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Thread: Are gas prices another mechanism to culturally separate the rich from the poor?

  1. #1
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    Are gas prices another mechanism to culturally separate the rich from the poor?

    someone posted a letter to the editor to my local newspaper below - I have removed some of the local reference text (though many of you know where I am) - but I thought her work was pretty thought provoking in the question of if you are so wealthy that 5 bucks a gallon won't affect you, is continuing to drive SUV's another status symbol (or the enhancement of the previous status of owning a high priced vehicle) - I am not seeing a role of government in this necessarily but it's good coffee talk...she makes some decent recommendations too

    Question: If you have oodles of money, do you have the right to use up oodles of resources? Obviously a lot of rich people seem to think so. This is the time of year we start seeing private jets parked at the Airport bringing in super wealthy weekend visitors. Houses as big as some schools are made ready by vans full of cleaning staff, kitchen help and grounds workers. A one month utility bill for many of these palatial summer cottages exceeds the annual utility bill for a lot of regular folk.

    While some of us are greatly limiting our driving, walking as many places as possible and generally mindful of the amount of fuel we are using (not just because of the price but because we are aware that some of the truly bizarre and destructive weather in many parts of the country this summer is due to climate change), a number of wealthy summer visitors are buzzing around in monstrous SUVs. Not to worry, they tell us, they can afford the gas.

    And it’s not just the super wealthy. Recently I spent some time reading comments to an article on the Internet about what people were doing who own big gas guzzlers given the recent hike in prices. A surprising number of SUV and Hummer owners said they were financially successful and could afford really expensive gasoline. Several opined that those of us who drove fuel efficient cars and objected to these ridiculous vehicles were just jealous because we couldn’t afford to buy or operate one ourselves. A mother wrote that she was not about to tell her 14-year-old, almost six foot tall son that he had to bend himself into a small car every time he needed a ride to the mall.

    Wasting resources, it seems, is quite the status symbol in this country. It sounds like there are even a number of people who see the potential for $8 a gallon gas as a truly excellent way to show the world just how successful they are. Imagine how envious we will all be of someone tooling along on our local roads in a Range Rover limousine knowing that they can afford to fill the tank of a vehicle that gets 5 mpg. Wow! And most of us can only dream of attaining such success in life.

    Well here’s a message from at least a few of us non-envious ones to all those wealthy wasters: we really don’t care how much fuel you can afford for your private jet, your Escalade or to keep the lights on in your “cottage” 24/7, we can’t afford to pay the freight for your opulent lifestyle. The elderly in some of our large cities who are trying to stay just marginally comfortable while the temperature exceeds 100 degrees in June can’t afford it. The families of the dead and injured in the Midwest, causalities of greatly increased number and severity of storms this season, can’t afford it. Our children can’t afford it and even your children can’t afford it because eventually even the affluent will feel the effects of droughts, floods and really wacky weather.

    What I’d like to suggest is a few ways the wealthy (and their emulators) could show the world just how successful they are and not destroy the planet in the process.

    Make small, extremely well-designed, energy efficient houses the new status symbol. Imagine being able to brag that your 1,500 square foot summer home can comfortably sleep 8 because only a select few can afford the best small house architect in the Western Hemisphere. Your roof is covered in those new extremely expensive solar shingles, every light bulb is a $150 LED that uses one-tenth of the energy of a regular bulb and every bit of material used to construct this little jewel of a house was reclaimed or sustainably harvested and non-toxic.

    A bunch of us really can afford Hummers, but some of those cool proto-type electric cars cost almost as much as a Maserati. Even we tree huggers would turn an extra shade of green if we saw you buzzing around in a jazzy little electric number.

    Take the train and the bus rather than a private jet on your next visit to the island. And then with the money you save, make a decent donation to our third world style rail system and ask them to name several miles of new track in your honor.

    Buy only local everything. Imports shipped halfway around the world on polluting tankers are strictly for the masses.

    How we speak about wealth would change dramatically. We’d say things like “he’s so rich and successful, he generates only one-third of the greenhouse gases of the average American” or “she must have gotten a super bonus from Wall Street this year by the looks of that new state of the art wind generator.”

