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Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about money. For a change, not just my own, but other people’s.

With “Friends” going off the air, some of my own friends will finally quit griping about the million dollar per episode fee each of the six actors had been receiving for the past few seasons. Frankly, even though I never watched the show, I was happy for the cast members. Early on, you see, the studio and the network had tried to divide and conquer them.

They tried to turn Matthew Perry and Jennifer Aniston into the “stars” so that they could negotiate lesser deals with Schwimmer, Cox, LeBlanc and Kudrow. But in spite of their having different agents, the six of them hung tough just like real friends and made certain that each of them got the exact same package. That would be a remarkable achievement anywhere, but in Hollywood, it verges on the miraculous.

While thinking about money, naturally my thoughts inevitably turned to politicians. They’re the lucky folks who spend everybody else’s dough and then get to take bows as if it were coming out of their own pockets. They are the reason I am in favor of even more tax cuts than President Bush. It’s not because I crave the refund so much, but because I so hate to see the greenbacks headed to those money-magnets in Washington.

Speaking of politicians, don’t guys like Kennedy, Kerry, Clinton, Edwards, even George W. Bush, ever get tired of pretending to be regular Joes? Understand, I have nothing against rich people. But I don’t like the wealthy trying to pass themselves off as blue-collar working stiffs. I find the affectation patronizing. These guys are all kazillionaires, for god’s sake! At least Sen. Kerry, to his credit, made his the old fashioned way. He married it. Twice. And if he ever dumps No. 2, I’m giving odds he’ll go after Oprah.

Recently, this being an election year, we’ve all heard a lot of talk about the national deficit. The thing about it that alarms most people is the very thing that tickles me. Mature, responsible adults are universally aghast at the thought of sticking our children with the bill. I, on the other hand, say, hallelujah! Why shouldn’t they pick up the tab for a change? We not only have to go into debt to clothe, house, feed and educate these ungrateful wretches, but we then leave them all our worldly goods when we kick off. So what if we also leave them with a deficit? Big deal. They can pass it on to their kids. Tradition!

My final thought about money concerns my many, many friends in Nigeria. What is truly astonishing about the Nigerians who e-mail me on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis, offering me the opportunity to make millions of dollars on a nominal investment, is the fact that, so far as I can recall, I’ve never been to Nigeria. Based on their genuinely warm feelings for me, I suspect if I ever moved there, I could probably get myself elected president.

Thus far, in spite of all the blandishments, the reason I haven’t wired any money to my chums is because my wife won’t let me. She insists it’s just a big con game. When I asked her what made her so sure, she said, “I know you, and, believe me, you’re not that nice.”

It’s because of remarks like that I haven’t told her about the other e-mails that keep pouring in. I refer to the offers for some penis-enhancement product. Frankly, though naturally tempted, that sounds a little too much like something Dr. Frankenstein’s wacky cousin would come up with if left alone in the family laboratory. Besides, I know how I am once I get started with a new pastime. I can just see myself getting enhanced and enhanced and enhanced, and, before you know it, I’m having to move into a bigger house, which I can ill afford unless my wife lets me finally start investing in Nigeria.

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