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Things aren't as bad as federal government's pessimism would have you believe

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Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A lot of good things are happening. They just take extra looking at, that's all.

The oh-so-awful government “shutdown,” for example. Well, it happened — and what do you know? Turns out people get along fine without so much government for a while. And if for a while, why not longer?

From such episodes, dreaded in the Beltway but secretly desired in the nonpolitical world, we learn what government services we really need. The armed forces and air traffic controllers? Absolutely. And notice, they've never lost an hour. But thousands of bureaucrats at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Internal Revenue Service and scads of others? No problem, guys, take a few days off.

No doubt there have been instances of hardship, mostly inflicted by spite. The public has to feel it, see, if Congress dares tighten the money valve.

That's how officialdom cleverly managed to put up barriers against 80- and 90-year-old veterans and their families from the World War II Memorial, a site wide open to passers-by on any given day.

Also idiotically calculated to inflict hurt was a stop to clinical trials of potentially lifesaving drugs; this even though dedicated public servants would surely get to the job even in a “shutdown,” confident they'll be paid eventually.

The next crisis is another phantom filled with scarecrow straw: the debt ceiling.

Golly, what if Oct. 17 comes around and lawmakers are still in “gridlock”? The Treasury couldn't borrow more than the $16.7 trillion already on our tab? Would we “default,” besmirching the faith and credit of the United States of America?

Of course not.

Treasury could simply pay on the bonds due and hold back other spending. This might inconvenience some special interests, but so what?

A Washington crisis of this cry-wolf sort is more revealing than in the past. We're getting wise to it. Millions of folks begin realizing just how high the cost of government has grown for very little obvious good.

Inevitably, it calls into question other inflation sore spots. College tuitions, for example, and the accompanying burden of student loans — for diplomas that do not, in millions of cases, lead to good jobs.

Likewise, soaring medical costs. Whether Obamacare brings down total costs or not, it should surely refocus the public on something that might. Tax-free Health Savings Accounts, for one, combined with high-deductible catastrophic insurance. Strangely, these get very little promotion. Americans will begin to save on health costs when they give up the illusion that somebody else is paying. Health insurance properly understood means financial protection against getting ruined. Cancer, heart attack or accident could do that to you. So insure against losses of $5,000 or more — not colds, shots and routine office visits.

On the employment front is a welcome new revving up of the Great American Job Machine.

It's happening in oil and gas; the return of manufacturing from offshore; and 3.9 million jobs going unfilled even in a recovery scarred by too much unemployment. How about our schools preparing more kids to go for those jobs? What are we waiting for?

Government is perhaps cause to be pessimistic, but the times are filled with promise.

Jack Markowitz is a Thursday columnist of Trib Total Media. Email him at

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