On Wall Street, judging by the Dow Jones, our bonus-hoofing cousins have finally cottoned on to the fact that "Change We Can Believe In" won't come for free. Here on Main Street, it'll take another two months for the same grim realisation to hit.
That, according to an ugly letter that just landed in my mailbox, is how long the nation has to get its affairs in order, fill in headache-inducing forms, and write a large cheque to its government. For the US has just entered its annual period of soul-searching known as "income tax season".
Out here, income tax is a major industry. Billboards advertise cheap financial websites. Vacant strip malls are rented to fly-by-night accountants. As I write this, there's a bloke on my street corner dressed as the Statue of Liberty, enticing motorists into the Liberty "drive-thru" fiscal advice service.
Yet in California, paying tax is a bit like giving a junkie his latest fix. The state is currently in financial meltdown, spending $12bn a year more than it receives (a figure rising exponentially and due to hit $42bn by 2010). In a few weeks, it'll run out of funds altogether.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Governor presiding over this mess, says that tomorrow he'll be forced to fire 10,000 people. State employees are already taking a day's unpaid leave each month. Soon, they'll get their wages in "registered warrants", a glorified IOU note. There's even talk of letting 22,000 prisoners out of overcrowded jails.
To stem the flow, our "Governator" decided to take out an emergency loan of $15bn against future earnings of the California State Lottery. A cynic, wondering how the Government of one of the wealthiest places on earth could be reduced to the financial status of Zimbabwe, might propose instead that he buy a few lottery tickets.
A Baleful development
Christian Bale has apologised for his potty-mouthed temper tantrum on the set of the next Terminator movie. This succeeded in quietening public critics, but could it also destroy Bale's professional reputation? A serious method actor would surely have sent a bionic robot back in time to destroy the tape.
Who put down 'Slumdog'?
Are the "poverty porn" stories about Slumdog Millionaire being put about as part of an orchestrated campaign by Oscar rivals? Harvey Weinstein, the producer of The Reader, was asked by Entertainment Weekly about rumours that he's been spreading such gossip. "What can I say?" came his response. "When you're Billy the Kid and people around you die of natural causes, everyone thinks you shot them." Hardly an unequivocal denial.Reuse content