We do not have a federal government shutdown.
It isn't even a partial shutdown.
What we have is a zombie government.
True, "essential" services are still humming along and the government is functioning. Your income is being taxed. Warren Buffet is still taking advantage of big fat tax credits his firms lobbied to obtain. And the federal debt is still rising.
Uncle Sam is simply in a catatonic state. Just like a zombie he's still alive and he's quite capable of consuming every last penny you will make over the next 100-plus years, thank you very much.
There are 800,000 federal employees on non-paid furloughs because a no continuing funding resolution is not in place. So how many federal employees are still working? Would you believe there are three different federal websites that give you three different answers, ranging from 1.8 million to 4.3 million depending upon how you count them?
That's right. Just like zombies the bureaucrats keep on marching as government's insatiable appetite for more rules, regulations, and red tape keeps growing.
If you're talking just about the executive branch - paper pushers and those who actually interact with the public on a day-to-day basis at national parks and such - the number is 1.8 million. But that's only full-time people. Toss in full-time equivalents, the temporary staff, and seasonal workers and another government site has the number at 4.3 million with military branches tossed into the mix but not the National Guard or military reserve.
Regardless, there are at least 1 million "essential" federal employees that aren't part of the military or the Postal Service since your friendly letter carrier isn't considered a federal employee apparently, although Congress controls their budget for all practical purposes.
The last zombie apocalypse along the banks of the Potomac River lasted 21 days, from Dec. 16, 1995 to Jan. 6, 1996.
Children didn't starve to death. Wall Street didn't crash. Raw sewage wasn't dumped into rivers on a wholesale basis. The "shutdown" didn't cause our country irrevocable damage for generations to come. Smartphones were still invented. The Yankees were able to buy themselves a World Series championship. Reality TV still became a reality. What did happen was the federal government went 21 days without putting in place a new regulation, dreaming up new "essential" programs such as studying the mating habits of cockroaches in Outer Mongolia, or passing new taxes.
The virus that caused the latest outbreak of zombie government wasn't politics, contrary to popular misconception. It's plain old marble shooting.
Politics is about disagreements, fighting for causes, seeking compromise, and spirited if not rancorous interchanges. It's been that way since the dawn of the republic. At least elected politicians aren't killing each other off in gun duels today, although there are some who might argue such a practice wasn't all that bad. The penny press 200 years ago makes Russ Limbaugh appear cordial and the humor of Steve Colbert seem reserved by comparison.
Politics ultimately led to the bloodiest war this nation ever has been involved with when fighting between the states cost 646,000 lives. Let's hope things don't get that far this time around.
What we have playing out on both sides of the aisle and in the White House is a classic playground game of marbles between three bullies. Each side wants all of the marbles.
Republicans villainize Democrats. Democrats villainize Republicans. Obama, unlike past presidents, isn't trying to find middle ground. He's villainizing Republicans as if they were enemies of the state. At least Syria was cut some slack.
With all due respect to the President - and Obama is our president whether you like it or not - it takes two to negotiate.
The Affordable Healthcare Act isn't going away. That said there's got to be some outrageously ineffective element of the massive healthcare plan that the administration wished they hadn't proposed that they could offer to jettison or tweak to break the deadlock. If then the Republicans don't budge to some degree, then they deserve brimstone and fire. That's because at the end of the day you have to work with others to make a democracy work even if you have to cave in on points that you find borderline vulgar.
But then again political zombies are no different than their flesh-eating cousins. When you have no heart or soul regardless if your lapel pin is a donkey or an elephant, you don't compromise. That's because you see the world only from the eyes of a zealot in semi-human form.
The sad thing about it all is that both sides have valid concerns. One understands the tragedy of people not being able to afford healthcare. The other understands the tragedy of crushing regulations and debt that has long-term consequences for individuals and the country.
However neither side gets many points for statesmanship when it comes to governing.
Meanwhile, our zombie government proves there's still a lot of life among the living dead.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Courier or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.