Sarah Palin wrote in a Facebook post that went viral Tuesday that the U.S. government is stockpiling bullets in anticipation of any "civil unrest" that may result from the ongoing economic troubles facing Americans.
But the claim that the feds are buying large amounts of ammunition appears to be based on a misleading anonymous email that made its way to many people's inboxes beginning last summer.
On Tuesday, Palin wrote a lengthy post about the debate over the so-called "sequester" that is currently gripping Washington, D.C. She argued that the outcome ultimately will have little impact on whether the nation is able to get "our fiscal house in order," as it will not make a significant dent in the national debt.
"If we can’t stomach modest cuts that would lower federal spending by a mere 0.3 percent per year out of a current federal budget of $3.6 trillion, then we might as well signal to the whole world that we have no serious intention of dealing with our debt problem," she wrote.
And that brought her to the bit about the U.S. government stockpiling ammo.
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"If we are going to wet our proverbial pants over 0.3 percent in annual spending cuts when we’re running up trillion dollar annual deficits, then we’re done," she wrote. "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."
The statement is a bold one, and is part of a longer diatribe that had been "liked" on Facebook more than 57,000 times by 4 p.m. Wednesday. As such, it deserves to be held up to scrutiny.
And in this case, Palin appears to be wrong. According to a Feb. 14 Washington Post article referenced in a Wednesday post on the topic by Slate.com's Josh Voorhees, the Homeland Security Department is in fact looking "to buy more than 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition in the next four or five years."
But the Post writes that the department "says it needs them — roughly the equivalent of five bullets for every person in the United States — for law enforcement agents in training and on duty," not in order to build up an arsenal to wield against its own citizens if the economy grows so desperate that hordes of Americans take to the streets.
And it appears that frugality also played a part in the department's decision to buy so many bullets all at once, according to the Washington Post piece:
"Federal solicitations to buy the bullets are known as 'strategic sourcing contracts,' which help the government get a low price for a big purchase, says Peggy Dixon, spokeswoman for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Ga.," the Post wrote. "The training center and others like it run by the Homeland Security Department use as many as 15 million rounds every year, mostly on shooting ranges and in training exercises."
So where did Sarah Palin get her theory that the federal government is stockpiling ammunition? The Atlantic Wire's Alexander Abad-Santos wrote a post Wednesday that provides what appears to be the answer to that question. Sourcing a post on the conspiracy theory-investigating site Snopes.com, Abad-Santos suggests that the stockpiling rumor originated with an anonymous email that was circulating last summer, and which Snopes got ahold of in August.
"It's not outlandish to suggest that the Social Security Administration is purchasing the bullets as part of preparations for civil unrest," Snopes cites the email as saying. "Social security welfare is estimated to keep about 40 percent of senior citizens out of poverty. Should the tap run dry in the aftermath of an economic collapse which the Federal Reserve has already told top banks to prepare for, domestic disorder could ensue if people are refused their benefits."
Earlier on, the email in question mentions major ammunition purchases by Homeland Security, and the recent news about the big Homeland Security buy combined with the August email appears to have bred a new round of conspiracy theories, which were likely the root of Palin's erroneous Facebook post.