Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Math Is Hard, Let's Go Shopping

Via The Oil Drum, there's an interesting excerpt in this profile of reg'lar folks hit hard by gas prices:

"I just don't drive as much," said Herman Heaton, a 72-year-old retired lumber mill worker, leaning against a Chevy Silverado pickup that now costs him $80 to fill up. "We don't go to Mobile as much as we used to for shopping." Heaton said he now spends about $600 a month on gas, about 10 percent of his income and about double what he spent last year.

Now, maybe I've forgotten my gazintas over the years, but a couple things seem a tad odd. Let's ballpark a few things -- gas in Thomasville is currently about $3.97, so let's say $4.00 even just to simplify the math. A Silverado gets roughly 16 mpg; this particular model has a 26-34 gallon tank, but let's say Cooter has one-a them 20-galloners, so $80 a fillup as he claims, and roughly 320 miles per tank.

So basically we're looking at a 72-year-old guy in Buttfuck, Alabama who has to fill up twice a week to drive over 90 miles every single day on average, for some bizarre reason. And this $600/month he spends equals 10% of his income as a retired lumber-mill worker. Yes, a retired lumber-mill worker in Alabama is pulling down $72K a year, and spending that time doing nothing but driving. Right. That is one sweet-ass pension, especially in one of the most chronically poor states.

Either this old fart is growing and/or muling large quantities of dope and/or migrant workers to supplement his pension, or someone didn't bother to wonder about those crazy-ass ballpark numbers. Even if the numbers turned out to be accurate, they don't seem to be typical or average in any way. I mean shit, Herman, maybe hang out around the house and read a book once in a while. That's why it's called retirement.

Oh, and as for the main point of the article, this local incremental boost from the townies staying home 'cause of gas prices seems anecdotal and temporary. As long as people in rural towns have to commute elsewhere to get a living wage, and look out-of-town for basic stores and services, the greater part of their discretionary income is leaving town, and the tax base remains dispersed.

1 comment:

cavjam said...

The problem with inaccurate figures like GDP, core inflation, and unemployment is that anecdotal evidence becomes more prevalent. The problem with anecdotal evidence is that people may exaggerate just a tad. Maybe this is what economic genius Phil Gramm meant by money probs being mental. Maybe Mr. Alabama goober should stop whining and just silently keep contributing to the Saudi royal family.

ps- while a Silverado may get 16mpg unadorned, after you add 12 flapping confederate flags and 600 lbs. of wooden crosses that number diminishes; not that I'm stereotyping or anything.