America's $20.5 trillion national debt didn't just create itself. It's been sowed, cultivated, and put on steroids by a patented formula that guarantees it keeps growing — and the political class keeps getting what it wants.
But perhaps there's no tool that's more sinister and disingenuous, and used by leaders of both parties, than what's become the semi-annual scare tactic known as the "government shutdown."
You have to put quotes around the term because the government does not shut down. About 85 percent of it keeps functioning, especially the military and homeland security, air traffic control, VA hospitals, FBI, DEA, and ATF enforcement and criminal investigations, oversight of food and drug safety, nuclear safety, and even the IRS. Social Security and Medicare payments continue as well.
For sure, some services are put on hold. Around 400,000 federal workers were furloughed during the last shutdown in 2013 with another 1.2 million who worked but were paid late. Of course, even those furloughed workers eventually received their full salaries. Some of them even received overtime pay.
In other words, shutdowns for federal workers are more like an unplanned paid vacation.
Others aren't so lucky. Government contractors endure delays in their payments and don't get any bonuses for waiting. Some mortgage applications can be delayed. People who need passports or want to visit national parks are out of luck.
No one should just brush off those inconveniences. Yet for the most part, calling a shutdown a "shutdown" is a major stretch of the imagination.
But the term fits right into the bipartisan scam Washington has been running for years. Without scare and hurry-up tactics, none of our huge debt and sprawling federal government would be possible.