Maxed out 

In the spirit of giving…

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The children were nestled, all snug in their beds. The children are nestled, aren’t they? Good. I don’t want to be accused of starting any panic in the wide-eyed, suspended disbelief, visions of the sugarplum set.

Fair warning : This holiday column contains material not suitable for children. You might want to consider removing this page from your Christmas Pique or just hiding the entire paper wherever you hide other disturbing material you don’t want your children seeing. Victoria’s Secret catalogs or your brokerage statements, for example.

Capping a year that started off with markets up, spirits soaring and chest-deep powder on both Whistler and Blackcomb, we have now officially hit what can only be described as, well, if not rock bottom, at least rock. The world’s economy is an economy in name only. Former Masters of the Universe are knifing their ex-colleagues in the back fighting for entry level positions as greeters at Wal-Mart. The once capitalistic society known as the USofA has socialized its banks and is in the process of bailing out its defunct auto industry, thus assuring a Chevy in every pot until at least March. The Italian government has just announced a bailout plan for makers of parmesan cheese.

And now… this!

A press release from the North Pole has put the world on notice: Santa Inc — as it turns out a subsidiary of the hedge fund Frozen Assets LLC — has threatened to cancel Christmas unless an immediate bailout can be arranged no later than… immediately. Like this afternoon.

Formerly jovial St. Nick, looking rather uncharacteristically gaunt, hitched four of his eight tiny reindeer to a sleigh badly in need of a fresh coat of paint, and came red cap in hand to the U.S. congress pleading for emergency funds. “I’m not asking for a bailout for myself,” he said, an old familiar twinkle in his eye. “What I need is an emergency loan of $12.6 billion to ensure Christmas comes for every boy and girl around the world who has, all things considered, been more nice than naughty this year.”

The old man — flanked by lawyers and financial advisors — was near tears as he rattled off the litany of woes swirling around his workshop at the rapidly melting North Pole. Normally stoic and unmoved by such displays of “failed business plans,” even most Senate Republicans were visibly moved as Santa educated them on the realities of bringing Christmas cheer to children around the globe.

“You may not be aware of this,” the old man said, hanging his head, “but reindeers, particularly at the North Pole, live quite a long time. Much longer than their strong little bodies can effectively pull a heavily-laden sleigh. Even though I still thrill anyone up late enough to hear my shouting ‘Now, Dasher; now, Dancer; now, Prancer and Vixen; on, Comet; on Cupid; on, Donner and Blitzen!’ the reality is this: the original Dasher, Dancer, et. al., have been dead for some time now. Their children are no longer with us either. But there are several generations of grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren who are still alive and eating me out of house and home. The legacy costs of pensions and healthcare for thousands of aging reindeer alone has added, on average, a 25 per cent premium on the cost of every doll, every train set, every toy I deliver.”


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