The recent budget mess was about jobs. Not people's jobs, but congressional jobs. This was brought home to me by House member Luke Slowly, who lives down the street. He dropped by the other day with a fistful of polls.

I had never seen him so depressed."This could be the end of the planet Earth as I know it," he told me. "I might be shoveling snow by November."

"You're being too pessimistic. Lots of Congresses have been unable to come up with a budget and have still been returned to office in a landslide."

"But this is the big one. The American people are boiling mad because we couldn't cut $500 billion out of the deficit without causing pain. You should see my mail. They are calling me names that I would only use against my opponent."

"What do the people write?"

"They say that the members of Congress are idiots because half of us wanted to give everything to the poor and the other half wanted to give everything to the rich. I was just trying to put the American dream on hold. If I lose the election because of this, the voters will have to live with it for the rest of their lives."

"You are taking a dim view. After all, just because you might lose the election doesn't mean that you're worthless.

"Slowly," I said, "you'll still be a valuable asset even though you may be out of a job."

He asked, "What could I do?"

"You could become a lobbyist and fight for what you believe in - for a large fee."

"Every congressman who loses in November is going to become a lobbyist. What have I got to sell the vested interests that they don't have already?"

"You could teach them the art of wheeling and dealing by not taking credit for killing all the new taxes on cigarettes and liquor."

Slowly responded, "But they weren't killed!"

"Who's going to know that? The only ones who will be aware of the taxes are the smokers and drinkers, and since it's a sin tax, they'll pay it. Print up cards and call yourself `Across-the-Board Slowly.' You'll have all the business you can handle."

"Lord knows I was in favor of balancing the budget, but I won't do it on the backs of the American people. I am known for my compassion. I never promised anyone `blood, sweat and tears.' The president did, but he had no idea how his compromise was going to affect the elections. He talked budget - we talked votes."

"I wonder if Bush will be out of a job in 1992?" I said.

"The people are pretty mad at all of us. It seems to me that the public would rather toss out a president than a congressman."

"Slowly, the newspaper reported that you voted your conscience. Is that true?"

Slowly bristled, "I've never voted my conscience in my life. I vote the way I'm told. That's why I'm known in the House as `Go-With-the-Flow Slowly.' "