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Jack Simpson - Americans must live more moderately

President Bush knows we have economy problems. He went to Saudi Arabia to ask King Abdullah to increase oil production and was rebuffed. Saudi oil minister Ali-al Naimi as much as told the president that he could have stayed home and made his appeal to oil customers. The minister said, "We increase oil production because customers, mostly in the U.S., ask for it."

There you are. Talk to customers, build more refineries, more nuclear power plants, or drill for domestic oil. Find ways to reduce dependence on Saudi Arabi.

The common working folks in the United States probably wonder how long we intend to keep pleading with Riyadh to open the oil spigots. Let us look at a fellow named Tom. He makes $15 an hour on his job. He is lucky to be included among those earning above minimum wage.

Tom filled up his truck the other day. It was less than half full; and, when he finished pumping, his bill was $75. That is five hours of his eight-hour day (before taxes) that he works just to pay for fuel to take himself to and from work. He has $45 left to pay his other costs like insurance, mortgage, medical bills, clothing and food. He and his family are feeling the pinch in this economy.

Grain and fuel are the engines of our economy. Ethanol plants are eating up the corn crop making less available for the family table. In 2008, food prices rose more than 5 percent, squeezing everyone.

Diets are changing not only here at home but elsewhere in the world, where there are already signs of social unrest. The main topic of conversation seems to be high food and fuel costs. President Bush reminded King Abdullah of repercussions of skyrocketing prices. Eventually, the success of finding and using alternative energy sources will come home to confront the oil producers themselves.

People like Tom may be carrying peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for their noon lunch, clipping coupons, or eating last night's leftovers. Actually, some of mom's cooking from yesterday may be a lot better than what's available in some food joints.

As costs increase, the victory gardens of World War II may reappear and become popular ways to supplement family food budgets. Those SUVs may be traded for smaller hybrid economy vehicles. Carpooling and public transportation may become popular again.

No doubt about it, people will have to live more moderately. We have to reduce living costs and draw the line somewhere. America will have to develop a long-term strategy to deal with fuel and food costs. The new president and team will have to emphasize policies, not personalities, and programs will have to be specific.

Actually, the "change" promised by current candidates may be coming, but it is being shaped by other nations, Saudis included. World power is shifting, and our super-power status is being challenged.

Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.