Archive for October, 2007

In Hot Pursuit

Saturday, October 27th, 2007

If life is a race, then the outcome — in these times — is all but certain: those who ‘have’ will sail along with few impediments; those who ‘have not’ will struggle forward and be pushed back; for every gain, it seems, brings with it a loss.

How so?

Consider the Connection’s recent HOT (high occupancy toll) editorial, which brought news that the coming of new $400 million state-backed HOT lanes on the Virginia beltway will allow drivers to “move at the speed limit,” if they either bring two other riders with them or, alone, can afford up to $14 to sail along 14 miles of profit-making concrete.

“The plan,” stated our paper’s editorial, “is to charge enough money so that the traffic on the toll lanes continues to move at the speed limit.”

That’s right, if you’ve got the dough, you can go; if your bank account’s too low, your ride will be slow.

And this isn’t the only way the well-off enjoy taxpayer-financed advantages. Consider the security waiting lines at National Airport. The airlines convinced the feds to let first class passengers whiz by us other suckers to a first-class only security check-in. The line moves so fast that these moneyed travelers barely have enough time to take off their shoes before they’re waved along to their departure gate.

At Dulles, if you can afford 30 bucks a night ($17 for each additional day), you can have a valet park your car while you walk to the terminal. If you’re an average Joe, then your option is a reasonable nine dollars per day; but the only way to get to the ticket counter is by shuttle bus, taking a lot more precious time.

Time is money, we hear so often. No debating that when you look at the new beltway scheme and airport parking.

As to the taxes that bring money for airport and highway construction, we all know that if you’ve got deep pockets you can escape a boatload of federal taxes: inheritance taxes got eliminated a couple years back, not to save family farms, as was so often claimed, but to allow the heirs of anyone with an estate of any size to pay nothing.

Prior to the death of that tax, cleverly nicknamed by the Republican Party as the “Death Tax,” an estate of $2 million or more was hit the then-inheritance tax of 46 percent.

IRS records, though, according to Loren Steffy, business columnist for The Houston Chronicle, reported that most such heirs — due to “exemptions and credits” — paid a tax of only 18.8 percent. And before Mr. Bush and his GOP Congress killed the inheritance tax, “fewer than 1 percent of Americans who died had estates valuable enough to trigger” it.”

On WETA the other night, Bill Moyers had a discussion with William Donaldson former Bush-appointed chairman of the Security and Exchange Commission, who told Moyers, “I think the sharing of the benefits of society are increasingly disproportionate.” People “read every day about the fantastic profits being made by hedge fund managers and so forth. And yet … they’re paying more for gasoline and paying more for the everyday necessities of life … . So in effect, the great middle class in this country has not really shared in what’s going on now.”

In a soul-baring speech, delivered just before his 2004 reelection in white tie and tails to a prestigious crowd, our president accurately and stunningly stated, “This is an impressive crowd — the haves and the have mores. Some people call you the elite — I call you my base.”

That’s right, the man in control of the levers of power served not with ‘compassion’ for all citizens, but with fervor for the top one percent of all U.S. citizens whose wealth, the Federal Reserve has reported, is greater than that of the bottom 95 percent.

So, while you’re stuck in traffic in the coming years of HOT pay-to-drive wealth, think of who’s been represented in Washington during the ‘conservative revolution,’ and understand that you’re not one of them.

Nick Penning ( is an Arlington, Va., freelance writer.