For the first time in 58 years, the city-state of Berlin will book something theoretical economists elsewhere call “a budget surplus” at the end of this fiscal year. These so-called budget surpluses take place whenever the money a city or other form of government plans to spend for a given year is actually “left over” when that year is up. Practically never, in other words. In Berlin’s case, the approximately 80 million euros “left over” this year will actually be used to pay back some of the city’s 60 billion (that’s right, billion with a b) euro debt.

Upon hearing the completely unexpected and for many unimaginable news, several startled city officials at the Rotes Rathaus, clearly unversed in the rather abstruse science of theoretical economy, freaked and panicked and ran out into the surrounding streets in sackcloth screaming things like “What have we done, Lord?” and “We’re not worthy!”

Berlin has profited from surging tax income over the past two years as Germany’s economy has chugged along with a relatively robust growth rate of 2 percent and higher. Although called “poor but sexy” by its wannabe poor but sexy mayor Klaus Wowereit, theoretical economists and other experts have calculated that the city is in reality “poor but sexy but poor” and, at this rate of budget surplus payback, though undoubtedly good news of course, Berlin will only be able to pay off its debt sometime shortly before hell freezes over, which is longer than you might think once you consider global warming and all these days.

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