If someone were looking for a slogan for the United States in 1999, I would suggest "Help Wanted." No matter where you go there are signs in store windows and on revolving doors, begging for help.

This is how bad it has gotten. I went into a Double Hamburger Emporium the other day and ordered a hamburger, french fries and a milkshake.

The man behind the counter said, "Wouldn't you rather work for us?"

"I don't think so. I would rather just have a hamburger."

"If you work for us, our hamburgers are free and French fries will cost you only half."

"Look," I said. "I have a job already."

"What do you do?"

"I'm a newspaperman."

"You call that a job? Newspapermen get no respect. We wrap our fried flounder in newsprint."

"I'm getting impatient."

"Do you see that man over there frying chicken wings? He came here six months ago and filled salt shakers. They're now talking about him managing his own store."

"How much does he get paid?"

"What would you say if I told you he has his own golden parachute?"

"How are you doing with my milkshake?"

"Look. My job is not to make milkshakes. The company wants me to recruit warm bodies. I get $5 a head for anyone I can bring in. You have to believe me when I say you will never find as much happiness as you will in the half-pound-hamburger business. You will bring joy to the American family and people waiting for citizenship. Your relatives will rejoice when they see you in a white hat and a black bow tie. We have sweepstakes at Christmas, and you can win an all-expense-paid trip to Tijuana. Give it a chance."

"I still want the hamburger and fries."

"What good will they do you? In an hour they will be gone, but a fry-cook position is forever."

"You seem to be determined."

"It works. A couple of hours ago I had a lawyer in the place, and he wanted the 99-cent breakfast. I gave him one of our employment brochures, and when he saw what we were paying he said he was leaving the firm that afternoon."

"The competition for help must be terrific."

"It is. Every time we break someone in, the investment bank across the street steals him away."