Here we go, again: The federal government is heading toward a possible shutdown Tuesday that would keep hundreds of thousands of federal workers off the job, close national parks and generate damaging headlines for whichever side the public holds responsible.
It's more than that, though - and even less.
The "more" is that Washington faces two deadlines: the Oct. 1 start of the new federal budget year and a mid-October date - now estimated for the 17th - when the government can no longer borrow money to pay its bills in full. The first deadline requires Congress to pass a spending bill to allow agencies to stay open. The mid-month deadline requires Congress to increase the government's $16.7 trillion borrowing cap (debt ceiling) to avoid a first-ever default on its payments.
Each year around this time, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office issues a report about just how bad the nation's long-term financial health is. Lawmakers usually say they will get serious about fixing the problem, but they don't.
The CBO's new forecast states that, in the short-term, the federal budget is in better shape than in recent years because of a recovering economy and sequestration spending cuts, among other changes. Annual deficits that topped $1 trillion in recent years have shrunk to their smallest level since 2008. They will continue to decline until about 2018.
However, if nothing changes, everything starts going haywire again. Budget deficits will increase each year, driving up the national debt.
The "less" is the CBO once again has given America a peek at its future. If it comes to pass, in 2038, Americans will hold few fond memories for those who were warned that fiscal disaster was coming and did nothing.
Because of these cries in the dark, the average Joe American does not care about the words "shutdown" or "debt ceiling" until it affects them. It's like the water debates: Until the water stops flowing from the tap, they couldn't care less.
And, in this case, as long as President Obama is in the White House and Democrats control the Senate, the Republicans do not have the votes - again - to stop ObamaCare, which they have tied to the budget bills.
All of the 21-hour Dr. Seuss-laden speeches in the world will do nothing to change that.
Washington, are you listening?