Blanketing opinions that I'll probably regret soon.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

USA: STFU About Gas Prices Already

Americans are so god damn spoiled rich that they think the world is collapsing because they can't drive to the movies every single weekend. Check out today's NYT article about how $100-per-barrel gas prices will devastate this "ordinary American" family:
For ordinary Americans like Phyllis Berry, a 31-year-old factory worker for General Motors in Cleveland, gasoline costs are starting to hurt.

“I used to fill it up pretty regularly, but now I drive it until the tank is almost empty, looking for the cheapest place to buy gas,” said Ms. Berry, who drives a beat-up Dodge Caravan.

She said that she used to take her four children to the movies four or five times a month. But with the cost of gas, tickets, popcorn and soda adding up to $70, they now go only once a month.
Awww ... poor baby. Can only go to the movies with her over-sized family once a month now. That's the scariest issue with gas at over $100 per barrel? Dude, I was just in Germany and it costs over $8.00 a gallon. You don't hear Germans acting like it's some fucking human rights violation.

The US is so used to being fed caviar from a golden spoon that the slightest inconvenience is perceived as a disaster in lifestyle change. Let's be honest: it would take gas prices at over $400/barrel and a decade-long recession to put us close to the way 2/3 of the world lives.

Man, I sound like a leftist again, bashing the USA. I think I'm back, people. I'm back.
i agree with you for the most part, however the public transit system in europe is far superior to that of the usa. If I could get around the usa like I could in europe via public transit, I think it would be less of an issue. Europe is much more pedestrian than the usa. Plus everything is much closer in proximity to each other.

Now, crying about not being able to take your kids to the movies 5 times a month instead of once, is pretty ridiculous. Now if you couldn't put food on the table, that would be another story.

My biggest complaint is that there isn't any real correlation between the price per barrel of oil and gas prices here (maybe indirectly) but gas companies have been recording record profits (in the Billions..that's with a B) since the price of fuel has gone up to the 2-3 dollar range in recent years.

I am gonna have to disagree with you on this one.

First off, Dilkman already talked about the European transit system. It is well established, wide-ranging, and user friendly. America has forsaken public transportation for the most part (unles you live and work in a city, even then some city systems are laughable) and invested more heavily into the auto industry. You can't justly compare European and American gas prices because Europeans can fall back on their public transit systems.

Second, if memory serves me correctly, you live in the DC area, which has one of the best transit systems around and you commute to work via bicycle. This makes you bias against people who complain about paying for gas. Most people are not as lucky as you, such as myself. Just one year ago, prices were a whole dollar less. Combined with my wife, thats an extra $100 a month we spend on gas compared to this time last year. I don't know what your financial situation is, but I live on a tight budget and that 100 bucks makes a difference over time.

Third, and lastly, please don't generalize. Implying that some idiot who can't drive to the movies anymore is the same as the rest of the country, while might not be far from the truth, kinda offends me. I don't drive to the movies, but I do need to get to work to make a living.

In closing, I have to agree with dilkman, its frustrating to hear that oil companies, while I understand are running businesses which have to make profits, are making money hand of fist while it seems the American public is driving through life on threads. I feel I have a right to complain, just a little bit. Or at least get some solid answers as to why prices have risen so steeply and remained at those levels.
You both are correct that Europe has a larger pedestrian culture --- which cannot be ignored --- but in Germany (my example) there certainly are a large number of car commuters. I used to picture Europe as a bunch of old men toting baguettes in the front baskets of their bicycles, but that's not accurate.

A few weeks ago I was driving all around Hamburg, Germany and it looked nearly identical to an American metropolis --- traffic jams into the city in the morning, and out at 5PM.

My point: Germans have the same wealth as Americans, commute almost as much, and pay more than twice the amount of money in gas ($8/gallon) --- and none of the complaining we hear so often here.

I didn't mean to offend anyone --- honestly --- and obviously do not know everyone's exact financial situation in the USA, but I stand by my generalization that there is an exorbitant amount of whining with regards to gas prices. If any generalization needs to be made, this one does.

Also, I have to give one last example:

My friend in Poland has three kids, lives 35 minutes from his main office in Krakow, works three jobs, and commutes by bus daily to get there. In winter, two thirds of his income goes just to heating the god damn house. They have no hot water in the house. Imagine bathing a 7-month-old, a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old with cold water, and then getting out of the tub into a 55 degree house.

Back to my orinal point: people all over the world live lives that are VERY strained financially and maintain full, happy lives, without the melodramtic, sky-is-falling tears that we see from the woman I mentioned in the NYT article in my main post --- a common complaint in the US.

Also, think about this: in 2008, most families have cable TV, internet and cell phones. My bills for all those run over $210 per month. So what did people do before those things were as common as having electricity?
CNN also has an equivalent story as the NYT.

Again, their example still has yet to show by anecdote that Americans are feeling any REAL pain from rising gas prices:

"The surge in gas prices has forced Kenny Khan to cut back his weekly 100-mile visits to his sister in Cherry Hill, N.J., to once a month.

'It costs me $50 in gas to visit her', said Khan, 52, who lives in Teaneck, N.J., and manages a gas station in midtown Manhattan. 'As a salaried consumer, I can't afford that much for recreation.'"

