One in three Northwest households makes less than $35,000 a year, before taxes. That’s about 1.6 million households. Now, $35k ain’t bad—and it’s far, far above the federal poverty line, even for a family of four — but most households below that level feel $4 gasoline as a major blow. And especially when fuel costs are sending the price of everything from cat food to a handyman visit into double-digit inflation.
One in four Northwest households makes less than $25,000 a year, before taxes. That’s more than 1 million households.
One in eight Northwest households makes less than $15,000 a year, before taxes. That’s more than a half-million households.
No further comment for now.
Figures are for Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, using 2006 data (the most recent available) from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. (By state, the percentage of households making less than $35k is WA: 32%; OR: 38%; ID: 40%.) Comparable figures for British Columbia are not available.
The NYTimes did an article today about just this issue (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/09/business/09gas.html). Some interesting facts on percent of take home income the average American spends on gasoline:* National average 4%* Some counties average less than 2%* Some counties average over 15%Not surprisingly, the percent spent depends a great deal on wealth. The rural poor are spending as much for gas as housing and food. Many are choosing between them.As Eric points out, there are millions more folks in the NW who will be priced out of food, housing and/or transportation as gas prices rise. This is unlikely to lead to peace or prosperity for our society or for any of us.In addition, any hope for climate stability requires we cut fossil fuel usage dramatically. But today’s prices are already inflicting real pain on a growing number of folks. Worse, we haven’t even seen a drop in total fossil fuel use yet. How high will the price need to go to ensure a survivable climate?We have a serious issue here folks. Cutting fossil fuel emissions is going to be like playing musical chairs. Each round we have to remove one of the chairs. Who gets left out each round? Right now all our plans call for selling the remaining chairs at increasing prices to whoever can pay for them. We need a system that requires everyone to cut fossil fuel usage not just the poor and lower middle class like we are seeing today. Single-price carbon is neither socially stable nor a climate solution.