The Times West Virginian

December 9, 2012

Let’s hope for a better, fiscal cliff-free year

Times West Virginian

— I’m going to try to show off my math skills here, or lack thereof, so I beg the pardon of my high school math teach Mr. Larson in advance.

But I’ve done a little figuring.

And with figuring, you have to draw a few conclusions that may not be in stone. So if you disagree with some of these numbers, I apologize to you in advance, too.

According to the Social Security Administration, the average benefits for a retired person was $1,044 per month in 2007. The average monthly income was $1,183 per month in 2011, the most recent data available.

That’s an 11.75 percent increase.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a healthy diet for a couple ages 60-71 including all daily recommended intake of foods based on the food pyramid, that couple spent $695.50 per month on groceries in 2007. This year, that couple should expect to spend $685.60. That’s an 11.14 percent increase.

Let’s not even go to the point that the USDA is recommending seniors spend more than half their income on food to meet healthy dietary guidelines. The point is that while food prices increased, income increased at about the same rate.

Now let’s look at the working family, which has two children.

In 2007, the average family earned $40,200 in the state of West Virginia. In 2011, the most recent data available, that average fell 4.27 percent to $38,482.

As far as the cost of feeding that family in a USDA-recommended way. In 2007 it was $1,180, and in 2012, the cost increased to $1,243, an 11.44 percent hike. Yet the average family income in the state fell.

It’s not just food prices that have increased, as well all know. Gasoline, utilities, clothing ... just about everything has increased in cost.

And yet, since 2007 and the start of the Great Recession, families have been hurting financially, dealing with layoffs, no cost-of-living allowances and pay cuts.

How do our readers feel about it? Good question, and we always ask the good questions on each week on our online poll. Last week we asked “Nearing the 5th anniversary of the start of the national Great Recession, how do you feel about your family’s economic situation today compared to five years ago?”

And here’s what our readers had to say:

Thank God for savings and credit cards, but I wish we were in better financial shape — 3.7 percent

We’ve been careful and made safe choices — we’re doing very well — 20.99 percent

We’re doing about the same — trimming a little fat and tightening our belts helped — 25.93 percent

It’s been a very long five years, and we’ve certainly felt the impact — 49.38 percent

Here’s hoping to a better. fiscal cliff-free 2013.

This week, let’s talk about the upcoming show based on the lives of young West Virginians “Buckwild,” which seems to have a lot of people in an uproar about stereotypes in the state. Tell us what you think about the upcoming show.

Log on. Vote. Email me or respond directly online.

Misty Poe

Managing Editor