Govt. spending battle a lot like Shakespeare: A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

What looked like bickering over how much money to cut from the budget for a fiscal year that’s now more than half over was, in fact, an ideological confrontation between the Republicans on one side and the White House and its congressional allies on the other.

The ultimate price of avoiding a government shutdown was $38.5 billion in additional federal spending cuts. That’s $38.5 billion, understand, instead of the $33 billion that the White House earlier was pressured into accepting after initially wanting to cut much less. That’s $38.5 billion out of an annual federal budget that’s about 100 times that much.

The clash over that final $5.5 billion was a sideshow, compared to the coming showdown over raising the nation’s debt ceiling and resolving next year’s budget . The Democrats managed to spare, for now, the Head Start program, the Environmental Protection Agency and women’s health care. The Republicans, for all their zeal to cut the size of government, prevailed in actually increasing defense spending.

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