Gunwalker and the budget: Crises in the integrity of government

Losing the public’s trust.

The mainstream media are failing to address two central truths about key domestic issues for America this summer.

1.  Agencies of the US federal government created the “Gunwalker” problem.

2.  President Obama is the one who will decide who gets paid after 2 August, if there is no budget deal.

The two issues are largely unrelated, except through the principles on which the Obama administration has handled them and the MSM are dealing with them.  The latter principle is one of slavishly repeating the talking points put out by the Obama administration.  In both Gunwalker and the budget stand-off, the administration has relied on obfuscation and unrealistic narratives to frame the public discussion.  And the MSM are largely acting as a giant repeater, propagating the original signal without modification or loss of fidelity.

In the wake of Gunwalker, a false premise is in full swing and is already shaping policy.  Pajamas Media has thoroughly documented the inane credulity of the Washington Post and other news outlets regarding the administration’s press releases on the Gunwalker scandal.  But I was amazed on Friday to see A.B. Stoddard chirp out (on Fox) the administration talking point about new gun-sale reporting requirements.  (Video here; the title says “”Libyan Rebel Recognition” but the first topic is Gunwalker.)

Granted, A.B. Stoddard is on the left side of the political spectrum.  But it doesn’t require any particular ideological posture to recognize that increasing restrictions on the people is not a method of “repairing” (her verb) the damage done by a rogue federal agency operation.  Nothing about the revelations from Gunwalker justifies changing gun-enforcement measures that affect the people.  It was the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE) that directed licensed gun dealers and local agents to ignore activity they would otherwise have pursued as suspicious, under existing law and existing enforcement standards.  The problem in this situation is not current law or enforcement standards; it’s BATFE.

The outcome of the operation clearly doesn’t justify increasing gun restrictions on the people.   The falsity of the premise articulated by Ms. Stoddard is so laughably obvious, it can’t help evoking the propaganda campaigns of Soviet-era Pravda.  Government creates a problem, the media talk it up, and then government increases restrictions on the people to “fix” it.

If Obama presides over a sea of unsent Social Security checks in August, that too will be a problem of his administration’s making.  As confirmed in Congressional hearings this week, there will be plenty of funds to service the debt and meet Social Security and defense obligations after 2 August.  Choosing not to meet them – choosing instead to pay, for example, the salaries of union workers in the non-defense civil service – will be up to Obama.

In a larger sense, Obama would be choosing not to accept a budget deal before 2 August (and has so far failed to present one of his own), when the proximate problem is the spending that he has vigorously promoted.  Without his increases in discretionary spending from 2009 to 2011, he could well have gotten a long way into 2012 without encountering the federal debt ceiling.

As I outlined Thursday on the American Hour radio show, with Tom Garcia, entitlement spending (Social Security and Medicare) increased by about $200 billion from 2010 to 2011, when the bow-wave of the Baby Boomer retirements hit.  “Welfare” spending – including unemployment and food stamps – increased by about $100 billion in the same period because of the recession.  (See the suite of sites here for a gross, top-level view of federal revenues and spending by year.)

But these increases added together come to less than half of just the $787 billion Obama stimulus package.  Moreover, they were programmed and predictable; we knew they were coming.  Annual federal revenues have declined, meanwhile, due to the recession (the 2011 pace has them down 13% since 2008, with tax rates remaining unchanged).  With big bills predictably coming due, and an existing debt ceiling, Obama has pushed to increase discretionary spending by 16% from 2009 to 2011.

In both matters, Gunwalker and the budget stand-off, it is the actions of the government that have created the mess; the “fix” proposed by the Obama administration puts the constraints and burdens on the people, without addressing the behavior of government that created the “problem” at hand; the administration is choosing to do things it has the freedom not to do; and  the MSM are simply repeating the administration’s narrative about what’s going on, without analysis or criticism.

