Run for the hills, everybody! Armageddon is imminent! The sky is beyond falling; it's anvil-plummeting onto our heads so fast that the clouds are whistling the love theme from the movie "2012." The U.S. economy is about to melt down like a popsicle left on a Palm Springs picnic table, and it's only a matter of time before this country liquefies into Greece's financial twin, but without the pleasant distraction of all that melodious zither music.
Seniors, sick people and soldiers are destined to be tossed into the streets to battle mutant rats for food. The three branches of the government will inevitably be deemed too expensive, and we'll be forced to let one go. All hell is about to break loose. Don't you get it? We're doomed! Doomed!! Then again, maybe not.
What is clear is, well, nothing. We kind of, almost, pretty much, but might not really know for sure: unless Congress agrees to raise the debt ceiling by Aug. 2, America's authority to borrow money will expire, and the government may or mayn't shut down. What that means, nobody knows. It could be not-so-good, or it could be really, really bad, or it could be stick-your-head-between-your-knees-and-kiss-your-butt-goodbye bad.
And yes, I can hear you whispering, "Hey, schmucko, shutting down the government doesn't sound half bad to me. About time we kicked those freakin' freeloaders off of the dole." Point well taken. But understand: the responsibility for those big red "Freeloader" stickers you're so anxious to plaster on parasitic foreheads will not be given to you. It will be handed from one government bureaucrat to another government bureaucrat, which means your forehead could easily end up sporting a big red sticker. You've got to remember: one man's pork is another man's hickory smoked bacon bits.
Both parties are now striding histrionically across the stage, pronouncing in loud, mellifluous tones how determined and proud they are to stick to their core principles while demanding that the other side be the first to compromise, the theory being that the other side is more likely to abandon their core principles because, let's be honest, they aren't really core principles so much as re-election talking points. And you know what? They're right. Who? Yes.
The Republicans are demanding cuts in entitlement programs, which the president said he'd consider. The Democrats have, in a their own inimitable roundabout way, brought up the possibility of maybe raising taxes on a few rich people, which Eric Cantor, the Under Speaker of the House, says he won't consider.
And that, my friends, is pretty much where we stand right now -- although the word "stand" might be affording the participants a wee bit too much credit. "Squirm." "Slink." "Skulk." "Dodge." "Creep." "Crouch." "Lurk." "Loiter." "Weasel." "Cower." Any of these might be more apropos.
Unfortunately, this is, was, and forever shall be the way of things in Congress: much hollow bluster and empty fury in a noisy gamble to appease the base until it becomes crystal clear whom the general populace (Independents) blames for the gridlock, then everyone quickly signs something nobody likes, and both parties walk off declaring victory. Think of it as the New Vietnamization of Congressional negotiation: no peace at all and very little honor.