HAVE YOU NOTICED that the price of gold and the price of oil seem to go up together? the price of gold reached a new record yesterday. The price of oil will do the same by the end of the month. There are two reasons for this ominous correspondence between the two.
A lot of oil money is finding its way to people in the Middle East who want to put it into something a bit more solid, and perhaps less visible, than a local bank account. Beyond that, not only in the Middle East but around the world, there is what you might call the fear factor. It is fear of inflation, which the oil price increases aggravate. It is fear of instability in the world monetary system, strained by the enormous surpluses that the OPEC countries are again accumulating.
It's all very well to deplore the continual increases in oil prices. But every time the price goes up, the sellers discover that they can still sell as much as ever. Under those circumstances, it's hard to explain to them why they shouldn't just keep going. The buyers wring their hands and complain of dangers to the world economy, but they keep buying. Nowhere has there been more hand-wringing than in the United States. Evidently, it's going to take something a little stronger. In fact, the price is going to keep climbing until the sellers begin having trouble getting rid of the stuff.
Americans have already cut down significantly on their oil consumption.But the steady rise in prices, and the increasing outflow of American wealth to pay for it, means that Americans are going to have to cut down more. What's the best way to do it?
The remedy needs to be one that will take effect rapidly, in the weeks and months ahead. The longterm strategies -- solar power, shale oil and the rest -- are worth pursuing for the 1990s. But the immediate need is a strategy for getting through 1980, the 12 months directly ahead.
Only one device will work fast enough, and effectively enough, to offer real promise. That's a higher price for gasoline at the pump. Sen. Adlai Stevenson (D-Ill.) introduced legislation yesterday for a tax of 50 cents a gallon . That's exactly the right move. The bill wasn't taken very seriously at the Capitol, where people immediately pointed out that Sen. Stevenson isn't running for reelection. But Rep. John B. Anderson (R-Ill.), who is running for president, has put a 50-cent gasoline tax before the House. He would use the revenues to cut the Social Security tax, which also makes good sense.It's a courageous position for a candidate. If you want to know what could be done right now to diminish OPEC's power, and to protect American prosperity, you might consider those two gasoline tax bills.