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Yawn. Another Episode of Government Shutdown Theater Begins

Monday January 22nd, 2018   •   Posted by Craig Eyermann at 6:19am PST   •  

Late on Friday, January 19, 2018, politicians in the U.S. Congress failed for the nineteenth time in the last 42 years to approve a resolution that would allow the U.S. government to continue borrowing money to support all of the spending that they’ve mandated. As a result, nonessential federal government employees have been directed to not report to work as of Saturday, January 20, 2018, although practically, the first day that most of these civilian employees would miss from work would be Monday, January 22, 2018.

According to the New York Times, about 40% of the U.S. government’s civilian workforce at its 14 departments are nonessential, including over 80% of the staff at the Departments of Labor, Interior and Commerce, and over 95% of the employees at the Department of Education, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In terms of spending, a much smaller percentage of the U.S. government is affected, which in 2018, will be less than the 17% of total spending that was impacted in 2013’s episode of federal government shutdown theater. Unlike in 2013, the nation’s parks, federal courts and even the Environmental Protection Agency will initially remain open, though with reduced operations.

That the latest federal government shutdown is little more than political theater is driven home by the media’s coverage, where Alex Berezow of the American Council on Science and Health can’t help but notice the hyped-up doomsday narrative.

One of the biggest problems of our hyperpartisan culture is that everything has been turned into a morbid game show.

Gone are the days when politicians and the media acted in the best interest of the American people. Instead, we have manufactured controversy and faux outrage over the most mundane of events. Instead of world news, we get 24/7 coverage of the President’s Twitter feed. And instead of serious analysis, we get programming that resembles some horrifying merger of Family Feud, Hunger Games, and Real Housewives of New Jersey.

Consider CNN’s coverage of the government shutdown. They are masters at combining the serious with the downright absurd: Their front page included a countdown clock and a gratuitous story about how your health will be affected. Supposedly, they are implying that when the clock runs out, we’re all going to die.

As is typical, the article is full of speculative fearmongering. CNN claims that the government shutdown could worsen the flu season, poison the food supply, block the discovery of life-saving drugs, put our veterans at risk, destroy the environment, and imperil our lives.

In other words, CNN apparently believes that the government shutdown is a life-or-death event for possibly millions of people. To underscore how serious they are, they have included a countdown clock to doomsday. The only thing missing from the front page is a dancing Pennywise gif.

Of course, CNN doesn’t actually believe any of that. They are manufacturing outrage and stoking fear to attract eyeballs. After all, the X-Files have returned, and CNN needs to compete for viewers.

For most Americans outside of the nonessential civilian federal government workforce, it will be difficult to tell the difference between a shut down federal government and a fully working federal government, which will make 2018’s episode of federal government shutdown theater an even bigger yawn than 2013’s episode. No wonder the Congress’ ratings are in the basement!

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January 2018