January 11, 2002 11:00 pm

We must reduce consumption

Chicago Tribune:

Cold War political scientist and diplomat George Kennan once defined national security as the continued ability of this country to pursue its internal life without serious interference.

From that standpoint, Americas ever deepening reliance on imported oil particularly from the Middle East ranks as a serious and immediate threat to national security.

Given the influence of extremists and the general instability in areas that are also principal suppliers of oil to the U.S., it is not a stretch to draw a parallel between oil dependence and vulnerability to terrorism.

Reducing Americas gluttonous consumption of imported oil is clearly in the national interest, and the nation ought to tackle this challenge with the same urgency and determination as any other threat to vital military or economic interests.

The U.S. ought to put reduction of its dependence on imported oil at the center of the table with all options available, from measures to reduce consumption to programs to tap domestic energy sources. ...

There is an irony in seeing monster sport-utility vehicles, some with Edsel-like fuel consumption ratings of 10 or 12 m.p.g., driving down the road bedecked with flags. They illustrate the contradiction in American energy policy that allows greater energy consumption, even as that endangers security.

The steps to reduce that dependency have to be wide-ranging, effective and sustained.

Half-measures, or merely waiting for the guy next door to take action, wont solve the problem.

Provide help for unemployed

Times Union, Albany, N.Y.:

The surest indication yet that Congress still needs to do something about the economy comes in government data thats all but impossible to spin. Its in the unemployment figures. At 5.8 percent, the official rate of unemployment is higher than its been in almost seven years.

The White House, though, is rather nonchalant. The word from there is to expect a few more months of high, if not higher, unemployment. Easier to say, no doubt, if you have a job.

Its true that government cant do a lot to directly create jobs, especially not in the private sector and especially not in the short term. What it can do, though, is ease the pain of being out of work.

The economic stimulus bill that Democrats and Republicans, Congress and the president, have fought about for weeks now but never actually passed would at least extend jobless benefits, from 26 weeks to 39 weeks, and see to it that laid-off workers can keep their health insurance a while longer. ...

Somehow the debates about how to help those laid off and how to kick-start the economy itself have gotten lost, in effect, in an extended battle over the wisdom of President Bushs 10-year, $1.35 trillion tax cut. Little wonder. Its been the focus of Mr. Bushs economic vision since he began running for president.

At the very least, Mr. Daschle not to mention Mr. Bush should turn his sights to whats entirely attainable. That means passing an economic stimulus plan that forgoes still more questionable tax cuts. And it means providing some relief for the unemployed.

Their ranks are growing, in case anyone in Washington cares.