Secret Service Shows How Big Government Degrades

The Secret Service is a legitimate agency of government. Except for anarchists, just about everyone believes that the government is supposed to protect people from harm, including the government itself.

secret service

But here is the problem. What happens to a competent person who has a history of successfully fulfilling his assigned duties when he takes on many additional responsibilities that were never meant to be part of his job description? He is likely to fail at these new duties—though, perhaps, if he prioritizes them highly enough, he might manage a few impressive gains in these areas. But he is also likely to fail in his original duties! He can’t do everything at once and, even though he has experience and a history of success, the new demands could easily distract him enough to make him fail in his area of expertise.

And thus we find that the Secret Service, whose success and sterling reputation were once taken for granted, is now an embarrassment. Under the headline, “Inside the Downfall of the Secret Service,” Newser.com summarizes an investigation by the Washington Post.

Not long ago, the Secret Service had a sterling reputation—but in recent years, amid close calls at the White House and sex scandals, things have changed. Based on extensive interviews and official documents, the Washington Post takes an extensive look at the shift it traces to decisions made following the 9/11 attacks. “We are not the Super Bowl team we once were,” a former Secret Service supervisor tells the paper.

The report cites three broad categories of stress: boosted responsibilities, shrinking budgets, and early retirements. Of these, the last seems like a happenstance that has nothing to do with an expanding government. But the first two seem like obvious results of arrogance and overconfidence leading to changes that were more a matter or wishful thinking that realistic analysis. The unthinking reflex is that the Secret Service is competent, and therefore we should apply that competence more widely. But as soon as such a move was made, the agency was facing new challenges. The resource problems seem to have stemmed from re-organizing the Secret Service outside of the Treasury Department and moving it under Homeland Security where it was directly competing with other parts of the national security surge of the “war on terror” including both older agencies and new ones.

Think about it. Secret Service had to vie for funds with the Transportation Security Agency. We couldn’t increase the budget of the President’s bodyguards because cronies making nudie scanners had to get their taxpayer-funded payoff and humiliate airline passengers. What a disgusting trade-off!

And even the sudden change in personnel caused by the early retirements is arguably a symptom of government overreach. Why did no one pay attention to this shift? Probably because both elected and appointed government office-holders had a great deal “on their plates.”

Finally, the article points out that it was plain to agents that whistle-blowing against other agents would be retaliated against. Big government’s need for positive PR breeds an environment that encourages and speeds up its own corruption—thus causing more threats against potential whistleblowers.

And we are supposed to believe that a government that allowed one of its most vital areas of security to languish is going to remake and improve healthcare for the entire nation?

Big government is a bad joke. Only the humorlessness of blind faith explains its existence.