YOU'VE GOT TO hand it to Rep. Philip M. Crane: he knows how to keep a bad thing going. Rep. Crane is the driving force behind a campaign to give members of Congress an even greater public subsidy for their free parking at National Airport than they already enjoy at everybody else's expense and inconvenience. He wants to kick out the Supreme Court justices and diplomats who now share these exclusive free parking spaces. The whole idea of special free lots for anybody is, of course, disgusting. But Mr. Crane plows on.

Now he's threatening the Federal Aviation Administration, which has dared to say no, it won't expel the justices and the diplomats to make more room for congressional free parking. This defiance has prompted the congressman to go for the legislative jugular: he's talking about raising the issue when the FAA next comes to Congress for appropriations. We remind you that the FAA has a large responsibility for trying to maintain the safety of air travel in this country. But Mr. Crane threatens to retaliate against its funds by way of getting his free parking privileges enlarged. Ponder this one some stormy evening when you're strapped in Seat 7C, circling over National for the 20th time and the voice says, "Ah, this is your captain speaking. They tell us the tower now closes every day at 5 p.m. due to budget cuts. The main runways seem to be closed, too; they're covered with red carpeting, bordered with cordons and a sign saying 'Parking for Members of Congress Only.' Bear with us."

Preposterous -- if it weren't so close to the truth. It is Congress, after all, that has been responsible for the impossible conditions at, around and above National. Now, instead of leading a move to do something for the public, Mr. Crane would do still more to the public.

This is the same Philip Crane who has fashioned himself for years as a warrior against public subsidies and for increased competition, based on the "self-evident truth that government does nothing well." His campaign is one way to underscore that "truth." But government would do well to abolish all free, reserved parking spaces -- for members of Congress, the Supreme Court and the diplomatic corps. Mr. Crane is forever complaining that the members of Congress need these parking places. So do vast numbers of other travelers whose business is no less urgent than that of the congressional freeloaders who are as usual concerned only with giving themselves more presents at the public's expense.