Welcome to Shutdown Theater, 2015 Edition
By Thomas Knapp
Well, here we go again. Sample annual headline: “Republicans Threaten Government Shutdown.” This year’s excuse: A feud over whether or not to continue writing an annual $500 million corporate welfare check to Planned Parenthood.
With bated breath, the mainstream media informs us that the usual suspects on Capitol Hill are “working feverishly” to avoid the “shutdown.” If they don’t work out a deal, the media will squeeze a few more days’ or weeks’ worth of purple prose out of this fake calamity.
There’s not going to be any “government shutdown.” There’s never been one, nor is one likely in the future. Or at least not until the US government as we know it “shuts down” for good (yes, that will happen someday — nothing lasts forever).
Nor are these fake “shutdowns” anything close to calamities. At worst they’re mild inconveniences, and then only because Americans have acquiesced in government doing far too many things for far too long.
When we hear that the government has, or is about to, “shut down,” there’s always a curious follow-on clause: “Except for essential services.”
You’d be surprised at the variety of seemingly non-essential services the US government considers “essential.” The list is too long for this column, so I’ll just throw out one example: TSA agents will continue to feel up air travelers, even though letting not-quite-qualified wannabe cops routinely sexually assault people has, on the evidence, never prevented so much as a single terror attack.
But here are two more important questions than what’s “essential” or “nor essential”:
First, if something is not “essential” — a synonym for “necessary” or “indispensable” — why is the possibility that the government will stop doing it for a little while always portrayed in the mainstream media, as an impending disaster of epic proportions?
Secondly, if something is not “essential,” why is the government doing it in the first place? Especially when that government is $18.5 trillion dollars in debt, runs annual spending deficits in the neighborhood of half a trillion dollars each year, and faces future unfunded liabilities which may be in excess of $200 trillion?
It seems to me that the impending fake “shutdown” should be greeted not with angst but with anticipation. Or, at worst, with apathy.
It’s not the end of the world. It’s not even the end of an era. It’s the finale of a bad sitcom’s bad season.
Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.
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