Stories that get too specific about what ordinary Americans are missing risk emphasizing how nonessential some federal government services are. For instance, a story in the Bangor Daily News noted that the Small Business Administration, which hands out government-subsidized loans to firms, won’t be making them during the shutdown. Still, the story notes, that’s not going to make much of a hit on the local economy, since the SBA has made just 2,687 loans in Maine since 2010, for an average of just 27 a month. The SBA dispenses more loans in bigger states, but the agency, which various presidents have struggled to reform or eliminate, has spent decades trying to prove its worth, with little success. If there’s an agency that might not be missed in the shutdown, the SBA is it.
Some of the stories are enough to make me wonder whether the press is trying to let us know that it’s in on the joke. What else could account for a story in the Lafayette Daily Advertiser entitled, “How the shutdown is affecting local breweries in Louisiana.” The problem, the owner of Bayou Teche Brewing explains, is that the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau is responsible for approving labels for new beers, and the agency’s not working right now. “With every government shutdown that’s happened since we opened, we’ve had a beer needing label approval,” said Karlos Knott of Bayou. “And that results in beer we’re just having to sit on.” Call out the National Guard, or FEMA!