would break their spirits and cause them to abandon the vulture fund business altogether, which, Hensarling said, would work a hardship on single mothers who would no longer be able to invest in vulture funds:
"It really comes down to us again," he had the temerity to argue on the House floor. "Are there going to be additional protections for multimillionaire investors or protections and opportunities for unemployed, single moms trying to make ends meet? Our side of the aisle said, 'Let's help the single mom.'"
Hensarling tends not to smile down, however, on old-fashioned industries that actually make stuff and hire people, calling to mind another favorite Hensarling moment, his confident prediction six years ago that a federal bail-out of the American auto industry would be money down a rat-hole with only unpaid loans and rotting hulks of factories to show when the bill came due. One wonders if each succeeding quarterly report of black ink from Detroit is another knife in his heart.
Hensarling comes to mind today because he tops a list of the Wyly brothers Washington rent-boys amid speculation they may suffer some kind of embarrassment related to the recent guilty verdict brought against the Wylys in a massive federal civil prosecution accusing them of illegal trading practices.
Probably all of us can agree right out of the chute that the notion of Hensarling being embarrassed is just downright silly and that the two words, embarrassment and Hensarling, should never be used in the same phrase. A man who can propose before Congress that requiring vulture funds to file paperwork will inflict hardship on single mothers is a man who fears no embarrassment.
And that's really where the whole Wyly brothers business brings us -- this moment in history when obscenely rich fraudsters strut the national stage as ardent patriots while they ship their money off to hidey-holes on the Isle of Man, and rent-boys in Washington do their bidding while claiming to defend single mothers and the Constitution. If that doesn't embarrass them, what could?