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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 12-18-10, 07:59 AM   #1
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Cars=Class Warfare?

I ran across this post on 30th Century Bicycle! Interesting reading and point of view, that I happen to agree with.
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Cars eat up smaller incomes

When the automobile is used as the primary mode of mass transit, the poorest are hardest hit. In 2008, for instance, the poorest fifth of Americans spent 13 per cent of their income on gas. The top fifth spent 3 per cent. In Highway Robbery: Transportation, Racism and New Routes to Equity, Robert Bullard notes: “Those earning less than $14,000 per year, after taxes, spend approximately 40 per cent of their take-home pay on transportation expenditures. This compares to 22 per cent for families earning between $27,177 and $44,461 annually, and 13 per cent per year for families making more than $71,900 per year.”

Nearly three-quarters of U.S. households earning less than $15,000 a year own a car, and in an extreme example of auto dependence, tens of thousands of “mobile homeless” live in their vehicles.

The poor purchase cars because there is no other option in a society built to serve the needs of the automobile. If you want to work, you need a car. If you want to visit your friends, you need a car.

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Old 12-18-10, 10:21 AM   #2
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In my younger days I struggled to pay the bills. I supported a family with a pizza-delivery job. My then-wife didn't work. We did have one car, which was necessary for the pizza job. It was years before my wife bothered to get a drivers license.

I lived in a small town in Michigan, and *could* have walked or biked anywhere in town. We didn't. We drove everywhere.

It's really a matter of knowing that the option is there. I never considered it. Other than riding our bikes, how do we educate others?

I saw a craigslist posting a few weeks ago. Two bikes for sale, don't need them anymore, I have a car. Sad.
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Old 12-18-10, 11:03 AM   #3
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I think it is generally accepted that the lower down the socio-economic ladder you go the more people spend on the necessities of life such as food, accomodation and heating as a proportion of their income whereas the higher you go up the less people spend proportionally.

The figures quoted only confirm that in the US, for many a car is a necessity.

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Old 12-18-10, 11:11 AM   #4
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What this figure doesn't tell you is the coincidental costs of trying to maintain a car on a low income. I can tell you some of them:
- the mental costs of wondering if the strange noise coming from your transmission is likely to end your ability to get to work
- the energy needed to spend all Saturday looking through wreckage yards for a part for your car
- late nights after work in crummy weather in the driveway trying to install a starting motor or something
- time needed to track down someone who will patch up your exhaust, even though it would be cheaper in the long run to repair it correctly.
- the anxiety and irritation buying a really old used car entails, along with the higher cost of borrowing.

I suppose there are more. I spend quite a few years in the 1980s and most of the 90s trying to pay for car transportation on a real shoestring budget. I'm happy to be out of that loop.
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Old 12-18-10, 11:39 AM   #5
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I wonder if that reasoning couldn't be applied to housing and food as well. I suppose you could add cloths also. What is obvious is those making or having more money will be spending less by percent than someone making a basic living.
Now it could be argued that these things tend to drive people into having to work harder or seeking a higher paying job even if they like the job they have but I am not sure it equates to class warfare.
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Old 12-18-10, 12:21 PM   #6
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I've been CF for 6 years now, fully capable of hauling a week's worth of groceries for a family of 8 (in my case, extended family, sister's brood) at any time with the trailer, and it's been a normal thing this past year to bring extras home in those re-useable shopping bags hanging from my bar (I carry 2 in my gear). But my sister's husband, as recently as last August, railed at me about when was I going to grow up and buy a car. (He's 61, I'm 51, and I'm the one working, he's somewhat disabled.)

Think I'll ride my bike to his funeral.

Now, back on topic: this is precisely the reason I chose to become CF -- the car died, we were barely making it, a car payment wasn't even in the same GALAXY with our budget, and I was already bike-commuting 90% of the time anyway. What did I give up? Out-of-town trips to see family. Hauling lumber and heavy/bulky freight. Not a huge impact....

