HIGHTOWER: Rising Above the Traffic

Let's take another peek into the "Lifestyles of the Rich ... and Cranky."The one thing that seems to make the rich crankiest of all is when their money doesn't do them any good, doesn't buy them special privileges that lift them above the hum-drum burdens that the rest of us must endure. Take traffic. No matter how juicy the bottom-line on your net-worth statement, no matter how expensive your car is, no matter if you even have a chauffeur to drive you -- when you're in a traffic jam ... well, there you are. Gridlock knows no class, and, darlings, that's simply infuriating.I know you feel their pain, so you'll be absolutely delighted to know that relief is at last available for the gridlocked rich. More and more of them are literally lifting themselves above us riff-raff in the slow lanes of life by buying personal helicopters to take them to and fro their suburban enclaves. As one Princeton dweller said of his ability to zip into Manhattan for a meeting, "I can look over the traffic." Exactly. Helicommuting restores the class order.Of course, it's pricey, but what's money good for if not to let you "look over" the rabble? USA Today reports that a paper mill owner used to drive his Mercedes into Seattle from his Vashon Island estate, until a fellow islander gave him a lift in his helicopter. "I immediately went out and bought one," said the executive.Want your own? USA Today tells us that copter prices are down, so you don't have to be a billionaire to chop into work every day. You can pick up a little two-seater for only $154,000! Then there's the cost of fuel, insurance, and maintenance -- not to mention a pilot.This is Jim Hightower saying ... Problem is, if everybody who's anybody is buzzing around the skies, haven't we just lifted gridlock up a few hundred feet? And, up there, a fender-bender gets serious. See ... it's tough being rich.

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