LUXURY LANES FOR THE RICH
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By Jim Hightower
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(Broadcast locally on 1/24/98)

There's an  insidious  and  dangerous  =dis-uniting= taking place
inside our =united= States of America.  Those at the top  of  our
society  are  steadily  separating themselves further and further
from America's  work-a-day  majority.   For  example, while those
making $100,000 or more per year  have  seen  dramatic  gains  in
their  income  over the past couple of decades, the 80 percent of
us who make under  $50,000  a  year  have  either seen our income
stagnate, or drop.

But  those  at  the  top  are  separating  themselves   from   us
=physically=   too.    Their  homes  are  in  gated  and  guarded
compounds.  Their kids  attend  exclusive  schools.   And even at
sporting events, they sit  in  luxury  boxes  that  separate  the
hoity-toity from us hoi-polloi.

But now comes another divisive development:  they don't even want
to  drive  with  us!   Believe  it  or  not,  the Federal Highway
Administration is  providing  a  $14  million  annual  subsidy to
create luxury lanes on commuter highways,  so  the  affluent  can
avoid   rush-hour   congestion.   In  Minneapolis,  for  example,
privileged ones driving the stretch  of  I-394 that runs from the
wealthy suburbs west of the city to downtown office buildings can
now pay about $1,000 a year and get a special pass that literally
puts  them  in  the  fast  lane!   While  those  of  us  in   the
old-Chevrolet  class  are bumper-to-bumper in a snarl of traffic,
the Range-Rover rich go cruising  by  with  a smug smile on their
faces.

Never mind that every lane of this $450 million highway was  paid
for  by  =all= taxpayers, the majority of us who cannot afford an
extra thousand bucks for  the  luxury lane are rendered 2nd-class
citizens.

This is Jim Hightower saying, this bad idea is spreading --  with
Houston,  Los  Angeles,  Portland,  Westchester  County and other
cities providing  privileged  access  to  their  public freeways.
Besides being an obvious target for  driver  rage,  luxury  lanes
also represent a dangerous trend for our democracy.

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