What did I gain? Health, freedom from plates/registration, auto insurance, fill-ups, oil changes, radiator flush-n-fills, fun, and the affirmation that my inborn attitude of NOT fitting in just to fit in was valid.

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Old 12-18-10, 01:06 PM   #7
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When it comes to the money part , I can relate to that one. I see kids at my job working part time just to support the car and driving.... Tyler Durdens quote never fails, "Things you own end up owning you."
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Old 12-18-10, 02:56 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post
I wonder if that reasoning couldn't be applied to housing and food as well. I suppose you could add cloths also. What is obvious is those making or having more money will be spending less by percent than someone making a basic living.
Now it could be argued that these things tend to drive people into having to work harder or seeking a higher paying job even if they like the job they have but I am not sure it equates to class warfare.
It does apply across the spectrum, but it seems that a car is a huge portion and not much can be done to reduce that portion in many cases. You can patch clothes or shop Goodwill or thrift stores. Food you can eat more things like beans and rice and less meat. But with a car the base cost is there whether it is a beater or a better car. In most cases you can't cut back on it at all.

Gerv has a good list up there, I have been down that road more than once and it is not a fun place to be.

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Old 12-18-10, 02:57 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by wahoonc View Post
I ran across this post on 30th Century Bicycle! Interesting reading and point of view, that I happen to agree with.
Aaron
This was a very good article. Thanks for posting.

I was shocked at the percentages as usual of how much people are spending on their motorcars in comparison to how much they earn. This is one of the reasons why the economy is in slow growth mode. The motoring lifestyle took away the discretionary income of the middle class and lower class in this country.

Today, the bike lane, public transit and carfree movement are under attack by right wing groups in this country. The economy made this vocal group hostile as they look for reasons to blame for the poor economic conditions. In their minds, bike lanes are detracting from local business and public transit should pay for itself. What they really want is to eliminate pubic transit and use the money for motor transport.

Rob Ford the Mayor of Toronto wants to eliminate the street car altogether and use the money to construct subways. He knows full well they will never build billion dollar subways since they don't have the money to fund the street cars today which is far less costly. However, once the street cars are scrapped, Mr. Ford will have buses replace some of the lines while limiting service for all.

)[/QUOTE]

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Old 12-18-10, 05:26 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post
I wonder if that reasoning couldn't be applied to housing and food as well. I suppose you could add cloths also. What is obvious is those making or having more money will be spending less by percent than someone making a basic living.
Now it could be argued that these things tend to drive people into having to work harder or seeking a higher paying job even if they like the job they have but I am not sure it equates to class warfare.
You realize, don't you, that no matter how hard everybody in California tries to find a job, at the end of the day more than 12 % of them won't have a job, and another large fraction will be working for wages that won't support an individual, let alone a family?
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Old 12-18-10, 05:35 PM   #11
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What this figure doesn't tell you is the coincidental costs of trying to maintain a car on a low income. I can tell you some of them:
- the mental costs of wondering if the strange noise coming from your transmission is likely to end your ability to get to work
- the energy needed to spend all Saturday looking through wreckage yards for a part for your car
- late nights after work in crummy weather in the driveway trying to install a starting motor or something
- time needed to track down someone who will patch up your exhaust, even though it would be cheaper in the long run to repair it correctly.
- the anxiety and irritation buying a really old used car entails, along with the higher cost of borrowing.

I suppose there are more. I spend quite a few years in the 1980s and most of the 90s trying to pay for car transportation on a real shoestring budget. I'm happy to be out of that loop.
Good description of being poor with a car. I remember the anxiety each time that old beater made a new noise. Still, it often seems harder for poor people to become carfree, compared to those in the middle class. Poor people usually have fewer options in where they live and work. They may have to live in a small town or exurb if they want their kids to go to good schools, since they can't afford private or parochial schools in their neighborhoods. They often have to live far from work, school or child care because they can't afford more convenient housing.

fortunately, most Americans don't know first-hand what it's like to be truly poor. Poverty is a trap that is very difficult to escape. That mountain climber who had to cut his own arm off actually had it easy compared to many poor people.
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Old 12-18-10, 10:44 PM   #12
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I wonder if that reasoning couldn't be applied to housing and food as well. I suppose you could add cloths also. What is obvious is those making or having more money will be spending less by percent than someone making a basic living.
That's true, but the whole point of the cited article is that impact is magnified in the case of transportation because the US as a whole favours an expensive transportation system, as the cited author is pointing out, and everyone has to play along. If the country put more public money into public transport instead of highways, and more poor people had access to it, the portion of personal income dedicated to transport would be lower, and the poor would benefit the most.

