Jibran Khan writes at National Review Online that debate about a government shutdown distracts observers from the nation’s “sorry fiscal state.”

The recurring shutdown and short-term-funding debates have let Democrats and Republicans run through debate points about immigration and their views of the president. But lost in an argument that is grounded in spending is the spending itself: the grim outlook of our nation’s finances. It is telling that the State of the Union address, which celebrated big government but did not even mention debt or the ongoing deficits, was widely popular.

Government shutdowns have become trial runs for would-be star politicians and tend to be popular with the parties’ activist bases. Ted Cruz raised his profile by orchestrating the 2013 shutdown even though it failed to put a dent in Obamacare. (Today he claims to have “consistently opposed shutdowns.”) And after a weekend-long shutdown this year, activist Democrats protested in front of Chuck Schumer’s home because the event had ended to soon. Kamala Harris, who like Ted Cruz in 2013 is eyeing the next general election, has committed to backing a shutdown this week if the spending deal doesn’t contain a fix for the “Dreamers.”

It is easy to blame Democrats for their shutdown theatrics, but these would have been harder to pull off if the congressional GOP had opened the year by showing an interest in the budget or had demonstrated a legislative agenda beyond a vague desire for something on infrastructure. When that infrastructure idea began to materialize, it was as a trillion-plus-dollar boondoggle.