George W. Bush likes to portray himself as a down-home Texan, the kind of guy you’d love to barbecue steaks or hunt with on the weekend. As most people know, Bush is in fact a child of Eastern establishment privilege, weaned in suburban Connecticut and the coast of Maine, grandson of a Wall Street partner and great-grandson of a brokerage house founder.

There’s no crime in being born rich. But the dichotomy between W.’s public persona and his family background has beclouded more dangerous parallels between the way his administration and Wall Street function on a daily basis.

Stock-market people often disagree on which way the economy is going. Bulls and bears are always in evidence, and an ironclad rule on the street is that if sentiment has shifted too strongly in one direction, the market will go the opposite way every time. There’s even a culture clash on Wall Street, between blueblood firms that specialize in investment banking and trading firms populated by blue-collar types. It’s not a monolith down there in the Canyon of Heroes.

But all Wall Street firms agree on one thing. All regulation is bad, and all regulators are devils incarnate. Historically, Wall Street has always regulated itself, having convinced Congress many decades ago that outside supervision of its arcane ways threatened the health of the free-enterprise system. Even during the Great Depression, despite passage of remedial legislation like the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, Wall Street remained a self-policing entity, never mind that its own excesses had been largely responsible for the market crash that brought on the depression.

As one who worked as a broker for 28 years, I can aver that the cardinal rule is, “Don’t get caught.” It’s never, “Don’t do this or that,” always, “Don’t get caught doing this or that.” Wall Street is amoral. Inside information (bad) becomes homogenized into aggressive research (good). Those who trade on inside information often continue doing it for years until someone outside the brokerage business (one of those devils, like Attorney General Spitzer) connects the dots…meanwhile, dishonest brokers are rewarded with huge bonuses and perks by worshipful firms that recruit them from the competition, even notwithstanding a litany of complaints on the record from disgruntled investors.

The Bush administration works the same way. They police themselves, always with the objective of making everything seem O.K. To them, everything is always O.K. When charges surface that detainees have been tortured in Middle Eastern prisons, the Attorney General redefines torture, even as the president denies it’s happening. When the president is caught spying on Americans without a warrant (even while giving speeches saying warrants are necessary), the White House claims extraordinary executive power that makes it kosher for a president to take any steps necessary to “protect Americans.”

Make up the rules as you go along, and trash your critics as “do-gooders” or “liberals.” It works on Wall Street, and until recently, it worked for George W. Bush. But the symbiosis between the financial industry and the Bush administration doesn’t end there, nor with the favoritism of the White House toward Corporate America generally.

Beginning in the 1980s, round-the-clock TV coverage of financial news became a daily staple for stock traders, many of whom became so addicted that they gave up full-time jobs to day-trade equities and options. At first the analysis was fairly objective; then, as the bull market morphed into a bubble, MSNBC began excluding bearish or cautious analysts like Herb Greenberg and James Grant and replaced them with raging bulls like Joe Battipaglia, Tom Galvin, and Al Goldman, none of whom ever heard of an overpriced stock. Larry Kudlow, who seems to regard bullishness as a kind of patriotic birthright and who stayed in stoic denial throughout the 2000-2001 NASDAQ collapse, remains an MSNBC mainstay.

The Bush administration is identical in its intolerance of bears in its midst. Count the honest critics who’ve felt its wrath: General Shinseki, Richard Clarke, Paul O’Neill, George Tenet (a raging bull until the end), Colin Powell (ditto), Christie Whitman, and Joe Wilson and his innocent wife, Valerie Plame.

We’re “making good progress” in Iraq, so the administration tells us, and if people don’t realize it, it’s the media’s fault for focusing on dead bodies. Press conferences are packed with friendly “reporters” like male prostitute Jeff Gannon, who asked Scott McClellan, “Can the president work with Democrats, who are so out of touch?” Bush’s speeches are given to friendly audiences like the Naval Academy midshipmen and the Veterans of Foreign Wars; everyone in attendance dutifully applauds everything he says. Any newspaper printing negative stories about George W. Bush is threatened with denial of access. All media failed to inquire about Vice President Cheney’s top-secret energy conference, cooperated in the WMD fiction, and censored clear evidence of fraud in the 2004 election. To this day the full truth about 9/11, prisoner abuse, and Halliburton’s no-bid contracts and other Pentagon waste have been stifled by media that like Bush, pretend everything’s O.K.

When a bull market reaches its saturation point, the bears take over, as in 2000-2001. When an administration gets to the same stage, public opinion polls measure the damage. George W. Bush is now at 33% in the Fox Network poll, which means he’s hit his bear market. Given that the Dow Jones Industrials made a five-year high the other day, the Bush family must be quite confused…they’ve always equated bull markets with political success. Maybe Americans have had an epiphany.