Screeching to the Government Shutdown Line -- Here We Go Again

Pass the budget cuts we’re demanding, House Republicans are saying now – or the victims of floods, tornados and hurricanes can kiss their FEMA help goodbye.

It’s like that old National Lampoon cover from the 1970s with a worried-looking puppy out front: “If You Don't Buy This Magazine, We'll Kill This Dog.” There’s no logical connection between the warning and the consequences, but here’s the really maddening part: Threats like these sometimes succeed, at least in the short run.

Copies of NatLamp were jumping off the newsstands in January 1973. And House Republicans may well succeed in blocking $1.5 billion in alternative-energy loans.

But there is a cautionary message in here too: If you try these tactics too often, they don’t seem so funny after a while.. The beloved humor magazine has been out of business for years now. And already, in you can believe the polls, Americans are growing pretty disgusted with the do-what-I-want-or-I’ll-close-the-government style of Washington compromise.

The current crisis is third time in five months we’re screeched to the government-shutdown line. This time, as with the other two, the actual issues in dispute are relatively minor.

One-point-five-billion dollars for energy loans? A FEMA budget stretched too far by a spate of disasters? By Washington standards, that’s chump change for either side! In years Republicans and Democrats actually spoke to each other, Congressional leaders could resolve that kind of accounting on paper napkins between the second and third Scotch.

Now they’re hitting each other over the head with the empty bottles.

What’s new isn’t the fact that the two sides disagree on whether to fund some program or another. That’s the basic business of Washington. What’s new is the quickness to threaten bureaucratic Armageddon when one side doesn’t get its way.

Washington probably won’t close this week, as it didn’t close the last two times around. In the end, one side – most likely the Democrats again – will mostly fold.

But as the fiscal year limps to an end on Friday in yet another crisis mode, this pointlessly bitter debate is doing what pointlessly bitter debates always do. It is sapping the energy and last good feeling out of Washington.

The anger keeps rising. Compromise becomes harder still. Ideology overwhelms any practical solutions. Public disgust only grows.

And the important issue we face as a nation – creating jobs, educating young people, competing with the Chinese – get shoved aside again.

Please, put down that revolver, will you? Just let the puppy live!

Ellis Henican is a Fox News contributor and bestselling author. He is a columnist for Newsday and amNY.