Gas Prices–The Real Harm Is NOT Vacations

An odd sort of faulty economic impact analysis keeps leaving the lips of TV and radio talking heads. I suppose it is part and parcel of the often observed herd behavior of mainstream media’s first line reporters. High gasoline prices are keeping people home. Vacations will be shortened or limited to local travel. In the end, the stories seem to become self-fulfilling prophecies as Americans listen to the reports. But how much of a dollar impact to the average family  vacation is even a $2-3 more per gallon price? For a 500-mile trip at 20 miles per gallon we’re talking about $50-75 more than last year. What is that, a couple meals and a movie for a family of four on the road? OK, let’s say a 1,000 mile trip and $100-$150. OK, let’s say it’s 15 miles per gallon for a gas hog and we are talking $200 more. Yes, that is an impact but if you can’t afford that much of a bite on the vacation–how can you afford the vacation at all? And what if you have already have a more fuel-efficient vehicle that gets 30 mpg or better? Not much of a ding at all. No the real impact is on the rest of those miles the family drives–to work every day, to the store and on other errands that make up the 12,000 to 15,000 miles the average vehicle is driven. All the more so for typical multi-family households in the burbs with mom, dad and a couple teens each having a car. Most painful is the impact on the low-income worker who lives far away from where he or she works and drives an older vehicle with poor gas mileage. McCain and Obama are already picking up on this. Maybe the talking heads will catch on that this will be, if not the main issue, one of the top issues for the November election.