Making Choices

Today I had a great comment on my $4 Gasoline post by Joy at Joy’s Victory Garden and Our Friendly Earth, that got me to pondering an issue that I have addressed here before. With the inevitable $4 gasoline, and the possibility of the rising cost not taking a downward turn anytime soon, what are average Americans going to do? Choices will be made…choices born out of fear and exasperation.

My concern with $5 gasoline is that people will have to choose between buying a gallon of milk or loaf of bread and buying a gallon of gasoline. Without fuel, people will not be able to afford to drive to work. If a person doesn’t work, then what? There are assistance programs, but I am certain it is not enough.

DH drives 36 miles round trip for work everyday. He drives an older vehicle with terrible fuel economy…but that is our only choice at the moment. Just cipherin’ in my head, I come up with a monthly expenditure of around $200 for him to drive back and forth to work. It is not proper form to tell you what percentage of his net income that actually respresents, but let’s just say….I would much rather that be going into a college savings fund instead pouring out into the environment. There is no choice for us for now, we will keep paying the amount, whatever it is, so that DH can earn his paycheck.

What about other’s who do not have other resources to offset this enormous budget buster? For a minimum wage employee, almost one hour work will pay for a gallon of gasoline. I am thinking that most minimum wage workers drive older less fuel efficient vehicles. Using the same scenario as DH’s, except on minimum wage, the percentage of net income spent on fuel is approximately 25%, a percentage that was once reserved for the most important issue of your budget…housing. Rising fuel costs added to a fixed rent figure could skyrocket to a 60-70% of a minimum wage earners net salary. So that puts us at 85-90% of salary….hmmmm….what about child care (I am thankful I do not have to worry about this expense), medical, and ummmm…let’s say FOOD? There’s another hit below the belt. Milk is as much as gasoline and bread/eggs not to far from it.

I am not an economist….and there is much I do not understand about inflation, recession, supply and demand, but one thing that I recognize with our current situation and where it is headed is that we are in deep stuff here. I think I could ramble on and on here with what ifs. It seems…and I realize that I will most likely be corrected in the comments section….that we have a full viscious cycle building larger and larger….like a thunderhead in the distance. If people are put into a position of making choices of whether to purchase gas to drive to work, or to feed a hungry family, what will that choice be and what are the ramifications of the choice? No work? No paycheck! No paycheck? No food or housing! Then what? Subsidies are available, but will they continue if a the need becomes greater? Certain jobs are filled with minimum wage workers (right or wrong) that will otherwise not be filled by anyone else. What will happen if the need for employees is not met? What if, what if?

I don’t know the answer. Do you? One thing I do know, it that I am watching the lightning strikes…..1….2….3…..and counting the moments…1…..2…..before I hear the thunder…..1……and I believe it to be a prudent time to take cover! There is a different kind of storm a-comin’!