Economic Svengali Sarah Palin has warned everyone of the impending economic demise of the United States, telling the world that it should "put a fork in us," that "we're finished," and that the government knows all of this — and has a stockpile of bullets just in case everyone gets angry enough over the sequester and economic "Armageddon" to revolt. Well okay then. We understand that you're probably asking why this matters since Sarah Palin is largely a political afterthought, for whom Fox News chief Roger Ailes can't even muster a fart of interest or spend another moment overpaying. But more than 55,000 people have "liked" her Facebook post from Tuesday with that ominous-sounding bullet conspiracy, so the likes of Politico are still paying attention, and some debunking may be in order. Here's that key passage:
If we are going to wet our proverbial pants over 0.3% in annual spending cuts when we’re running up trillion dollar annual deficits, then we’re done. Put a fork in us. We’re finished. We’re going to default eventually and that’s why the feds are stockpiling bullets in case of civil unrest.
Obviously, the idea of the government amassing bullets to shoot its own uncivil citizens is horrifying, whether it comes from Sarah Palin or someone else or, you know, maybe the chain email from which Palin lifted that line. Here's part of a conspiracy letter passed around last year, obtained by Snopes in August, which more or less sounds like the Palin talking point:
With all this talk of sequestration — Palin transitions pretty quickly from "yet another ginned-up crisis" to a "real economic Armageddon" — you could connect the dots from that circulated email to Palin's Facebook post and consider it some prescient kind of conspiracy. But does it mean anything? Well, sort of. Amassing bullets, yes; civil unrest, not so much.
Back in August, the Social Security Administration actually had to address this conspiracy theory after Infowars uncovered a solicitation for 174,000 bullets. That's more bullets than the number of people in Chattanooga, Tennessee. But the the SSA's Office of the Inspector General defended the solicitation, citing its need to supply its special agents who work in law enforcement situations:
As we said in a recent post, our office has criminal investigators, or special agents, who are responsible for investigating violations of the laws that govern SSA’s programs. Currently, about 295 special agents and supervisory special agents work in 66 offices across the United States. These investigators have full law enforcement authority, including executing search warrants and making arrests.
Our investigators are similar to your State or local police officers. They use traditional investigative techniques, and they are armed when on official duty.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric administration made a similar solicitation for 46,000 bullets around the same time, which they told Business Insider went toward training purposes. (NOAA officers enforce fishing laws.) They explained:
Agents and officers are required to have 200 rounds in his or her duty bag, and twice-a-year firearm qualification and training calls for agents to use another 500-600 rounds. In addition, firearms instructors with more than one pistol may need more rounds in a year. In 2011, the guidance was that each agent and officer would need 700 rounds per year to meet these requirements.
So, yes, sometimes the government buys large orders of bullets and they need them for special agents, and clearly, as the NOAA pointed out, the majority of those rounds are used in training — not against uncivil American citizens. Yes, we're fully aware that this government admission and explanation is probably not going to be endorsed by Palin herself, whether she believes what she writes on her Facebook wall or not.