    Of course we already have some very affluent residents who have been actively and passionately working to save the environment here and elsewhere for decades. We need more of them. And we all need to acknowledge that every single one of us foots the bill for excess and waste. Nobody can really afford it.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    I have to admit that part of me is a little jealous that some people can afford to drive their big suv no matter what price gas is

  3. #3
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    I have been known to be jealous of people with much more money than me, because I could think of a ton of cool stuff to do with their amount of money.

    I don't know if this is any indication of purposeful class/income separation.

    In a capitalist market economy, those with more resources will always have easier access to limited or "scarce" commodities than those with less.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian ofos's avatar
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    I find it much more productive, not to mention less frustrating, to concentrate on what I can do than to take potshots at the rich(er). Collectively, us poor folk waste a LOT of resources that somebody's children are going to need.
    “Death comes when memories of the past exceed the vision for the future.”

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    I take the point that some of the wealthy should not consume limited resources at the accelerated rate they do.

    On the other hand, I can drive thru the poorest sections of this county, and see plenty of enormous pickup trucks, recreational boats, Escalades, and huge Cadillac and Lincoln sedans. The house they're parked next to may be an old trailer, or a tiny home that's falling apart, but the big vehicles are there. There must be some large sections of the population who never saw this coming.

    There was a comment in the "squall" blog of our local paper that noted gas is taxed per gallon, not per dollar spent, and look out when the states start trying to change that.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    I don't worry about that sort of stuff. I know it is going to bite them on the @$$ someday. 95 percent of the folks you see like that are driving themselves into debt. I believe that the truely rich folks are bright enough to know that conservation of resources will keep them wealthy. Sure some of the truely rich will inheirit that money, but it won't be long before they don't have anything.

    Not everyone driving a large vehicle is crazy for wanting one, some people actually need big pick-ups for work.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Budgie's avatar
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    I find the very premise of this thread a very very very sad commentary on what our country has turned us into. Perhaps we all need to learn what it's really like to be face to face with survival. Who cares if someone can consume more of something than others. Why aren't we having this discussion about black truffles? Only the rich and fanatical own them, but we don't discuss the price as a mechanism to keep the majority of us down. Please people, grow up and face economic reality. We are going to have to find other ways to get around or sacrifice other things. It's that simple. I haven't had a speck of a black truffle in 3 months.... I'm not calling for congressional action.

    A horse and feed is looking pretty good right now. And you can't get more stylish than that.
    "And all this terrible change had come about because he had ceased to believe himself and had taken to believing others. " - Leo Tolstoy

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    Cyburbian tsc's avatar
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    I think it the letter makes some good points,,,but I also see some middle class people that drive hummers and gas guzzlers. In the 1970s my parents bought a huge Chrysler station wagon that was loaded...and a gas guzzler. They bought it because it was a bargain as people were buying VW bugs and rabbits. We didn't drive it long distances. We surely didn't have much money, but the car itself was so cheap. You see that now...big cars are all on sale...not the hybrids.
    "Yeehaw!" is not a foreign policy

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    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    I like the idea of making wealth viewed differently. I hate SUVs because they really do nothing but waste. They are a status symbol, but even my farmer FIL does not need an SUV and I really doubt many people on Earth haul around as much stuff as he does.

    I see the need for inefficient vehicles that have a purpose (i.e. big trucks), but honestly SUV don't serve a purpose. If we could change that status symbol to "cool" efficiency I think that would be amazing.

    I really appreciate the hope that the article exudes. But the problem is that those who have much, do not have to change. They will continue to live the lifestyle that they please, because they can.
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    The letter-writer hopes for a time when the rich are praised for their conservation efforts but it is already the case in some circles. Some rich people drive big-ass escalades but others (think stuffwhitepeoplelike.com) tend to show off their environmental ethic by buying Priuses and historic homes in gentrified neighborhoods.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    Living "green" doesn't necessarily mean living "cheaply".

    You pay more for...
    Organic foods
    Green paint
    Supporting local farmers
    Supporting companies with fair wages
    Living in "some" historic districts
    Prius'
    LEED certifiying anything

    The list goes on and on:

    Right now, the only things I can think of that don't have high up front costs are compact flourescent bulbs, recycling, and "some" species of native plants (in lieu of turf grass).

