From the Philadelphia Inquirer.
By Maria Panaritis
Inquirer Staff Writer
PENNSBURG, Pa. - The view at sundown from the McCausland family home paints an unlikely picture of how high gasoline prices are deflating the modern-day American suburban dream.
On the back deck you can watch the setting sun explode into orange and crimson streaks before oozing into a rolling ridge on the horizon. It's the kind of place a child remembers for a lifetime.
When Brian and Dawn McCausland bought this Colonial on a half acre in Montgomery County in 2004, they made a deal with the devil during a sky-high housing market: They and their four daughters would live here, but Brian would commute 100 miles round-trip to his job as an insurance adjuster in Delaware County.
A gallon of gas at the time was $1.76 - $150 a month for their 2002 Chevy Malibu. It beat paying more for a similar house closer to work.
But now, with gas averaging $3.30 and rising, the McCausland dream is getting soaked at the pump to the tune of $300 a month, or $3,600 a year, double their cost four years ago. They are among many families of modest means who took on big commutes from exurbia for a taste of upward mobility.
"My yearly increases in my salary and bonuses are only going to cover the increase in the cost of gas," said McCausland, 40, who graduated from La Salle University in 1989 with a double major in finance and management - and the expectation that, by now, he'd be more financially secure.
"I'm really not making any more than I had been," said McCausland. "I'm not getting ahead."
The McCauslands say they are doing OK. Like many families facing inflation and the economic uncertainty of the day, they are working more hours, cutting expenses, and shopping at discount stores.
But the commuting bill is proving a stubborn foe...