The federal shutdown imposed substantial burden, for a short time, on a small percentage of Americans. We thank them for enduring a disruption they neither caused nor deserved.

Meanwhile, most Americans went about their lives as if nothing much had changed - despite theatrical shutdowns of memorials and mechanized government websites. This has become the talk at water coolers throughout the country, much to the chagrin of those who want ever-expanding government.

Just as people realize Uncle Sam may not be the source of all wellbeing and happiness, a big player in the mainstream media has come along to set them straight. The Associated Press reports that nearly all of us suffered. After all, we need federal bureaucrats every moment of our lives. We cannot go on without a federal government that spends every penny of $3.5 trillion each year - hundreds of millions more than it takes in.

"Federal shutdown affected U.S. in ways unseen," says the headline of the AP story, distributed Friday.

The article details how close to death Americans were: "Our food was a little less safe, our workplaces a little more dangerous," the lead explains. "The risk of getting sick was a bit higher, our kids' homework tougher to complete."

If the risk of getting sick was higher, as the AP assures, we'd have seen an upsurge of illness during and immediately following the shutdown. It would be a statistical certainty. Yet, no evidence suggests any such trend.

The article attributes the homework dilemma to a shutdown of some federal web sites. It's true the government turned some off, as if they depend on daily funding. It's also true that kids can do homework without them. Furthermore, reasonable teachers probably gave passes on assignments that absolutely could not be completed without federal web sites.

Gripping our emotions, the AP included the photo of a small child receiving treatment for asthma. The boy is pictured getting the same home-based treatment he had long received before the shutdown. It leaves the audience wondering how he was harmed, right up until the caption explains:

"His mother is reminded how doctors at Rush University Medical Center had to stop submitting applications for research grants to study childhood asthma and other diseases and disorders due to the federal government shutdown."

If that doesn't show government as the bread of life, the AP gives us a hypothetical: "At a warehouse, factory or other worksite, a young minority exposed to racial slurs by his boss had one fewer place to turn for help. Federal officials who oversee compliance with discrimination laws and labor practices weren't working, except in emergencies."

It's a wonder we didn't return to segregation and poll taxes for 16 days. It's practically racist to suggest we need less federal government.

Another assumed hardship involves the plight of individuals who watched late-night TV without help from federal employees.

"The shutdown might have saved raunchy entertainers from punishment for obscene or offensive language on late-night TV and radio," said the article, explaining the furlough of Federal Communications Commission workers.

How did we survive this?

Amid various assumptions about the doldrums of life with less federal government is an actual event, attributed to a source. Caution, this is scary stuff.

"The afternoon before the shutdown we got a complaint of a restaurant where a ... 14-year-old was operating a vertical dough mixer," said James Yochim, assistant director of the U.S. Department of Labor's wage and hour division office in Springfield, Ill. "We (were) not able to get out there and conduct an investigation."

The teenager survived, despite the lack of a post-dough-mixing investigation. We don't know how.

Americans clearly can't get by with less government unless they're willing to endure threats of dough mixers and naughty words on late-night TV. We stand corrected. Life itself depends on unbridled federal spending and debt.