Bill Clinton has this much going for him: The new season of "Saturday Night Live" is still a couple of months away.

The unpreened comedy writers no doubt will do with President Clinton's $200 cut what they did with President Gerald Ford's slice: make it a running gag for the remaining three and a half years of Mr. Clinton's term.

As for damage control between now and September, forget it. Only the SHLS (sudden hair-loss syndrome) will spare our President this ridicule.

The best the President can do is to avoid looking too Dan Quayle-ish going forward (a chore for anyone living under the gotcha glare of several hundred scraggly reporters).

A Remedy for Ridicule

Besides eschewing celebrity hair stylists, and candidates who are to the left of Chairman Mao, one preemptive step Mr. Clinton should take immediately is to appoint a person of stature to head the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. before the outbreak of the next banking crisis, perceived or real.

I realize this sounds silly in the face of record $10.9 billion in profits (which were declared obscene by USA Today and given scant coverage by other circulation giants).

But here's the scoop: a great many people believe that the industry's problems are merely in remission because of low interest rates.

What Goes Down. . .'

According to the laws of finance, which tend to defy classical physics, "What goes down must come up."

So given the eventual uptick in rates and the resulting quarter of lower bank earnings that would cause, those who make a living from gloomy prognostications will trill that the banks are again careening toward the brink - with no strong-willed regulator to apply the brakes.

"How could Clinton let this happen?" outraged pundits will opine. (I could get some mileage out of that myself).

Their squawks will translate into the huge headlines that were missing last week when the spectacular earnings news broke.

The headlines, in turn, will lead to those comical bank-bashing congressional hearings where the result is always tighter regulation (and you thought Jurassic Park was scary!).

The Monster Unleashed

This hysterical moment could cause another capital drought for banks as investors begin to read prospectuses and appreciate the death hold that Congress has placed on the industry.

In the way of an illustration, here's a paragraph from the five pages of frightening boilerplate language regarding government regulation from a recent stock offering circular for Virginia's George Mason Bankshares:

"The company and the bank are subject to extensive governmental supervision, regulation, and control, and future legislation and governmental policy, could adversely affect the banking industry and the operations of the company and the bank."

(I note that the lawyer doesn't hint that future legislation or governmental policy might actually help the bank.)

Sense of Security

A strong hand at the FDIC can't avert the future banking crisis. Only Congress can do that. But a strong, confident hand can avert panic by giving the public the impression that everything is under control.

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