As highway construction begins to wind down in the Northeast, destruction season is gearing up in Washington. The General Services Administration should put a reflective orange sign in front of the Capitol, "Caution: Gerrymandering at Work," and a big project sign that says, "Your tax dollars not at work."

It is fascinating that House Republicans shut down much of the government but then, when they learned that millions of Americans actually like much of what the government does, they tried to selectively fund those popular parts - cancer research, national parks and paychecks for the National Guard, for example.

The fundamental dishonesty in that conduct should not be surprising because it flows directly from fundamentally dishonest legislative redistricting practices.

A handful of extremists can hold the entire government hostage because of gerrymandering - the drawing of legislative boundaries to suit a particular party or incumbent.

Gerrymandering fuels the present crisis in two ways.

First, the hostage takers don't have to worry about losing an election because they have selected their own voters by drawing their districts.

Second, even moderate Republicans who represent securely Republican districts won't stand up to the hostage-takers. They're not worried about a Democrat beating them; they're worried about primary challenges from their far right.

Some states - excluding Pennsylvania, alas - have abandoned gerrymandering for honest, independent reapportionment. Until that is a national standard, the nation's governance will continue to deteriorate.