Peggy Noonan invokes Reagan in her Wall Street Journal opinion piece today, observing that he would not, in a budget stand-off, have addressed the people with veiled threats as Obama has.  But I think Reagan’s tenure teaches us a larger and more important lesson.  Reagan proved that it is remarkably effective to stand up to the shrill forces of social collectivism.  When you don’t compromise with them, it is they who lose viability.  Almost no one will recognize that that is happening until they collapse; the pioneer who does stand up to them can expect to be doubted and excoriated all along the way.  But ultimately, collectivists whose power comes from overburdening the people hold the weaker hand.  They cannot win unless we let them.

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air’s Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, and The Weekly Standard online.

21 thoughts on “Gunwalker and the budget: Crises in the integrity of government”

  1. …] I outlined Thursday on the American Hour radio show, with Tom Garcia, entitlement spending (Social Security and Medicare) increased by about $200 […]

    By: Gunwalker and the budget: Crises in the integrity of government « The Greenroom on July 16, 2011
    at 11:50 pm


    […] I outlined Thursday on the American Hour radio show, with Tom Garcia, entitlement spending (Social Security and Medicare) increased by about $200 […]

    By: Gunwalker and the budget: Crises in the integrity of government « Theoptimisticconservative’s Blog on July 16, 2011
    at 11:55 pm


  2. Fuster: I must say that you comment above is a bit incomprehensible, even for you.

    TOC: Time to put this debt ceiling “crisis” in perspective. The leaders of both the R’s and the D’s (and the ManChild, who is both a leader and a follower of the D’s) have decided that there won’t be a default. The only uncertainty is what the Tea Party R’s might do to derail a resolution.To be fair, both sides thought that there was political gain to be had from making this a crisis. But, because they each anticipated the other’s moves, they’re in a stalemate, and so some resolution will be had.

    You are right, of course, that the ManChild could prioritize payments and avoid a real crisis. But you are wrong to think that, if there is not an increase in the debt ceiling, he won’t create as much chaos as possible. He will. He is an evil and petulant person, who both wants to be re-elected by whatever means necessary and who is determined to re-formulate the country into hisSocialist/ Alinsky world-view. And he is aided and abetted by a eunich-like MSM — no surprise, they hate R’s/capitalists/free enterprise (except to the extent that our capitalist system creates cool electronic phones and iPads and groovy restaurants). God d___ their blow-dried pea brains.

    The most cheering thing I’ve read in weeks is a statement in Peggy Noonan’s column that 100 million Americans are 50 years old or older. Assuming that about 100 million Americans are under 18 and can’t vote, that means that 50% of the voting population is 50 years old or older. I have great hope that enough of them will see the ManChild for the disaster he is and kick him out in 2012.

  3. Providing guns for Mexican drug cartels. Your stimulus dollars at work. This fellow thinks that the 2009 HR 1 stimulus bill contained a cool $10M for Project Gunrunner:

    Of course, he’s probably one of those right-wing bloggers, so here’s the bill as provided by the Government Priniting Office. (go to page 15 in the thumbnails).

    Click to access BILLS-111hr1enr.pdf

    Of course, the President, the Attorney General and all the fat cat Democrat pols all the way down to the designated fall guy will say they knew nothing — NOTHINK! — about Project Gunwalker.

  4. The WaPo doesn’t defend the operation, but criticizes it, perhaps with insufficient vehemence.
    That they wish to also question the sufficiency of gun regulation and the NRAs efforts in opposition to more regulation doesn’t quite reach “blaming” the NRA for the failed operation.

    “The outcome of the operation clearly doesn’t justify increasing gun restrictions …”
    but it doesn’t justify NOT increasing restriction and it’s hardly inane to advocate for more.

    1. “The WaPo doesn’t defend the operation.”

      Didn’t say it did. I said WaPo regurgitated the administration talking points on Gunwalker, without criticizing their credibility. For examples of what that would look like, see any reporting by WaPo or NYT of 80% or more of the actions taken by the Bush administration.

