The Competence Gap

Secret Service
Secret Service
U.S. Secret Service agents walk around the Convention Center in Cartagena, Colombia | Photo: Associated Press | Secret Service, Presidential Security, Cia, Fbi, Armed,

Small wonder nobody trusts them.

As polls and surveys continue to show that trust of the American government among her citizens is at all-time lows, it daily becomes easier and easier to see why that is the case. Our government is suffering a deficit in basic competence that seems to extend far beneath the surface, penetrating the bureaucracy to its very core.

Consider the headlines of the past several years.
  • The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was exposed for its "gun-walking" operation, known as Fast and Furious, which involved BATFE pushing - sometimes even coercing - gun stores into selling firearms to known straw purchasers. Those guns then "walked" across our southern border into Mexico, into the hands of Mexican drug cartels.

    The alleged goal of this program was to track gun traffic across the border...and yet, as soon as the guns crossed the border, BATFE lost track of them. To date, at least one U.S. Border Patrol officer, as well as hundreds of Mexican civilians have been murdered with Fast and Furious guns.

    The Obama administration then began a cover-up of the operation, taking retaliatory action against whistleblowers, and refusing to hand documents over to the Oversight Committee, eventually leading to charges of Contempt of Congress for Attorney General Eric Holder, which have gone unanswered by the Justice Department. The cover-up continues to this day.

  • Congress passed, and President Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Since then, implementation of that Act has been one blunder after another. The Department of Health and Human Services has issued thousands upon thousands of new regulations on the health care and health insurance industries, making medical care and insurance increasingly expensive. Many of these regulations forced insurers to drop plans, leaving millions of Americans without insurance, and hundreds of Americans who relied on specialists for critical medical care could no longer be treated by their doctors.

    The website set up by HHS was a disaster in its roll-out, as it was not designed to handle even a fraction of the traffic that would reasonably be expected for the roll-out of a major government program that affects hundreds of thousands of Americans. Site security was incomplete, leaving personally identifiable information for hundreds of thousands who signed up on the website vulnerable to hackers - a major HIPAA violation.

    Today, prices for medical care and insurance continue to increase, despite politicians' promises that this law would reduce costs. The program is fraught with issues, leaving millions of Americans frustrated, not knowing whether or not they actually have insurance under the program. Security on the federal website still has not been fixed. At least the website seems to function properly long as too many people don't try to access it all at once.

  • The Internal Revenue Service is tasked with enforcing U.S. tax law, but they decided to take their job role a step further, using the agency to effect the 2012 presidential election by intimidating conservative groups that had filed for tax exempt status. The IRS stonewalled these groups, asking them ridiculously invasive questions, and stalling for months, refusing to make a determination on the group's tax status.

    Then, to add insult to injury, Lois Lerner, who made the original announcement about misconduct at the IRS refused to testify before the Congressional Oversight Committee. As Congress continued to investigate, it was discovered that several IRS officials, including Lois Lerner, had suffered mysterious computer crashes that wiped out any and all emails relevant to the investigation - even though that made absolutely no sense from an IT or records management standpoint. As it turned out, the IRS does have backups of those emails, but they determined that it would be too difficult to go track them down. They also destroyed Lerner's Blackberry after Congress began its investigation, pointing to a massive ongoing cover-up at the IRS.

  • Just a couple of years ago, there was a major scandal in the Secret Service involving booze, drugs and prostitutes. It was a major embarrassment for the United States, as the men who had been tasked with preparing for President Obama's trip to Colombia were too busy partying it up to pay much attention to actually keeping the president secure.

    Now we're finding out that major security lapses in the Secret Service aren't just limited to foreign shores. A few weeks ago, a man made it over the fence at the White House and, as initial reports indicated, actually made it inside an unlocked door. But like every other agency in the Obama administration, the Secret Service covered up the juicier parts of the story. As it turns out, the man, who was armed with a knife, took quite the romp through the White House, making it into (and out of) the East Room before being stopped by an off-duty agent who just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I guess it was just a matter of luck that President Obama himself wasn't wandering the halls right then.

These are just a few examples out of many. Throw in Benghazi, where four Americans were left to die in an attack that could easily have been anticipated by the State Department, and the subsequent cover-up. The VA scandal, where at least 40 military veterans died while waiting for care from an insanely inefficient bureaucracy. Dumping half a billion taxpayer dollars into Solyndra, which then went belly-up. Saying the police "acted stupidly," or "if I had a son, he'd look Trayvon." The "red line" in Syria. Repeated pledges of "no boots on the ground" against ISIL.

And now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention seems to be intent on ensuring that we see a full-blown outbreak of Ebola within the U.S. Several weeks ago, President Obama assured the nation that the government is taking "the necessary precautions" to ensure no one brought Ebola into the United States...and yet, apparently a man who was in direct contact with several people dying from Ebola was able to board a plane in Liberia and end up in Dallas, TX shortly thereafter. All it took was a simple lie on a questionnaire, and there were no more barriers to his entry. When he became symptomatic, he went to the hospital, but they sent him home with antibiotics, thinking he had the flu. From the time he entered America until he was diagnosed with Ebola, he reportedly came into contact with over a hundred people.

And now, the rumors of Ebola are swirling across the nation - in Washington, DC, Ohio, Kansas City, Newark, Grand Rapids...yet the CDC says they won't restrict travel from African nations dealing with the outbreak.

From the low-level bureaucrats all the way up to President Obama himself, the biggest hallmark of modern government seems to be extreme levels of incompetence. Some of these issues are relatively new; others have been lingering for decades. The one thing that is certain is this: the bigger government gets, the less it can be trusted to do the right thing - or even to do the wrong thing the right way.

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Updated May 22, 2018 6:38 PM UTC | More details


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