If you want to discuss food and housing as examples, an analogous situation would be if building apartment blocks or grocery stores was discouraged and more people were forced by lack of access to those resources, to buy or rent detached houses and eat at restaurants. That would increase their food and housing costs and the poor would have the hardest time adapting to that.

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Old 12-19-10, 12:15 AM   #13
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That's true, but the whole point of the cited article is that impact is magnified in the case of transportation because the US as a whole favours an expensive transportation system, as the cited author is pointing out, and everyone has to play along. If the country put more public money into public transport instead of highways, and more poor people had access to it, the portion of personal income dedicated to transport would be lower, and the poor would benefit the most.

If you want to discuss food and housing as examples, an analogous situation would be if building apartment blocks or grocery stores was discouraged and more people were forced by lack of access to those resources, to buy or rent detached houses and eat at restaurants. That would increase their food and housing costs and the poor would have the hardest time adapting to that.

I never said cars weren't expensive. I said that the percentage against someone making $15,000 a year is naturally going to be higher than one making 60k or 200k. That doesn't make it class warfare. One side didn't force the other into their spending habits. There is absolutely nothing T. Boon Pickens did that made it harder on Joe Plumber. It is simply the way things are in this country and others I might add.
For it to be class warfare there needs to be a planned aggression on the part of one class to the other. In the case of somewhere like India that has or had a cast system one class suppressed the other and kept them from advancing. Economics not the ruling class has made things hard on the working poor.
You can purchase a motorized scooter to decrease the cost of car ownership or even a motorcycle so there are ways to cut back. But if the person claiming class warfare willingly walks into debt trying to be like someone they aren’t then it is their fault the percentage is so high. It might even be blamed on Madison Avenue but it is hardly class warfare it is more of a case of not following “Buyer Beware”.
It is not a case of people can’t do better because I rode a motorcycle to commute to work for 8 years paying a fraction of the insurance and a fraction of the fuel costs of most of my fellow workers. They had the same choices I did and I am not more educated than most of them nor was I lucky.
I guess I simply don’t get the class warfare thing. There is more of a class warfare between full time utility cyclists and recreational cyclists.
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Old 12-19-10, 01:46 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post
I never said cars weren't expensive. I said that the percentage against someone making $15,000 a year is naturally going to be higher than one making 60k or 200k. That doesn't make it class warfare. One side didn't force the other into their spending habits. There is absolutely nothing T. Boon Pickens did that made it harder on Joe Plumber. It is simply the way things are in this country and others I might add.
For it to be class warfare there needs to be a planned aggression on the part of one class to the other. In the case of somewhere like India that has or had a cast system one class suppressed the other and kept them from advancing. Economics not the ruling class has made things hard on the working poor.
You can purchase a motorized scooter to decrease the cost of car ownership or even a motorcycle so there are ways to cut back. But if the person claiming class warfare willingly walks into debt trying to be like someone they aren’t then it is their fault the percentage is so high. It might even be blamed on Madison Avenue but it is hardly class warfare it is more of a case of not following “Buyer Beware”.
It is not a case of people can’t do better because I rode a motorcycle to commute to work for 8 years paying a fraction of the insurance and a fraction of the fuel costs of most of my fellow workers. They had the same choices I did and I am not more educated than most of them nor was I lucky.
I guess I simply don’t get the class warfare thing. There is more of a class warfare between full time utility cyclists and recreational cyclists.
Except, as cooker already suggested, by subsidizing expensive automobile transport, and letting less expensive mass transit languish, we do have the effect of "planned aggression on the part of one class to the other." This is a case of class warfare by your own definition, although I'm not sure this terminology is very helpful or useful.

