The Hightower Report

Big-Spending George; and House the Rich

BIG-SPENDING GEORGE

George W. likes to pose as the Texas president – in the rough-hewn, rancher model of Lyndon Johnson.

However, George isn't actually a Texan – he was born in Connecticut, went to an East Coast prep school and to Ivy League colleges, and summered in Kennebunkport at his family's oceanfront estate. Nor is he a rancher, as Lyndon was. Yes, George bought a ranchette to boost his cowboy image when he decided to run for president, but this "cowboy" has no cattle and is even afraid of horses – that's not quite a "tall in the saddle" president like Johnson.

Yet, there is one area where George W. has stood taller than the real Texas president: federal spending. LBJ was derided as a big-spending liberal, but he was tightfisted compared to Bush. While George is now trying to pretend that he's a small-government fiscal conservative, federal spending in his administration has grown by 5.3% a year, nearly a full point higher than the rate of increase in the Johnson years and more than double the annual spending growth under Democrats Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

Of course, the Bush White House takes no responsibility for anything negative, so it's now trying to blame the billions of dollars that it's dumping into his war on terrorism for distorting Bush's spending numbers (maybe the Bushites don't remember that LBJ had a war to finance, too, since so few of them actually served in it). But Bush's spending is not just about his mismanaged wars. He has also hiked budgets in most agencies, with a disproportionate share of the increases going to privatization of government, corporate welfare, and right-wing ideological boondoggles.

So, now that we hear free-spending George W. suddenly posing as Mr. Frugal and demanding that Congress hold the line on spending, remember that no president has spent more of your tax dollars and gotten so little for it as he has.

HOUSE THE RICH

Once again, let's take a peek into the Lifestyles of the Rich ... and Cranky.

You think you've got it tough trying to find affordable housing or trying to figure out how you can pay for a two-bedroom apartment instead of the one-bedroom you're now in? Well, you don't know the meaning of troubles, bucko, until you've walked a mile in the Guccis of those poor rich people who are dealing in the luxury housing market.

Yes, the general housing market has cooled down all across America, but stop thinking about yourself. The high-end housing market is booming, and it's a struggle for folks there to get what they want. Take the case of a couple in Manhattan who recently found a sweet little duplex off Park Avenue. It was only $6 million, so of course they jumped on it. Indeed, they tacked an extra half-million dollars onto the asking price in order to fend off competing buyers.

Buying it, however, was the least of their troubles. Naturally, they had to tear out the existing walls and flooring and renovate the space to suit their tastes ... as well as to suit their social ambitions. And, darling, luxury renovation is not for the meek. The lady of the house had to quit her banking job so she could devote her full time to coordinating the restoration. There was a small army of some 50 architects, specialty decorators, expediters, staircase builders, audiovisual installers, and whatnot that was called in to make the place "just so."

Coping with luxury housing is harder than you riffraff can imagine. I mean, when you're having kitchen cabinets built for you in Italy and purchasing a custom-made, wraparound $30,000 couch – well, sweetheart, you're going to have some headaches.

So, please, don't tell us your tacky little stories of subprime mortgage woes, and don't bore us with sad-sack tales about your hunt for middle-class housing. Show a little love for those at the top who are struggling so mightily to make do in the Gilded Age.

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

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

George W. Bush, war on terrorism, affordable housing

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