Wow. "I am one of the few people above the poverty level who chooses not to drive and to use public transportation." Puhhhhlease. There are over 12 million people living above the "poverty level" -- whatever that means -- in New York City alone who choose not to drive and use public transportation. And, likewise, there are millions of people near or below the "poverty level" in America who choose to buy and drive cars even though it is considered a luxury by billions of people elsewhere in the world (i.e., China and India, for example). "BTW, more people should do that, if just to see how the other half live." Is this the statement of an egalitarian or an elitist? It's not clear... Many "poor" people in America refuse to give up their luxuries of TV, cable/satellite dishes, liquor, cars (who do we think buys all those Camaros anyway???), cigarettes, and gambling/lottery tickets, and then squeal about not having any money (or their better monied, guilt-ridden sympathizers squeal to politicians for them). Rich or poor, living in a mansion or on the street, all Americans are absolutely blessed to be living with the freedom to choose -- "Everyone makes their choices and live accordingly". Very well put. These "poor" Americans are not so much poor as they are horrible managers of their personal lives, their personal choices, and their personal finances. Tens of thousands of immigrants try to enter the United States (and hundreds die trying -- drowned Cubans, overheated-in-rail-cars Mexicans) each year. These truly desperate human beings would love to be "poor" and living below the "poverty level" in America -- the wealthiest and free-est society in the history of the world. At least they'd have a choice, better opportunities from the choices they make, and chance to make a better life for themselves and their loved ones. I say open the gates and let 'em in. At least they'll appreciate what they've got... Finally, one doesn't "[bring] American gas prices more in line with those in Europe" with a wave of a magic wand. It is not "Economics 101". In Economics 101 everyone learned that prices do not determine supply and demand -- supply and demand determine prices. Likewise, as much as OPEC tries to the contrary, oil prices are set by the worldwide supply and demand for oil. That is, unless a government hijacks the process with tariffs, quotas, embargoes, etc. that alter supply and demand characteristics that ultimately increase prices for everything in an economy that uses oil as an input to its manufacture and/or distribution. When this happens, "poverty" increases for everyone as prices rise for all goods in the economy (food gets delivered by gas-guzzling trucks after all, and that expensive gas gets factored into food prices). Getting a government involved in economics only makes things worse for everybody -- as the Soviets were forced to acknowledge and the Germans are now finding out. That said, I must say that I am all for abolishing the *income tax* code we have today and replacing it with a flat *consumption tax* like the VAT in most of Europe. One single surcharge everytime someone buys any item. That's all the governments -- local, state, federal -- should get. Then, one can work hard and make money without fear of a large chunk of it being taken away by overreaching bureaucrats, mismanaged governments, and "progressive" income tax policies that seek to punish personal financial success and reward lazyness and not trying very hard to improve one's own life. With a flat consumption tax we can free up the hundreds of thousands of lawyers and accountants trapped in non-productive, non-GDP-enhancing jobs sifting through the current labyrinthian income tax code and filing tax returns for other people. Their brains and creativity deserve better, and their more productive utilization will benefit our society more. But, of course, our federal politicians are too cowardly to take such political risks, and are too entrenched in the current system (hey, we pay all those guys in Washington D.C. ~$200,000 per year each for performing a "civic" duty they supposedly "volunteer" to do -- how altruistic of them.) to change the status quo and improve our lives. The worst boutique experience I've had? I don't go into the boutiques much because I think everything is overpriced there. I do get negative vibes at the Mont Blanc shop at NorthPark Centre in Dallas. Tres snooty, n'est pas?