Felix Rohatyn, the investment banker who helped steer New York City out its bankruptcy a decade ago, recently gave the National Press Club a formula for dealing with the escalating savings and loan fiasco.

Instead of turning the present $130 billion problem into a $500 billion one (through added interest costs over 30 years), Rohatyn proposed a 5 percent temporary increase on tax rates, across the board until the bill is paid off. The surcharge would produce $25 billion to $30 billion a year, winding up the problem in about four years' time and relieving our children from paying ''for our own stupidity.''

In Omaha, systems analyst Renee Wickes -- a Republican who voted for George Bush in 1988 -- heard Rohatyn's speech over National Public Radio. ''Your comments ... were so practical and reasonable, it seems incredible that our political leaders are not lifting these ideas, repackaging them and proffering them as their brainchild,'' she wrote him.

But Rohatyn's mailbag, while full of kudos from thoughtful citizens, did not yield a single endorsement from a Washington politician.

Members of his own Democratic Party resist taking any initiative to raise taxes. Says a prominent congressional Democrat: ''Rohatyn's proposal is a nonstarter. We would have enough trouble raising taxes for more appealing purposes. No one up here wants to vote for an income-tax increase, especially one aimed at the S&L crisis.''

Rep. Charles Schumer (N.Y.) articulates the Democratic policy line: both parties must share blame for the origins of the S&L crisis in the early 1980s. But dating from August of 1989, when Bush and Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady initiated legislation to deal with the situation, the ballooning cost can be laid totally at the administration's door.

''The costs have grown because of their neglect,'' Schumer told me. Therefore, congressional Democrats won't bail out the administration with a Rohatyn-style tax increase. Instead, they wait for a Bush tax-increase proposal, in the context of the overall budget deficit, to emerge from budget ''summit'' discussions. Schumer and other Democrats don't really expect Bush to propose raising taxes. In fact, Schumer expects that ''the whole budget summit process may fizzle out.''

Meanwhile, the Bush administration, increasingly sensitive to charges that it has fouled up estimates of the S&L bailout costs just in the past six months, is equally disenchanted with Rohatyn's solution.

A Treasury spokesman turns it down out of hand, citing testimony by Brady and Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan to the effect that borrowing to pay the S&L bailout bill is non-inflationary, because ''borrowing to pay off depositors puts money back into the savings pool. It doesn't have the same impact as borrowing for consumption.''

Rohatyn argues, nonetheless, that as the S&L bailout shifts money from taxpayers to depositors who lost money in failed S&Ls, it is not neutral from a regional point of view. The drain, he said, will be from the northern and central states to the Southwest and West.

His larger point is that avoiding huge interest costs during the next 20 or 30 years by biting the bullet in the short run would allow the nation to finance other urgent domestic and international needs.

Rohatyn's plea for a tax solution to the S&L crisis is destined for the scrap heap of good ideas that a gutless Congress and a gutless president, in an embarrassing Alphonse-Gaston routine, are generating. In an earlier speech to the Women's National Democratic Club, Rohatyn pointed out that today's Democrats ''share power, they do not seek it.'' A Democratic Congress has become ''part of an existing power structure, almost a coalition government with a Republican administration,'' he said.

''I used to think that politicians were marvelously intelligent. But I see they are just human beings who want to get reelected,'' Wickes said in a telephone conversation. Does she think -- as do many Democratic politicians, including New York Gov. Mario Cuomo and Sen. Bill Bradley (N.J.) -- that the S&L crisis will hurt Bush in 1992?

Her shrewd answer: ''It depends on how far he can distance himself from the problem, and push it off on the Congress. You never know, but the public doesn't seem capable of focusing on any issue. We seem to have a 30-second {time span} mentality.''

Rohatyn is a realist. He knows it is unlikely that Congress or the president will face up either to the tax issue or to the need to lower the $100,000 deposit-insurance provision, which is ''one of the main culprits.'' He suggests, therefore, the creation of a special presidential commission headed by Paul Volcker to deal with the financing and regulatory aspects of S&Ls.

The recent budget commission, of which Rohatyn was a member, flopped because Bush pulled the rug out from under it. The answer to the S&L problem must come from elected officials. But until there is a palpable economic crisis, voters such as Wickes won't be able to force politicians to act.