New federal energy taxes on oil imports or gasoline would put unreasonable burdens on America's elderly poor, according to a study.
"Unlike those of us who may have become casual about our use of energy, the elderly poor cannot readily adopt conservation strategies because for the most part they are already conserving wherever and however they can," said the report.The report, prepared for The Villers Advocacy Associates and the National Council of Senior Citizens, uses data from the Energy Department and Census Bureau.
The report concludes that 5.8 million elderly households with average annual incomes of $5,300 have only $500 a year left in so-called discretionary income after paying existing housing, food and home energy costs.
"The average low-income elderly household must pay for clothing, medicine, transportation and other necessities on a budget of less than $10 a week," it said. "So a seemingly modest energy tax that might be a minor annoyance to most consumers could be a severe shock to the elderly poor."
The report was commissioned in recognition that one or more energy taxes "is likely to develop strong political support" in the push to reduce the federal deficit.
"The purpose of this report is to inject a note of caution into the debate by quantifying the impact that these energy taxes would have on the poor and on other Americans living on fixed incomes," the document says.
It contains 18 state-by-state tables that can be used by advocates for the poor particularly the elderly poor to lobby for special consideration for those groups in any energy taxes considered by Congress.
The report does not make a strong argument against energy taxes in general. "For affluent Americans, a new energy tax would be the equivalent of a luxury excise tax: mildly irritating but bearable," it says. But for the elderly poor, it adds, such a tax "would be a calamity."