      It doesn’t matter whether Gunwalker doesn’t justify NOT increasing restrictions. The issue at hand is that Gunwalker is being falsely adduced to justify increasing them.

      If you can find someone who is arguing that Gunwalker, per se, means gun restrictions shouldn’t be increased, please provide a link. The NRA isn’t making that argument. It is merely making its decades-old arguments that long predated Gunwalker, and pointing out that Gunwalker hasn’t changed the basis for those arguments.

      1. Maybe the NRA’s arguments haven’t changed, but Gunwalker surely adds a great deal of weight and urgency to thoise arguments when we see government abusing the existing regulations for political gain. Government enforces existing gun regulations like it enforces immigration laws — from a perspective of political sefl-interest.

      2. No, the issue at hand is not always what you say it is.

        If the WaPo wants to use the incident in some way other than you use try to use it, that’s their prerogative and no less “at hand” than your own effort.

        You also lack a little cred when you complain about the WaPo having an affinity to this admin and less for the last, considering how unfailingly you gig this one and how absurdly far you go to praise a previous admin.

  5. Yeah, Cousin V, I saw that at PJM about stimulus money being used for the Gunwalker operation, in one of its several incarnations. As the Friday Fox reporting indicated, Gunwalker now appears to involve an operation to get guns to Honduras through Florida as well. The Obama administration really has it in for Honduras, for some reason.

    Darkness — I don’t think I said Obama wouldn’t try to wreak havoc if the debt ceiling isn’t raised by 2 August. In fact, I can see scenarios in which he would. But he’s not an unconstrained actor. The Democrats in Congress are well aware of the political mood in their districts, and they don’t all represent districts in Chicago and LA.

    Some of them do have the irresponsible community-organizing attitude that delights in “sticking it to the man” (as if old people on SS are, say, the Kock brothers). But there are still some Democrats with the older, more centrist mindset; e.g., the dozens who broke ranks on Obamacare. I don’t know that Obama would have a majority of Democrats with him for any effort to wreak havoc.

    This doesn’t mean we can expect to see a public confrontation among Democrats. It just means Obama doesn’t have the freedom to go as far as his community organizing background, and his radical advisors, would seize opportunities to.

  6. Back from my hols and I see that she’s still at it………..

    As I understand it, the ATF encouraged the legal selling of firearms in circumstances where they might well be expected to get into the hands of US/Mexican baddies. This irresponsible policy resulted in a US agent being killed with one of the self-same firearms. I would hope that the official(s) responsible are punished for their irresponsibility. Thankfully,only one agent has died so far.

    That this tragedy has become a cause-celebre for the hysterical wing of the far-right only goes to underline the lack of insight and integrity of that particular perversion. These same people have been consistently undermining all attempts and all calls by our police-forces to put in place controls that might reduce the toll in dead and mutilated law-enforcement officers caused by “legally” sold weaponary.
    Come to think of it, the crocodile tears of Opticon and her ilk for this murdered agent are in odd contrast to their attitude to Saint Ronald’s administration arming of Islamic extremists in Afghanistan. How many deaths of US servicemen and women did this misbegotten policy cause? And while they are at it, they might also remember that the death of one agent caused by the ATF bungle, however tragic, palls into insignificance besides the thousands of US lives (and countless tens of thousands of foreign lives) lost in Bush’s war-on-a-lie in Iraq which they cheered all the way to the cemetery.
    Of course, to the high-decible screamers on the fringe-right, the hated and despised Obama is personally responsible. This is a rather strange inconsistency when you consider that the ATF decision was probably taken at a low operational level, while the decisions to arm the proto-Taliban and launch the Iraq fiasco were certainly taken at a rather higher level.

    As for the current budget negotiations……. It is difficult to take seriously the people who supported the aforesaid trillion-dollar Iraq tragedy complaining about government over-spending. What the current negotiations are revealing is the split between the responsible members of the Republican Party who are attempting to negotiate a reasonable fiscal compromise, and the extremists whose only objective is to engineer a fiscal crisis – irrespective of the consequences for ordinary Americans. If anything threatens our democracy it is this utter rejection by the far-right, not just of compromise, but of the very idea of consensus upon which the viability of democratic polity depends.

