NORTH POLE: Santa has issued a sternly worded protest to Washington about Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's infringement of Santa's duties and responsibilities.

"Paulson thinks he's Santa Claus," said Santa, "and there can only be one Santa at a time."

The original Santa threatened to resign if Paulson wasn't stopped.

"I am the only historically authorized party to bestow gifts on everyone, deserving or not," said Santa. "And it is manifestly unfair to allow some governmental hack to start giving away billions of dollars and sugar plums."

Sources close to Santa confirmed that what was really upsetting Santa was the fact that Santa was having a hard time competing with Paulson due to limited resources.

"Santa can do many things, but printing money isn't one of them," said an elf.

Santa fears Paulson will actually send money to everyone in America, the ultimate stocking stuffer, by Christmas Eve.

"If everyone expects to find several thousand dollars in their stockings, Santa simply won't matter any more," said the elf.

Sources at the Treasury Department contemptuously dismissed the protest from Santa. "Henry would never wear a red suit," said a spokesman for Treasury.

Unconfirmed sources indicate Santa's fear of cash being handed out before Christmas was not unfounded.

"They're desperate to revitalize the economy and save the retail sector," said the source inside Treasury, "and it isn't a bad idea to cut checks to everyone by December 23rd or so."

President Bush was his usual disassociated self when asked about the squabble between Paulson and Santa.

"Isn't Santa some kind of socialist" Bush asked. "I mean, he wears red and give people stuff without them working hard to earn it."