    The author complains that wealthy people are consuming at a faster rate than others, and his suggestions are not necessarily more affordable. I think he should have included long-term maintenance costs for his suggestions. He also notes that the wealthy's pursuit of happiness is being done at the expense of others, but I have set to see any quantifiable proof that one person's Hummer is driving a poor family out into the street.

    This letter should not be addressed to our wealthy. It should be addressed to our futures markets, which drive up the price of oil through speculation. On a separate note, I think it's a terrible thing to open up off-shore drilling, not so much for the environmental reasons, but because we won't feel the benefits for a decade and it is only offering temporary relief. If oil prices dip, people will NOT change their driving or energy habits, wealthy or poor.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Budgie View post
    Please people, grow up and face economic reality. We are going to have to find other ways to get around or sacrifice other things. It's that simple.
    A completely agree. Gas prices are not the problem. Our dependence on petroleum for everyday transportation is. This dependence stems from our inefficient land use pattern.

    The rich have always been able to live far from work (i.e. garden suburbs, cottage in the country). The poor and middle class have always lived closer. The overindulgent and unmaintainable interstate system and cheap gasoline temporarily allowed us to circumvent this reality. Now it has come back to bite us on the arse.

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    Cyburbian Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jmello View post

    The rich have always been able to live far from work (i.e. garden suburbs, cottage in the country). The poor and middle class have always lived closer. The overindulgent and unmaintainable interstate system and cheap gasoline temporarily allowed us to circumvent this reality. Now it has come back to bite us on the arse.

    Not necessarily, in either our county or much of coastal Florida. The rich live on the beach, or adjacent to the many bays and bayous and waterways, in town, connecting to the Gulf or Atlantic. Many of the poor and middle class live in small outlying communities that may have a convenience store, church, and school, but no industry, and drive 20-30 miles or more into "the city" to work, see their doctors, and shop. Well inland is where the land is affordable and/or where you can put a trailer on your property.

  14. #14
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Zoning Goddess View post
    Not necessarily, in either our county or much of coastal Florida. The rich live on the beach, or adjacent to the many bays and bayous and waterways, in town, connecting to the Gulf or Atlantic. Many of the poor and middle class live in small outlying communities that may have a convenience store, church, and school, but no industry, and drive 20-30 miles or more into "the city" to work, see their doctors, and shop. Well inland is where the land is affordable and/or where you can put a trailer on your property.
    I agree - that's coastal Maine too!

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    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Zoning Goddess View post
    Not necessarily, in either our county or much of coastal Florida. The rich live on the beach, or adjacent to the many bays and bayous and waterways, in town, connecting to the Gulf or Atlantic. Many of the poor and middle class live in small outlying communities that may have a convenience store, church, and school, but no industry, and drive 20-30 miles or more into "the city" to work, see their doctors, and shop. Well inland is where the land is affordable and/or where you can put a trailer on your property.
    Great point. A lot of the places are like that - where the service sector commutes great distances because they can not afford the cost of living where they work.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Well.....

    I have no idea....

    but I did figure out recently that every time I fill up my small commuter car with gas, I'm spending between 3%-4% of the market value of the car!
    “The way of acquiescence leads to moral and spiritual suicide. The way of violence leads to bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers. But, the way of non-violence leads to redemption and the creation of the beloved community.”
    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
    - See more at: http://www.thekingcenter.org/king-ph....r7W02j3S.dpuf

  17. #17
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by luckless pedestrian View post
    I agree - that's coastal Maine too!
    I should have clarified. I was talking about the pre-automobile and pre-interstate history of large metropolitan areas, not small coastal counties.

    An example is the early 20th-century executives who commuted by boat from Long Island and Connecticut to Manhattan.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jmello View post
    I should have clarified. I was talking about the pre-automobile and pre-interstate history of large metropolitan areas, not small coastal counties.

    An example is the early 20th-century executives who commuted by boat from Long Island and Connecticut to Manhattan.
    Wellllll... it you only are considering hugh fricking cities like NY and Boston, there you go. OH wait, most planners only consider huge fricking cities like NY and Boston.... so, you will discount anything less? Even if they show development patterns that don't meet your opinion? Sarasota? Bradenton? Miami? Jacksonville? \\

    Don't dismiss an observation by another Cyb as "little coastal county". You will be wrong but holier than thou.

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