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It's time for an update on the ongoing effort by our elected life forms in Washington, D.C., to eliminate this pesky federal budget deficit. And today we have some exciting news: The savings-and-loan-industry bailout, which as of yesterday afternoon was expected to cost taxpayers 752.6 trillion skillion dollars, is now expected to cost 964.3 hillion jillion bazillion dollars, not including the Christmas party.

So progress is definitely being made. Even as you read these words, economists in secret government laboratories are developing an entirely new S&L bailout monetary unit, the "whomptillion," a number so large that it will cost the taxpayers $32.7 billion every time a high federal official PRONOUNCES it. Also in the works is a Bail-out Efficiency Program under which, to cut out the middleman, bands of savings-and-loan operators will roam the streets collecting funds directly from taxpayers at gunpoint.I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Well, as a taxpayer, I am of course always happy to help provide enormous sums of money to pay for giant screw-ups that I had nothing to do with. But isn't anybody RESPONSIBLE for this?"

No. Nobody is. The S&L crisis is basically a natural disaster, similar to what happened to ancient Pompeii, where all these Italians were sitting around minding their own business, when suddenly molten lava erupted out of a nearby mountain and destroyed all the savings-and-loan institutions. You're paying for those, too. In fact, the forthcoming space shuttle mission is scheduled to release a huge wad of cash into space so that you can pay for S&L failures on OTHER PLANETS. That is the kind of thoughtful taxpayer you are.

I wish to stress, by the way, that this situation is ESPECIALLY not the fault of Sens. Alan Cranston, John Glenn, Dennis DeConcini, Donald Riegle and John McCain, who are known collectively as the "Keating Five" because it would be a serious violation of the libel laws to call them "Prostitutes With Speechwriters." The Keating Five have been criticized because they accepted $1.3 million in contributions raised by businessman Charles Keating, then tried to get regulators to ease up on Keating's S&L, the Lincoln Savings and Loan and Dog-Race Betting Corporation, which they argued was in perfectly sound financial condition, and


Uh-oh! Apparently Mr. Keating's S&L was NOT in sound condition after all! Taxpayers are hereby advised to open their windows and hurl out $2 billion, and possibly more, pending a review of Mr. Keating's private-jet requirements. Thank you.

But as I was saying, there was NOTHING IMPROPER about what the Keating Five did. They did NOT sell out the public trust for $1.3 million. We know this because they said so, and they are supported by the following complete transcript of the transaction:

KEATING: Here's $1.3 million!

SENATORS (suspiciously): What for?

KEATING: No reason! I'm handing out large sums of money at random! I must be a total moron!

SENATORS (relieved): Oh, OK.

And even if the senators did try to do a favor for Mr. Keating, so what? It's a U.S. senator's job to help individual citizens. Around our house, hardly a day goes by when we don't have four or five U.S. senators come to the front door and ask if they can unclog a drain, wash the dogs, etc. Sometimes we have to shoo them away with brooms. "You senators get out of here!" we say. But they just crouch in the shrubbery and wait, in case we need them. That is the kind of public servants they are.

So I don't want to hear any more nitpicking from you taxpayers. I don't want to hear any absurd proposals, such as that we round up all the people involved in the S&L mess, and for every million tax dollars they cost us, we sentence them to 100 hours of public service inside a closed packing crate with a 375-pound federal regulator named Bruno, whose hobbies are yodeling, intestinal malfunction and full-body massage. That would be grossly inappropriate. Fifty hours is plenty.