There is an easy way to separate the cream from the crap, wheat from the chaff, the pig from the Patriot. It's as simple as asking the right questions to get at the right answers.
"XYZ City or state government has threatened to shut down, or has reduced government to ESSENTIAL SERVICES such as police and fire services until budget issues can be resolved."
How often do you hear or read about this? Unfortunately, you'll be hearing this much more often in the next few months and years. I always have a little chuckle of irony when I read about a local or state government that is in a budget shortfall announce it is going to reduce itself down to "ESSENTIAL SERVICES."
"ESSENTIAL SERVICES": What a eureka moment! Whiskey Tango Foxtrot! No Sh** Sherlock! By George, I think you've got it! Watson, come here, I need you!
I sit there and scratch my head and think, Isn't that what government is supposed to be in the first place? WTF have they been doing all this time providing NON essential services on my dime?
Essential services of government: A true safety net for essential services that apply to everyone equally, that won't be provided by the private market. Why would they be providing anything more than that?
When you say "Essential Services", one can't help but consider the opposite, what are "NON-ESSENTIAL" services? Is everything else government does considered NON-essential services? And why are governments even involved in NON essential services?
Why don't we hold every single office holder to this standard? Why not make every pet project be held to this standard? Why not ask this during debates and get pledges?
How about this for a standard debate question and candidate vetting question?
Mr/Mrs. candidate, your budget just got cut in half. What government functions would you keep and why?
If we could only get to this, we'd start making some real progress. We could then have them on record saying what is essential and what isn't. They would look like a fool trying to justify non essential services paid by their hard working constituents.
It is ESSENTIAL we all get involved and hold every politician's feet to the fire and remind all our politicians, local, state, CONgress, White House that their next re-election could very well be deemed NON-ESSENTIAL by voters.