If people have little choice but to buy into the private car system--since those who could afford to subsidize mass transit refuse to do so (in fact basically they refuse to pay any taxes at all, a la the Tea Party)--there is genuine class warfare.
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Old 12-19-10, 02:28 AM   #15
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I never said cars weren't expensive. I said that the percentage against someone making $15,000 a year is naturally going to be higher than one making 60k or 200k. That doesn't make it class warfare. One side didn't force the other into their spending habits. There is absolutely nothing T. Boon Pickens did that made it harder on Joe Plumber. It is simply the way things are in this country and others I might add.
For it to be class warfare there needs to be a planned aggression on the part of one class to the other. In the case of somewhere like India that has or had a cast system one class suppressed the other and kept them from advancing. Economics not the ruling class has made things hard on the working poor.
You can purchase a motorized scooter to decrease the cost of car ownership or even a motorcycle so there are ways to cut back. But if the person claiming class warfare willingly walks into debt trying to be like someone they aren’t then it is their fault the percentage is so high. It might even be blamed on Madison Avenue but it is hardly class warfare it is more of a case of not following “Buyer Beware”.
It is not a case of people can’t do better because I rode a motorcycle to commute to work for 8 years paying a fraction of the insurance and a fraction of the fuel costs of most of my fellow workers. They had the same choices I did and I am not more educated than most of them nor was I lucky.
I guess I simply don’t get the class warfare thing. There is more of a class warfare between full time utility cyclists and recreational cyclists.
I think it's pretty obvious that there actually is class warfare, and to paraphrase Warren Buffet, his class is winning. We've spent a ton of public money creating an obscenely expensive transportation infrastructure that requires a large personal investment just to be able to use that infrastructure. Many, many people simply have to drive in order to get anywhere, as much as I hate to say it. Outside of core areas of large cities, there is simply no option to sucking it up and paying the myriad of expenses associated with owning and operating a car. The cruel irony is that, in those very same areas where a car-free existence is actually possible, the real estate is so expensive that, again, only the well-off have access to it, unless people are willing to live on top of one another like rats. Millions of our citizens are doomed to a life of incessant poverty, no matter how hard they work, just so the wealthy and what's left of the middle class can drive their SUVs at will.

Several weeks ago, Glenn Beck, alluding to the film "It's a Wonderful Life," compared the US under Obama to Potterville. I would argue that the policies of our more "conservative" elements of our leadership, those who favor cutting taxes for the wealthy while gutting any public expenditures that might improve the country at large, are the ones who are actively making that dreary nightmare vision a reality.
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Old 12-19-10, 03:02 AM   #16
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I wonder if that reasoning couldn't be applied to housing and food as well. I suppose you could add cloths also. What is obvious is those making or having more money will be spending less by percent than someone making a basic living.
Well, somethings are harder to cut the costs of than others. I buy most of my clothing at the Thrift Shop, Salvation Army or Goodwill so clothing is not one of those things. It does amaze me though what rich people pay for cloths at those high-end places. Food can also be economized if you avoid processed foods. A 25# bag of rice is very inexpensive for example. Housing can be another story though, it is real hard to find affordable housing where I live, that is for sure. Fuel is not something you can get cheaply from standard sources (there is cheap fuel out there, my brother-in-law makes his own biodiesel quite inexpensively). I think it is mostly housing and transportation that are the big burden for the poor, and bicycles can certainly help with that (and as you point out in another post, motorized two wheelers can as well).

Well, I would argue with you about the class warfare issue but I'll save that for P&R.
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Old 12-19-10, 08:10 AM   #17
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That's true, but the whole point of the cited article is that impact is magnified in the case of transportation because the US as a whole favours an expensive transportation system, as the cited author is pointing out, and everyone has to play along. If the country put more public money into public transport instead of highways, and more poor people had access to it, the portion of personal income dedicated to transport would be lower, and the poor would benefit the most.

