Last week we saw what's become a regular headline: "Republicans Threaten Government Shutdown." This year's excuse was a feud over whether to continue writing an annual $500-million corporate-welfare check to Planned Parenthood.
With bated breath, the mainstream media informed us that the usual suspects on Capitol Hill were "working feverishly" to avoid the "shutdown." If they hadn't worked out a deal, the media would have squeezed a few more days or weeks of purple prose out of this fake calamity.
There was 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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 "not 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?
Second, if something is not "essential," why is the government doing it in the first place? Especially when that government is $18.5 trillion in debt, runs annual spending deficits in the neighborhood of half a trillion dollars, and faces future unfunded liabilities that might be in excess of $200 trillion?
It seems to me that the threat of a 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.