Maxed out 

Somewhere between the rapture and spam…

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August has become September and soon all the kiddies will be off the mean streets of Tiny Town and safely back in reform schools where they belong. Without personally facing the looming prospect of back to school, I'm having a devil of a time deciding which upcoming event I'm more excited about.

There's Chuckles Hanson, for instance. The Finance Minister of all British Columbians delivered a fire and brimstone sermon Tuesday on the sin of wages. Updating his What, Me Worry? budget, the one he delivered way back in the dark days of, um, February, Chuckles thumped the pulpit and declared things were not so rosy in Lotusland. In fact, and don't let this get around, we may be in for a Decade of Austerity. Yep, the good times we were promised during the election ain't rollin' no mo'.

The small, temporary budget deficit hinted at earlier this year has ballooned in both size and duration. The size of the deficit is now officially Anybody's Guess and the it is expected to linger until exactly 2013. Or until the next revision. Or until the rapture.

So what's the upshot of this? Shortly after delivering the bad news, Chuckles did the honourable thing. Kneeling before a stunned, but rapt, scum of reporters, he drew his short sword and committed ritual seppuku, leaving only glistening guts and unanswered questions. Immediately thereafter, Premier Campbell, inspired by the brutal honesty of his deceased minister, apologized for his shallow personal greed and announced he was rolling back his own 100 per cent pay increase as well as the enormous increases of all senior civil servants in the province.

Just kidding. That part was obviously a daydream. Sure felt good though.

No, a still living Chuckles simply announced an "effective" freeze on spending. Humming I Got Mine , he explained that effective meant there would be nominal increases in spending for health care, a necessary evil since everything the government's announced since its reelection has had the unexpected side effect of making people sick. But there will be no wage increases for anyone who isn't an important government official in this budget and, as he put it, "for as long as the rivers flow to the sea."

Not completely without empathy for the rest of us, including those earning the country's least generous minimum wage - finally, we're number one - Chuckles suggested the following coping mechanism to get past these tough times: tighten your belt.

While I'm sure he didn't mean around his neck, probably just another daydream, I'm having a bit of trouble with his advice. For starters, there aren't any more holes in my belt. Every time I read stories about how to cope with the recession, how to save money, how to live more cheaply, I'm struck by one overwhelming fact. I've been living that way my whole life. Oh well, I'm sure the corporate sponsors will be generous with their samples during the Olympics.

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