While on the Warren Commission staff in 1964, Arlen Specter launched the "magic-bullet theory" to explain the JFK assassination. Thirty-five years later, he remains a magician. He has pulled out of a hat something even more amazing than an acrobatic bullet. Sen. Specter wants to extend FY '00 from the traditional 12 months to 13. This would free the Republican Congress to spend $12 billion to $16 billion on Head Start, the Job Corps and other social programs beyond what the 1997 bipartisan budget agreement legally permits ["GOP Considers 13-Month Fiscal Year," front page, Sept. 14].

This idea has profound implications. A 13-month year would make each day 26 hours long. Imagine the possibilities. Every day, Americans could spend two more hours sleeping late, working hard or dining with friends. Perhaps the IRS will celebrate by allowing Americans to deduct 13 months of expenses against 12 months of income.

Sen. Specter and his Republican congressional colleagues ought to pass their surplus hours thinking of ways to honor their solemn commitment not to spend more tax dollars than they promised barely two years ago. Maybe they'll devote this additional time to relearning a few basic concepts: limited government, keeping one's word, and governing honestly and not like three-card-monte dealers. Now that would be magic.


New York

I marvel that the GOP plans to pretend the government's next fiscal year will contain 13 months rather than the boring old 12 to which we are accustomed. By casting off the Procrustean bed of time and our planet's rotation in space, not to mention the necessity and responsibility for making tough decisions, we can solve a myriad of problems.

But the implications of this sort of thinking go far beyond what the GOP geniuses have yet deduced. Let's take their analysis a few steps further. Among the possibilities: Let's pretend each dollar the federal government spends is really just 50 cents, thus halving the budget; let's pretend our soft-porn campaign financing system strengthens rather than subverts our democracy; let's pretend guns don't kill and tobacco is good for you.

Gee, just as I was feeling overwhelmed by the realities hemming us in, the GOP rides to our collective rescue -- or is it just George Orwell on a pink elephant?