Taking the American Taxpayer to the Cleaners


Vice President Dick Cheney, the bright bulb behind the Bush administration's energy policy, is all for the U.S. Navy picking up the $186,000 yearly electric bill for his 33-room mansion on the grounds of the Washington Naval Observatory.

Cheney recently said, of the power crisis: "If you want to leave all the lights on in your house, you can. There's no law against it. But you will pay for it." Here's a look at other proposals Cheney might pursue.

* The Marines will offer prompt and courteous same-day dry-cleaning service. "If you don't like the duty," cracked the former secretary of Defense under Bush I, "how does summer in Baghdad grab you?"

* The Air Force will begin around-the-clock airdrops of freshly caught Maine lobster from the Atlantic and mahi-mahi from the Pacific. "It's good for the heart muscle," Cheney said.

* The Army will begin paying Cheney's grocery bills. A platoon will be assigned to unload groceries from his wife's car and must have all foodstuffs shelved within five minutes or they'll be subject to immediate courts-martial. And if they hang around for a tip or anything, it's off to Leavenworth.

* The Coast Guard will supply a permanent lifeguard at the mansion's pool. "Bring a cutter," insisted Cheney. "The grandkids can play in it too."

* The U.S. Secret Service will conduct designated "Black Ops." (The rest of the message is classified Top Secret-Code 17, which means anyone other than Cheney's wife, Lynne, can read it.) Black Ops consist of nighttime backdoor deliveries of Cajun Style McChicken and pan-seared blackened catfish.

* The Department of Agriculture will be charged with mowing his lawn every week and sending the grass clippings to the Environmental Protection Agency just to make it mad.

* The U.S. Supreme Court will be available "24/7" to rule upon domestic disputes over the remote control. "Lynne and I are always wrestling for the thing," said Cheney, "and she always wins."

* The Department of Housing and Urban Development will convert "a small guest bedroom nobody uses anyway" into an "urgently needed" closet for Lynne's winter wardrobe. (Originally, Cheney had contacted Jimmy Carter at Habitat for Humanity to head up the job, but the former president declined.)

* The U.S. Postal Service will begin licking envelopes for all of Cheney's correspondence.

* The drug czar will stock the mansion with aspirin, Tylenol and a bunch of other neutral-colored pills that don't clash with any decorating schemes.

* The National Aeronautics and Space Administration will lend the mansion one of those "big boy" satellite dishes and make sure it receives more channels than anyone else in the world. "I better have at least 100 channels of HBO," added Cheney.

* The Department of Transportation will provide a battery-powered golf cart between the hours of midnight and 3 a.m. to take Cheney nonstop from his bed to the bathroom.

* The Securities and Exchange Commission will pay for all his commission fees for stock trades. On stocks that lose value, the commission will make up the difference and pay an additional 20% penalty for failing to talk the vice president out of a bad trade. "It's good to be the vice president," remarked Cheney.

* The Consumer Product Safety Commission will, in the event that Cheney's pacemaker-plus blows a gasket, remove the defective device, implant it in the chief executive of the manufacturer and sue the pants off the firm.

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