Bob Barr

In 2009, Sarah Palin was the first to coin the phrase “death panel” in a Facebook post about the future of government-run healthcare. “Government health care will not reduce the cost; it will simply refuse to pay the cost,” Palin wrote. “And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course.” Palin’s comments were, not surprisingly, widely mocked by the media and America’s liberal elite. However, recent revelations about the deadly incompetence at Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities across the country illustrate just how right Palin was. (This, of course, is the same medical delivery system U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders proudly champions as an example of “socialized medicine.”)

We now know that officials at VA medical facilities kept two sets of records regarding the wait times for veterans seeking medical attention. The public records painted an artificially rosy picture of patient wait times. The more accurate, secret books were much darker, and revealed starkly just how bad – deadly, even – the wait times had become for patients at those facilities. The fraudulent, “cooked” books were used to fool the public and mislead the Congress into believing the Department was performing far better than it was; and that it was using its ever-increasing budgets to improve service for veterans. The reality was far different; with many veterans dying while waiting for the wheels of a government-run medical system to grind forward.

Gross incompetence by this Administration – already having reached deadly levels with the “Fast and Furious” gun-running scandal -- has become its hallmark. It is now clear the only two things at which the Obama Administration excels are incompetence and ducking responsibility; a phenomenon even the foreign media is noticing and ridiculing.

Of greater concern, however, is the fact that the incompetence displayed by federal agencies under Obama’s control is symptomatic of Executive Branch power growth generally.

Federal agencies constantly clamor for more money, more resources, and more power; these demands are not limited to regulatory powers – they want fire power. According to a May 7th federal government solicitation for services, the lowly Department of Agriculture is considering bids for “the commercial acquisition of submachine guns,” with all the bells and whistles of combat-ready firearms.

Shocking as is this move by the Agriculture Department, it is not the first federal agency with questionable justification for acquiring military- grade firepower. According to Fox News, some 40 federal agencies, including many with absolutely no legitimate law enforcement responsibility or jurisdiction, now have armed divisions. Even the weather folks at NOAA -- the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration -- issued a bid in 2012 for the purchase of 46,000 rounds of hollow-point ammunition.

What possibly could be the reason for the Department of Agriculture’s move to stockpile automatic weapons? A mass uprising by farmers? An assault on Washington by ADM lobbyists? Defending the bureaucracy’s headquarters building against unruly, heavily armed nutritionists? Food stamp recipients demanding more EBT cards?

We may finally have crossed the “event horizon” into the Bizarro World of Superman comic lore.

Sadly, federal agencies’ claims to the public and the Congress that the caches of deadly firearms they are acquiring will be used only for “lawful” purposes, are no longer credible. One small town in Alaska, with a population of only 17, found this out last year when EPA officials wearing body armor and carrying firearms raided a gold mine in the town; all for no good reason. “The EPA really didn’t have any good answers for this,” Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski is reported to have said about the event.

In a more recent and even more bizarre incident just a few weeks ago, a huge contingent of heavily armed agents from the Bureau of Land Management surrounded a ranch in Nevada -- under the secretive blanket of an FAA-mandated “No Fly” zone – all because of a dispute with a rancher over grazing fees and concern for an endangered tortoise.

The tragedies one generation ago in Waco, Texas and Ruby Ridge, Idaho, should serve as a constant reminder of just how deadly confrontations with heavily armed government agents can become.

To make matters worse, just as happened during the Clinton Administration with a compliant Attorney General Janet Reno, we now have an Attorney General uninterested in holding anybody in the Obama administration accountable for crimes and misconduct. When guns sold by the ATF to criminal cartels in Mexico were used in the murder of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, Eric Holder and others in the Department of Justice failed to hold many of those responsible accountable; and the stonewalling continues to this day, years later.

The Republican-led House of Representatives remains the “last man standing” with the jurisdiction and the power to slow this drive toward an all-powerful, massively armed, and increasingly unaccountable federal government, before the situation reaches truly critical mass. Thus far, the House has failed to exercise fully that vitally important responsibility.

Bob Barr

Bob Barr represented Georgia’s 7th district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 -2003 and as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia from 1986-1990.