    If the wreckers get their way and engineer a soverign default by the US it is hoped that the President will ensure that our active front-line service-personnel, our police, teachers, and public-health services will be first in line for whatever funds are available, and that the drones and hangers-on who never faced danger, taught a classroom of kids, or endured an ER on a busy night and are getting big pensions at the prime of their working-lives are at the back of the queue.

    1. Evidently your holidays included a permanent vacation from intellectual integrity and literacy, too. OC;s post brings to our attention the fact that Obama and his administration intend to use a failed GOVERNMENT program as the rationale for further restrictions on PRIVATE gun ownership. She didn’t say anything about the Gunwalker fiasco being a personal creation of B. Hussein Obama. This story is all over the place.

      The linguistic and accounting distortions of the Obama administration are evident to anyone with corrected vision or a hearing aid. There’s been a an explosion of federal spending in the last five years . See But if you’re committed to the progressive fairy tale, you have to go along with the story, blatantly fictional as it might be. Even a dedicated socialist like Arthur Koestler was able to face and admit the truth. Too bad you don’t have that ability.

  7. Hoped you enjoyed vacationing.

    Sorry to remind you that the arming of Afghan’s was due to the efforts of a democratic party member representing Texas in Congress and he made the arrangements and started the shipments during the Carter administration.
    If you want to give Reagan’s admin bragging rights for shipping arms into the area, you can . Reagan sent arms to the Ayatollah’s regime in Iran.

  8. Well, back to the question posed by JED–does the government’s giveaway of guns to Mexican baddies with bad consequences provide a good argument for restricting gun sales to Americans?

    1. does the flooding of America with guns with bad consequences provide a good argument for restrictions of guns?

  9. Fuster, to make that argument you have to prove the bad consequences in America; info on the Mexican baddies doesn’t cut it.

    1. Margo there are some statistics about death by guns, particularly felonious deaths, in the US that seem to indicate that bad consequences abound.

  10. All but a very small percentage of firearms involved in felonies (including homicides and shootings where law-enforcement officers were victims) came into circulation legally. That is why most of our police forces are in favour of the tighter control of firearms. The more guns there are out there the more will get into the hands of criminals, psychos, and just plain careless folk (or Mexican drug-gangs).

    However, the absolute quantity of firearms isn’t the whole story. We seem to have a particularly violent society. Both Russia and France have a tradition of gun ownership, and gun ownership rates not hugely different from our own (Most Americans manage to do without guns). However, France in particular has a tiny firearm homicide rate compared to ours (Russia about half way between the US and France). In France an annual average of 2 police officers fall victim to gun crime (This would be the equivalent of 10 in the US). Moreover, in France the usual scenario for a police killing by firearm is when they go to the scene of a domestic dispute!

  11. So now we seem to be arguing that eve if the Obama administration is deceptively using Gunwalker as an zrgument for further controls of gun ownership by US citizens, that is OK because gun ownership is bad and should be reduced by any means necessary. Pretty close to the point JED was making–we have an administration that will go to any means necessary to achieve its objectives, rather that one that feels responsible to law and orderly conduct.

    1. Margo, we’re arguing that the significance of Gunwalker isn’t very large and that nobody is using it for much of anything.

      JED’s original point is not really worth much either, as neither the admin nor WaPo tried to use the failed tactic as conclusive proof of the need for tighter gun control.
      The editorial notes the failure and calls the tactic questionable, then goes on to assert that lack of sufficient authority can lead to attempting indirect and elaborate tactics which are less likely to succeed.

      “By any means necessary” is you phrase (and someone else’s as well( and is a somewhat suspect little way of distracting rather than discussing the merits. Not a good tactic, Margo

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