Ladies and gentlemen, this is the announcement you have been waiting for. I am -- are you ready? -- forming a committee to study the possibility that I may, someday and somehow, run for . . . er, president. I am contemplating the formation of such a committee for the following reasons:

1) I am better qualified for the White House than some of the people running; 2) I need a place to live in downtown Washington that has a pool; and 3) I have an absolutely unbeatable platform that has nothing to do with trade, foreign policy, raising or lowering taxes or taking a position on such issues as surrogate motherhood, about which I change my mind almost daily. Instead, I simply propose that all of us -- the rich and the poor, Republican and Democrat, Christian and Jew, of whatever sexual orientation -- be given a single account number for all our credit cards and other bills. I would make this a law.

Under the Cohen administration (merely to write those words gives me a thrill), no one would ever again have to study a bill with Talmudic intensity (and often in poor light) to find an account number to write in the lower left-hand corner of a check. There would be no account number, such as the one I have with a bank that was silly enough to grant me credit, that has -- count them -- seven zeroes in the middle of the number and that, every month, I have to count out to write on the check. I am afraid, as I should be, that if I am wrong by one zero, my payment will wind up in Ollie North's Swiss account and go to underwrite a dinner for Los Freedom Fighters in a Miami restaurant.

The Cohen administration would see to it that each and every bill payer has the same account number for American Express, Visa, Choice, MasterCard, Exxon and even the gas company. Moreover, it would be against the law for any company to add a prefix to your account number, leaving you unsure of just what your real account number is and unaware that you have made a mistake until you try to write the number in the little boxes on the envelope and see that there are too few boxes for the number that is already on the check sealed inside.

Moreover, the Cohen administration would insist that all checks be made out to the name of the company on the credit card. Thus, checks to Visa would be made out to "Visa" and not, as is the case, "UV Bak," whatever the hell that is. As it is now, I have to pause before writing out every check to see what fool name the company has come up with. Usually, the information is found in very tiny print somewhere in a maze of disclosures, indecipherable interest rates and notices that you have exceeded your credit limit. Visa would be Visa, and that would be it. In addition, any bill from a group health practice would have to state in capital letters who the check should be made out to (Feinblum, Smith, Golden, Arrowsmith & Newman simply will not fit on a check).

The Cohen administration (aaah) has other plans as well. It would forbid any elevator to have a button for the lobby that did not say "L." No "G" or "1" (sometimes the basement) or "LL," which I think must stand for lobby-lobby. Also, people who run red lights would be shot, litterers would be jailed, and bicyclists who bike on the sidewalk would be stoned to death. A stiff jail sentence would be given to people who play car radios too loudly, to drivers who perch their kids on their laps, to TV weathermen who call rain "precipitation," to newscasters who say accident victims were "victimized," to flight attendants who tell you to remain seated until the plane comes to a "full stop" (what other kind of stop is there?) and to people whose cars carry "Baby on Board" signs (I am never sure what I am expected to do about it).

The Cohen administration (getting used to it, huh?) would insist that all traffic directions written on the road be in the usual order. None of this "Ahead Stop" or "Crossing RR Road" stuff, which, because I always read it literally, momentarily confuses me and sometimes causes me to stop a run sign. In addition, I would insist on a modicum of good grammar. All "Drive Slow" signs would have an "ly" added to them, also providing work for the unemployed.

It would be forbidden to say "Have a good day" (to which my wife always says, "Thanks, I have other plans"), and no bellhop, on pain of death, would be allowed to show you how your hotel TV set works. And any restaurant that puts quotes around such phrases as "Today's Special" would be closed for a week.

But it is by emancipating the average American bill payer that the Cohen administration will leave its mark. Return envelopes that are too small for the "top portion" would be strictly forbidden, as would envelopes with little windows that reveal your name and not the company to which you are sending your payment, a fact you discover only after sealing the envelope. (You don't know how many times I've mailed the payment to myself.) Also forbidden would be the several pounds of special offers and newsletters that fall out when you open the bill. While I'm at it, I would also ban subscription cards that fall out of magazines.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is my platform. It is direct and to the point. I am about to form a political action committee to accept donations. Send your checks to me at The Washington Post and make them out to RCPAC. I'll send your permanent account number by return mail. ::