If you want to discuss food and housing as examples, an analogous situation would be if building apartment blocks or grocery stores was discouraged and more people were forced by lack of access to those resources, to buy or rent detached houses and eat at restaurants. That would increase their food and housing costs and the poor would have the hardest time adapting to that.
Unfortunately that exists too, zoning laws are probably the single biggest weapon used against "undesirables", and guess who has the most say in creating zoning laws? The people with the money to buy the politicians that think the way they do. In many parts of the country they build lollipop subdivisions and the commercial zones are miles away...with no mass transit and no way to readily walk to them. Many of the working poor in my area get shoved into trailer parks on the out skirts of town that are miles from any amenities except the occasional convenience store.


I live in what used to be a rural area, we have experienced rabid growth along with all the zoning garbage. The 1100 acres across the road from my 40+ used to be a tree farm for pulp wood. It was sold to developers for a golf course community, now I cannot put in a well, I am supposed to maintain a certain type of road access to the state road at the front of the property, they have attempted to have my property rezoned to "protect" their interests. The zoning would have restricted my property from most if not all farming operations other than horses and even then would have limited the number. FWIW the property I live on has been farm land for over 100 years and has been in my wife's family for over 75. Currently it is land locked and cannot be developed.

Class warfare is very much alive in the US and is only going to get worse as the economy continues to stagnate.

Aaron
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Old 12-19-10, 09:44 AM   #18
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You realize, don't you, that no matter how hard everybody in California tries to find a job, at the end of the day more than 12 % of them won't have a job, and another large fraction will be working for wages that won't support an individual, let alone a family?
According to those of a certain ideology, those folks are just lazy and unwilling to work. I'd like to hear them explain why the numbers of shiftless people seem to increase during hard times.
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Old 12-19-10, 09:55 AM   #19
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[

It is not a case of people canít do better because I rode a motorcycle to commute to work for 8 years paying a fraction of the insurance and a fraction of the fuel costs of most of my fellow workers. They had the same choices I did and I am not more educated than most of them nor was I lucky.
I guess I simply donít get the class warfare thing. There is more of a class warfare between full time utility cyclists and recreational cyclists.
I'm glad that you have proved that people can't do better because you rode a motorcycle for 8 years. I'm sure that because you did it, everyone can, including children, those who live in snowy climates, those disabled, those who are chicken (like me), etc.

It is definitely a class issue. Right now, the richer suburbanites (the voter statistics illustrate this) in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) elected a right wing mayor Rob Ford, who has declared that "the war on the car is over." His plan? To tear up the tracks for a light rail system in Toronto that has already been subsidized by the provincial government, in order to make room for cars. What does he want to do instead of light rail? To build a much more expensive (hidden) subway extension that would cover only a fraction of the distance that the light rail lines would have covered.

This way suburban GTA'ers can continue to congest the roads, spew out their pollution into the streets, and increase the speed of climate change.
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Old 12-19-10, 10:42 AM   #20
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Today in our city, in order to purchase a lot of the basics, one has to travel a considerable distance around town as compared to years ago when one was able to shop in a more centralized location.

Locally, many people today find it difficult to grasp the concept of not owning a vehicle, where as my grandparents never had the need to own a motor vehicle their entire lives.
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Old 12-19-10, 11:33 AM   #21
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According to those of a certain ideology, those folks are just lazy and unwilling to work. I'd like to hear them explain why the numbers of shiftless people seem to increase during hard times.
No doubt jobs are harder to find here right now. But, just to offer a devil's advocate argument, they did extend unemployment benefits to 3 years. It's not too much of a stretch to say that some of those folks could have found a job if they could not fall back on that benefit. I'm not saying more poeple become lazy, just that some small percentage who already are might find it convenient to ride out the whole 3 years instead of working in a restaurant. I still think a lot of people, myself included, would rather work if possible.
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Old 12-19-10, 11:52 AM   #22
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One side didn't force the other into their spending habits. ... It is simply the way things are in this country.
This is the gist of the cited article. It isn't "simply the way things are". They became the way they are because of choices by individuals and government, and those choices disadvantaged the poor.

