$6 Million a Day -- and Counting


Six million dollars. That's the estimate on how much Congress is costing us every day it delays action on the savings and loan bailout. Since members of Congress shut off the spigot on S&L; aid in April, their eagerness to avoid this issue has added at least $300 million to Washington's vast vat of red ink. And the longer members of Congress demagogue this matter, the more costly it will become.

Who are the losers as a result of Capitol Hill's refusal to take unpopular but necessary steps? Not members of Congress, who are happily winning cheers by denouncing the S&L; banditry and the administration's fumbling to clean up the mess. The fact that they are part of the problem hasn't yet dawned on taxpayers. Yet it is those taxpayers who are the real losers. They will pay for Congress' abdication of responsibility.

Minimizing the giant bailout costs can best be done by taking quick action to seize and close bankrupt thrifts and pay off depositors. That at least stops the bleeding. But letting these S&Ls; remain in operation -- bankrupt though they may be -- deepens the losses for the U.S. taxpayer.

Still, Congress doesn't want to touch this unpopular issue, though it previously authorized $87 billion in cleanup funds. It won't approve any more money. Yet there's no urgency on Capitol Hill to devise an alternate approach, either. Meanwhile, that $6-million-a-day penalty keeps adding up.

As Treasury secretary Nicholas Brady said, "It is like someone walking out on the steps of the Capitol each day and setting fire to $6 million of the taxpayers' money."

This costly problem isn't going to disappear on its own. Members of Congress have a responsibility to confront the issue -- distasteful as it is -- and devise a bi-partisan approach that gets those failed S&Ls; closed in a hurry. The time for political finger-pointing has ended. With $6 million being lost each and every day, Congress should have the common sense to stop procrastinating and for once give the taxpayer a break.

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