Conspiracy Nation -- Vol. 11  Num. 71
                     ("Quid coniuratio est?")


By Jim Hightower

(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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