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BAILOUT IS THE REAL CONGRESSIONAL FAILURE

The wildfire of resentment at congressional check-kiting is no compliment to millions of angry Americans and the media that supposedly keep them informed.

On the same day the House voted to release the names of 355 check-kiters, another genuine financial outrage was inflicted on the American people with little notice at all.That was when the House Banking Committee, in what's become an enormous, continuing taxpayer robbery, approved another $25 billion in federal funds to bail out the cesspool of savings-and-loan failures across the nation.

The check-kiting in Congress proves only the tawdry tiresomeness and self-service of members of Congress whose career comforts rest on privileges they grab for themselves in long, unthreatened incumbencies.

The congressional failure, the real and awful congressional failure, is in that $25 billion savings-and-loan bailout and all the disastrous bad government that's gone before it.

With another $25 billion on the way, the total savings-and-loan bailout cost will reach $130 billion, with the eventual cost estimated at anything from $300 billion to $500 billion.

This monumental grab from American taxpayers will be finally written down as a government catastrophe, one of a series to be blamed on Democratic and, for a brief time, Republican leadership in Congress that worked with two successive Republican administrations.

And while the public cost of the check-kiting scheme is negligible - pay for a handful of patronage clerks - the savings-and-loan catastrophe will be paid for by our grandchildren's grandchildren.

A useful estimate in federal money matters is that the average personal income tax payment is $3,500 a year.

So it would take all the annual payment from more than 7 million average tax returns to cover just the latest savings-and-loan bailout installment.

A helpful illustration might be that those 7 million average taxpayers would about equal the population of New York City or the combined populations of Alabama and Mississippi or the combined populations of Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Utah and New Mexico.

But it's actually worse than that. The savings-and-loan disaster won't be paid off this year or next year or in this century.

The shared mismanagement by Congress and the White House has put Americans in worsening debt, a national debt that's more than tripled since Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, a debt that soaks up public savings and requires more than $250 billion a year in interest payments alone.

The media flyspecking and public anger at the congressional check-kiters may do an inadvertent good service, to clear out a few members who've dined too long on public-office privilege.

But the congressional scandal is not in bounced checks. It's in years of political irresponsibility, actions taken and actions not taken, failures that threaten America's leadership when the world needs it most.