As a new administration took over in Washington in the midst of a massive economic decline, the media kept asking members of the new energy and environment team if the U.S. could "afford" their agenda in light of the economic condition of the nation. (Witness the Washington Post interview with Carol Browner.) The New York Times reported on Jan. 18:
Given a choice between stimulating the economy and protecting the environment, 58 percent of Americans said it was more important to stimulate the economy, compared with 33 percent who chose protecting the environment. In April 2007, 36 percent said it was more important to stimulate the economy, compared with 52 percent who chose the environment.
No doubt the priority given the economy today would be greater, given Friday's numbers on job losses and unemployment.
But it's a silly question and a false, unnecessary choice. It hides the most rational course of action: doing both simultaneously.