A recent news story told us that the nation's con artists have found a way to profit from tight credit conditions.

It has become so difficult to obtain a legitimate loan that the confidence men have been getting rich by soliciting bribes to arrange government loans.

They have no influence with government leaders. They can arrange nothing. But people believe they can, and people believe that a bribe must be given before the government will act. So the con men are getting rich.

What a sad commentary this is on our government! So much crookedness has been exposed that people are ready to believe almost anything. So many public "servants" have betrayed their trust that it is now assumed all public officials are crooks.

Ordinarily, I have little sympathy for one who is double-crossed while engaging in an illegal act that he hopes will enrich him. However, I do feel sorry for those who have wasted their money on useless bribes.

Their government's reputation for red tape and dishonesty was an essential ingredient in leading these lambs to slaughter. 112,910 WHAT?

The National Taypayers Union has sent me a "Statement of Account" that directs my attention to an inventory of debts that you and I owe.

The inventory is listed in three columns. The first identifies the category, the second gives a gross amount (I am not sure of the precise sense in which "gross" is used), and the third is ominously labeled, "Your Share."

The public debt, I learn, is $721 billion, which can be made to sound considerably more terrifying if stated as $721,000 million. But "Your Share" (my share) is a mere $9,012. Heck, I make more than that in a single year. Why worry?

However, the public debt is not my only concern, or yours. In fact, it may be the least of our concerns.

The National Taxpayers Union also directs your attention to items like $80 billion in "accounts payable," $332 billion in "undelivered orders," $209 billion in loan and credit guarantees, $1,733 billion in "insurance commitments" and $5,900 billion ($5.9 trillion) in "annuity programs."

If you can't comprehend $5.9 trillion or $5,900 billion, would $5,900,000 million or $5,900,000,000,000 make things any easier?

When you add to these items a few small ones of 10 billion here and 2,000 million there, they total more than $9,000,000,000,000 or $9 trillion or $9,000 billion -- or $9,000,000 million if you prefer. And if you are not already stupified by this contemplation of "9 million million," please be advised that "Your Share" is $112,910. And so is (sob!) mine.

The National Taxpayers Union appears to have calculated "my share" on the basis of my paying for my child and my child's children, but I will not make an issue of this. Larry and Judy know that I would never let them be put into debtors' prison over a few paltry dollars.

But $112,910 is a bit much, isn't it, chaps? You wouldn't settle for an even $112,000, would you? POSTSCRIPT

An anonymous postcard that calls me bad names for my comments on the anti-draft demonstration ends up with: "I am shocked and disappointed to find that you have revealed yourself to be a conservative."

The dictionary says conserve means "to save, to keep from being lost, damaged or wasted." I plead guilty.

I believe we have an obligation to conserve the best of what has been willed to us by our ancestors and to improve upon that which the passing years have given us the wisdom to remedy.

I believe, also, that if my share of the national debt is really $112,910, it is the biggest bargain since the Dutch bought Manhattan for $24 worth of colored beads. If that's the membership fee for being an American, put it on my Master Charge, brother, I have no complaints.

Just do me one favor. Tell me where to find that much money without robbing a Texan. SMILE ANYHOW

Changing Times says the timing of the census questionnaire and the income tax inquisition puts the average citizen into the middle of a bureaucratic tug-of-war.

The magazine wonders: "Can Census count a nose still in use for paying IRS through?"

There's also a gloomy tone to its comment: "Somewhere we read that one of four people in this country is mentally unbalanced, but there is no need to be unduly concerned. Unless, that is, you have three friends who seem perfectly normal."

But there is one bright thought. It's about April showers, of all things.

Changing Times says they're delightful, "for it can truly be said that few things bring two people closer together than one umbrella."