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Old 12-19-10, 03:18 PM   #23
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This is the gist of the cited article. It isn't "simply the way things are". They became the way they are because of choices by individuals and government, and those choices disadvantaged the poor.
I don't think apathy equates to class warfare does it? Who is at war with whom? So do any of us believe there was a conscience decision made by some group to intentionally discriminate against the poor? As in law the question becomes intent? If the problem is because of our form of government or ideology is that the same as class warfare? I don’t think so. Everything that happens in our lives cannot be ascribed to someone else as if we have no input into anything that happens ourselves.
Yes we as a nation have set upon a course of action that has hit the poor and working poor hard but would they not be hit just as hard by housing, food utilities and taxes? We at one point spent a goodly sum of money on railroads that were to crisscross the country and it was lauded as a great accomplishment. But it was a direction the majority in a democracy felt was worth going. Republic for sticklers. When Henry Ford brought the Automobile to the common man there was no intent to discriminate against the poor. A horse and carriage or wagon was not a inexpensive investment at the time either.
The automotive age simply followed the lead the consumers wanted to go and the rest is history. I would like someone to point out intent for this warfare.
If we are having class warfare who are the two sides? Who sits up at night looking for ways to punish the other side? Who is intentionally keeping the other side down? Where in the world can we find a system that doesn’t have wealthy and poor citizens?
Like I said you might prove apathy but I am not sure a direct connection can be made to say one class has intended to harm the other unless the fact someone is poor can be blamed on someone who is not.
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Old 12-19-10, 03:30 PM   #24
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I'm glad that you have proved that people can't do better because you rode a motorcycle for 8 years. I'm sure that because you did it, everyone can, including children, those who live in snowy climates, those disabled, those who are chicken (like me), etc.

It is definitely a class issue. Right now, the richer suburbanites (the voter statistics illustrate this) in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) elected a right wing mayor Rob Ford, who has declared that "the war on the car is over." His plan? To tear up the tracks for a light rail system in Toronto that has already been subsidized by the provincial government, in order to make room for cars. What does he want to do instead of light rail? To build a much more expensive (hidden) subway extension that would cover only a fraction of the distance that the light rail lines would have covered.

This way suburban GTA'ers can continue to congest the roads, spew out their pollution into the streets, and increase the speed of climate change.
So you are saying children, the infirmed, the ones living in snowy climates and the timid would have an easier time without cars? Couldn't the same thing be said about bicycles as motorcycles or scooters?

And if I get it right your suburbanites make more money than urban dwellers and even if more than 50 percent of the population now lives in the city proper or at least the metropolitan area somehow suburbanites get more votes? Because it would seem it was supposed to be one person one vote so the majority must be city dwellers as well?

Wasn't there a contention in an earlier forum in car free that the Suburbs were getting pretty hard during the economic downturn? Con both contentions be correct?
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Old 12-19-10, 03:42 PM   #25
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No doubt jobs are harder to find here right now. But, just to offer a devil's advocate argument, they did extend unemployment benefits to 3 years. It's not too much of a stretch to say that some of those folks could have found a job if they could not fall back on that benefit. I'm not saying more poeple become lazy, just that some small percentage who already are might find it convenient to ride out the whole 3 years instead of working in a restaurant. I still think a lot of people, myself included, would rather work if possible.
Where do you see 3 years of unemployment? Best I have seen offered is 99 weeks, that is just under 2 years. Have you ever been unemployed during a recession or anytime? If I were to get laid off right now I would get roughly $476 a week before taxes. Now why in the hell would I want to take a job working for minimum wages that would only pay $290 a week for full time work? I would also have the problem of being considered over qualified for most entry level positions and many companies won't hire you for a minimum wage job if you have much if any prior job experience, I know I have tried.

Also of interest is the income distribution in the US.

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