In times of lunacy such as these it is difficult not to laugh. The president has blossomed into a tin pot potentate rivaling any tin pot potentate tucked away in any Third World backwater. Lies are truth. Truth is "newspeak." Much of Congress is an ironic New Yorker cartoon come to life. Government is running amok.
One need only glance at the headlines to marvel as Washington, D.C., seeks its own level at the bottom of a rusted and quite stinky barrel.
We have National Park Service rangers arresting World War II veterans at war memorials in Washington, D.C. Or, elderly tourists treated like criminals and shooed away from national parks. Roadside pullouts closed near the Mount Rushmore National Memorial to block the view. Historic sites blockaded. The National Mall "closed" -- except for a full-blown immigration reform rally sanctioned by President Barack Obama, proving some animals really are more equal.
"We've been told to make life as difficult for people as we can," an angry Park Service ranger told the Washington Times. "It's disgusting."
Indeed. The worst? The families of this nation's recent war dead initially being denied death benefits while pettifogging bureaucrats argued.
People outside the miasma of the nation's capital also are being hurt. The shutdown's effects are rippling through the economy. In Alaska, brown plankton are blooming in Kachemak Bay and federal researchers are hors de combat. There is nobody to hand out permits for the Bering Sea crab fishery.
The shutdown's unfairness is breathtaking. A federal worker deemed "essential" was made to work without pay. If nonessential, they went home, but now Congress has decided to pay them anyway, a sort of paid vacation. Go figure.
Short of the resurrection of stocks and public floggings, a revolution of one sort or another appears overdue.
There will be no political winners. Republicans undeservedly will suffer most. Democrats? Not so much; the news media are seeing to that. The president's popularity will continue to slip but who cares?
Yet nobody is addressing the root of the problem: We are spending too much. The United States is more than $16.7 trillion in debt -- and sliding deeper into the red every day.
Republicans controlling the House where spending bills emanate -- the pesky Constitution says so -- worry about surging red ink and the economy-breaking Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, along with its snarl of taxes and regulations. They had the temerity to balk at funding the health care plan -- but voted to fund the rest of government.
The Democrat-controlled Senate refused to approve the House-sanctioned spending without Obamacare funding. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid demands his way on Obamacare -- it is the law of the land, he says -- or there will be no government funding.
The Framers wisely handed the House this nation's purse strings as a check on executive power. It decides which "law of the land" will be funded. Cutting off aid to South Vietnam, ending the Vietnam War, is an example. Ending funding for the Contras in Nicaragua during the Reagan administration is another.
Columnist Thomas Sowell makes a good point when he says, "When Barack Obama keeps claiming that it is some new outrage for those who control the money to try to change government policy by granting or withholding money, that is simply a bald-faced lie."
While this plays out, the congressionally mandated government debt ceiling -- or government debt limit -- deadline is looming. It does not reduce or affect old debt. It blocks new debt. Republicans want discussions about Obamacare, spending and entitlement reform before again jacking it up, as has been done more than 100 times since 1917. Democrats want none of it.
In 2006, then-Sen. Obama opposed a debt ceiling increase, saying it shifts the burden of bad decisions to our grandchildren. He was right. Now, he says, it is important for the country -- as long as it happens his way. Without it, he argues, government cannot pay what it owes on the national debt, forcing a default -- but that is untrue. We may look stupid to the rest of the world but, as Sowell points out, tax receipts will keep flowing into the Treasury, and they total more than the interest on the national debt. It is just another in a string of lies.
And so it goes.
In times of lunacy, it is difficult not to laugh, even harder not to weep.
Paul Jenkins is editor of the AnchorageDailyPlanet.com.