Memorial Day normally kicks off the summer vacation and heavy driving season, but with gas prices at the pump more than twice as expensive as they were two years ago, American families are being forced to stay close to home and pull back on normal family expenses.
The cost to fill up the tank is consuming 40% more of the family budget than it did last summer.
According to AAA, 17 cents of every consumer dollar is spent at the pump, up from 12 cents one year ago. That has consequences, of course. "Dining, shopping, museums, and gambling are taking a hit, while less costly activities like going to the beach, sightseeing, hiking, or visiting state or national parks are on the rise," says Jim Lardear, spokesman for AAA-Atlantic.
Families will spend 14% less on vacations this year than in 2010 according to AAA, which will hit the tourism industry right in the cash register.
According to an AP report, American households spent an average of $369 on gas last month. In April 2009, they spent just $201; an increase of 83% in just two years.
The average American family now spends more filling up than they spend on cars, clothes, or recreation. Last year, they spent less on gasoline than each of those things.
High gas prices are stifling any real economic recovery, too. Last Friday, the Commerce Department reported that consumer spending on everything but fuel and food was essentially flat, rising just 0.1% in April.
With family budgets hammered and wages flat, the housing market continues to free fall with declining values and predictions that the percentage of Americans owning homes will tumble to thirty year lows.
Economists have slashed their once semi-optimistic economic forecasts for the second quarter of 2011, now "predicting" weak growth of just 2 or 3 percent.
Some of the spike in gas prices is no doubt due to the unrest in the oil producing nations of the Arab World, but a great deal of it is due to the agenda of the Obama Administration's Central Planners to drive up gas prices.
The stated objective of the Administration according to Energy Secretary, Stephen Chu, has been "to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe."
Unfortunately for American families, they are well on the way.
Interior Secretary Salazar's permitting moratorium in the gulf, where nearly a third of our domestic oil and gas is produced, will reduce production in the region by 35% over two years according to the government's own EIA.
Salazar compounded the problem by cancelling vast numbers of existing energy leases and banning production in 97% of our energy rich off-shore waters . Business in general and the energy industry in particular has been hammered with 29 major regulations and 172 major policy rules proposed or implemented in just two years by Obama's EPA.
Spending more to get less seems to be Obama's objective. Less driving, less vacations, less money left for other things all add up to less economic activity and less jobs. So, are the actions of this Administration just a mistake, or was all the talk about saving and creating jobs just a smoke-screen for their real agenda?
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