Basically, the guy is going to have to cut back a bit on his recreation. Oooo ... that's true suffering, isn't it.
dude, nevermind the rest of the world, how about the poor people, the homeless people, and the too-ill-to-work people. We don't have to look too far to find people who are actually really suffering from real world problems.

You should have seen the local news coverage of the crisis caused by $tarbucks closing for training. You would have thought people were getting involuntary anal bleaching. Or something.
You know what else I hate? People who come into DC from out of town and park their MD or VA crap mobiles on my street!!

oh wait - that's something we had to listen to your spoiled ass whine about.

Sorry to say, but I have more sympathy for Shrubs' necessity to readjust his family's budget than for some of the sunsets you talk shit about, American economic policy aside.

whining about other people whining is stoopid.


I'm BITCHING about other people's whining. There's a difference. Plus, that's what blogs are for!
If a society is built around the car and its roads, there will be major issues when prices get worse. This may sounds cynical, but it's going to get much much worse. Probably the major issue of the election in 4 years.

Where should we park tomorrow?
Yeah, Lonnie,

My 84 year old Grandma is on a fixed income. She lives off a pension from my grandfather and social security. As the cost of oil continues to climb, she pays more and more not just for gasoline but to heat her home. She does not live an extravagant lifestyle. Quite the contrary, she has shopping lists that note the cost of each item next to the item, because she knows if the cost of bread goes up, she has to make sure some other cost goes down. Gasoline prices are no different. My grandmother drives only during the day. She drives to the doctors and to the grocery store and to visit with local friends. But she can only afford so much per month on gas. So when gas prices go up, my Gram stays home, and when she does venture out, she feels stressed and worries that she will have to cut somewhere else.

Or, if you prefer, take my parents. My mom and her husband are on a tight budget. They share one car and one cell phone (and they cut out their home phone to save money). They rent their home in Penn Hills, a suburb of Pittsburgh. The closest bus stop is a 2 1/2 mile walk from their front door. There is no subway accessible to them. My brothers are both in college about 45 minutes from the house and do not own vehicles, themselves (they walk to class and don't venture too far from campus). My stepfather has no choice but to drive 20 miles daily round trip back and forth to work. When gas prices climb 1 dollar in 1 year, the impact on a family like mine is severe. What should they do if they can't afford gas to get to work or see their children. Maybe they should move to Germany. Or, maybe they should just stay where they are and stop "whining."

I understand what you mean about overpriveleged Americans griping about gas prices. But LB, in your comfortable perch here in DC I think you've lost sight of the fact that most people in America do not live like you and me.

To conclude that one snippet of anecdotal evidence in the NYT article reflects an entire nation's is just silly.

Many Americans must count and recount every penny they have. Sure, the NYT picked a bad example, quoting a woman talking about taking her kids to the movies. But still -- the point is that gas prices have created hardships for families. Maybe one family limits trips to the movies, but you may be certain that another one is lying awake at night, hoping he'll have enough gas to make it to work in the morning and feeling the lump in his throat that comes with borrowing money to put gas in the tank so he can get to work and get paid and put food on his family's table.

Don't knock hard-working families for "whining" about sacrifices you don't have to make.

I don't mean to be rude...but you're way off base on this one!

BTW, while you're feeling leftish:

The House on Wednesday approved a bill to extend more than $17 billion in tax credits and other incentives to encourage the production of energy from solar, wind and other renewable sources, and to promote energy conservation. The bill would be financed by ending tax incentives for oil and natural gas producers.

Democratic leaders in the House hailed the legislation as a step toward energy independence and a moral victory for protecting the environment, by encouraging production of clean alternative fuels. But the White House threatened to veto the bill, saying it would be a mistake to increase the tax burden on American oil companies.
Red Storm,

There is no way I can speak to the specifics of every individual's financial situation in this country, and I am not downplaying the every-day struggles many people have --- including people you know and care about. I also agree that my situation is quite different from many in the US and I never denied that fact.

My generalization about Americans and gas prices is not directed at specific people; it is a generalization, after all.

Basically, until there are riots in the streets, I'm not convinced that higher gas prices is causing any widespread major suffering to most Americans.

And here's my analogy: almost every poor country whose government has lifted fuel subsidies. Here's an excellent NYT article covering a few examples, but I'll take Myanmar as one.

People in Myanmar risk their lives challenging the government on anything. When they lifted fuel subsidies in 2007, the price of gas doubled and people were IN THE STREETS ready to die to fight it --- and some did.

That's what I'm talking about.

I never imagined I'd stir any emotions with this post (or comments, for that) but it seems to have really struck a cord. I intent was not to piss anyone off or cause offense --- was just bitching.
"Man, I sound like a leftist again..."

i wouldn't call it leftist. i'm about as rightist as they come and i'd call your rant "realist." now, the story itself is leftist in my opinion as it reinforces the notion that entitlement (in this case, entitlement to cheap gas and the luxury of going to the movies five times per month) trumps necessity.
I had a person in one of my business classes write a comment about how horrible it would be if gas prices got to $5 a gallon this summer. I remembered reading this blog and slapped the NYT article right in her face.
I'm pretty sure half of my class hates me so it's a good thing the class is online!
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Web Counter
Web Counters