The Hightower Lowdown

Look out: Bush is "revising standards" again; and the tax man is out to get the poor millionaires of Darien, Conn.

The Man Behind the Regulatory Curtain

The eight most frightening words coming out of our nation's capital these days are: "The Bush administration has announced revised standards for ...."

It doesn't matter "for what" -- you just know that it's going to be awful news, because the Bushites are zealously taking their ideological, pro-corporate chainsaws to every rule on the books that protects us regular Joes and Janes from the overbearing greed of corporate power. Whether it's a rule to protect our health, our jobs, the purity of our air and water, our pensions, our privacy, our natural resources, our citizenship rights -- you name it, Bush and Co. are ripping up the current legal standards, so it will be easier for corporations to get their way.

After all, these special interests have pumped millions of dollars into Bush's campaign coffers, so George has a big debt to pay. Going to Congress to get these special favors can be too iffy, too public, too messy -- so Bush's preferred way of delivering to his contributors is through executive orders and the backroom rewriting of regulatory standards.

There are so many of these anti-democratic "revisions" of regulations that the media does little more than announce them, but the overall impact is to rewrite the terms of our democratic sovereignty, further enthroning a few profiteers to rule over us.

Of course, in the Brave New Language of Bushspeak, such removal of our public protections is done in the name of "protecting" us. For example, a recent Bush ruling sets new standards for the horrendous pollution being caused in rural America by huge factory farms. "This is a major step forward to protect our nation's waters," declared a Bushite. But far from protecting the public, Bush's new standards protect the polluters -- under revised standards, the corporate operators of these factories get to write their own pollution-control plans ... and keep the plans secret from the public!

Pay attention to the man behind the regulatory curtain -- he's a fraud.

The Travails of Darien's Millionaires

Time to take another peek into the lifestyles of the rich ... and cranky.

Today we travel to Darien, Conn., a metropolis of millionaires just a commute away from Wall Street. Some of America's top bankers and corporate executives hang their hats here, people living in luxury. Life is good, except for one thing: These poor rich people are being picked on!

Here's the deal. While Darien basks in riches, much of Connecticut does not, and the state budget is strained just trying to meet basic needs. So, to help fill the gap, Gov. John Rowland has proposed a 1% state income-tax surcharge on people making more than a million bucks a year.

Oh, how Darien's champagne and caviar crowd yelped! It's not that the local swells can't afford the tax, but, as one of the town's luxury car dealers explains, they feel like an abused minority group. "Because they've done well for themselves, they're singled out to pay a tax," he says indignantly.

Poor babies. I wonder if they also complained when their president, George W., singled them out to get a special, trillion-dollar-plus tax cut last year -- a cut he now wants to make permanent for these put-upon millionaires?

Still, Darien whines. "It's a shame they think they are going to hit those who can afford to take the hit," sniffed a well-appointed lady getting a latte at Starbucks. "Not everybody's got cash left over this year," she added, as she sugared her $3 latte. Sure, lady, taxing millionaires is surely a "shame," like the shame of joblessness, homelessness, and general poverty in these hard economic times. Perhaps she'd be surprised to learn that these people also don't have a lot of cash left over -- for things like rent, food, and utilities, much less lattes.

Not all residents are whiners, however. As one says: "I make a good living. I pay OK taxes. Suck it up, and shut up," he advises his neighbors. Bingo.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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George W. Bush, revised standards, pollution, factory farms, Darien, Conn., John Rowland

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