It has started to feel normal that two or three times a year we have a major state/fiscal crisis and maybe once every 18 months or two years, there is a true breakdown with fairly grave consequences. The last time was in the summer of 2011. We have a very good chance of another next week and something even more catastrophic next month.And this is just what we do now. Actually Marshall goes on to point out, correctly, that this is specifically what the Republicans do now. As I tried to say last week, they aren't acting this way (only) because they are crazy. They act this way because there are political and financial incentives for them to keep doing it.
Despite the fact that it hasn't occurred since 1996, at this point, given the possibilities on offer, a government shutdown seems almost prosaic. Countless citizens are inconvenienced in ways large and small. But you can start the thing back up again in a week and apart from a mini-shock to the economy probably everything goes back to working fine. The thing with truly catastrophic potential and permanent damage is defaulting on the national debt - the possibility of which is mind-boggling in the absence of actual state bankruptcy, war or civil disorder.
I'm not even sure what to say about it because it's the new normal. We know it. We live it. But this is really unprecedented stuff - deep attacks on the state itself inasmuch as the state requires for it to function a penumbra of norms surrounding the formal mechanisms of government.
But it bears repeating that this is an incentive to go ahead and blow up the country... or at least come very very close to doing that.. every 2 years or so. After a few more rounds of this maybe someone will ask just who the blow-up-the-country constituency is and why they have such a loud voice in Washington.
In a related story, the big scary deficit, by the way, is already falling. Although it's also worth noting that that's not even what they're screaming about this time. This time they're blowing up the country over health insurance. Oh and now apparently contraception. Again, why do these people get to demand so much attention?