I recently filled my gasoline tank. It came to $75. I drive a Toyota minivan. It gets about 20 miles to the gallon on average. I don’t drive it on the road for long trips often. My 1993 Dodge minivan gets better mileage.
A wife in the United States drives about 1,000 miles a month. A husband drives about 1,300 miles a month. The estimates are here. On average, that is at least 1,100 miles per car per month. I don’t know what mileage family vehicles get. I doubt that this is much higher than 20 miles per gallon in town for all the cars on the road. So, that is in the range of 55 gallons per month, or 660 gallons per year. Multiply this by $3.80 per gallon. This is $2,500 a year per car. Some cars get better mileage than others. But, any way you look at it, families with two cars are paying close to $5,000 a year in gasoline.
In 1998, I can remember paying 70 cents a gallon during a gasoline war. Prices at $1 a gallon were common.
Yet over the last 60 years, gasoline prices have remained little changed, according to government figures. Here is an inflation-adjusted chart.
Do I believe this chart? No. That’s because a 4-to-one increase in the last 14 years was a time of consumer prices rising by 40%. Gasoline at almost $4 vs. $1 is not reflected in this chart. I was there, Charlie.
American families’ budgets are being squeezed. They are having to pull money out of other areas of spending in order to keep driving. It is very difficult for most people to change their driving habits. They must drive to work. They must take the children around town.
This hits the middle class in the middle years: ages 25 to 45. Rich people do not spend a high proportion of their income on gasoline. Poor people do not own cars or do not drive much. The middle class is trapped.
This is why the price of gasoline is a major factor in the voters’ perception of how well they are doing. They are not doing well.
Is this going to change? Yes. For the worse. China and India are starting to consume more oil. They will consume far more.
Whoever is President will get blamed. It is not his fault, but he will get blamed. This means that national politics will be increasingly frustrated by a middle class that is losing its relative position. These people vote in larger numbers than the rich, the poor, or the young.