Ammon Bundy, federal loan or not, has stepped into the limelight with gun’s blazing and U.S. Constitution in hand. How does this Bundy federal loan become a media scandal in the midst of standoffs, arson, accusations of domestic terrorism, and gun play? Why does a small business loan taken out nearly six years ago come to light and become a major media issue?
The Story of Bundy Federal Loan
The Bundy federal loan issue was brought to light by reporter Rush Choma of Mother Jones, a respected news source. His federal loan argument seems to be that if you hate the government, why ask for their help? As Choma explains in his article, Valet Fleet Services, owned by Ammon Bundy, borrowed $530,000 through a Small Business Administration loan guarantee program.
Choma admits, “The available public record does not indicate what the loan was used for or whether it was repaid.”
Choma then points out that the Bundy Federal Loan “could cost taxpayers $22,419.”
It is unclear how Rush calculated that figure of $22,419. The fact that he is uncertain if the loan was paid leaves the story lacking punch. He seems to be saying that conservatives, Libertarians, and Tea Partiers have no right to take out federal loans of any kind. That is an interesting concept, but it isn’t one that seems to apply to large corporations who enjoy many government loans and other programs despite their politically conservative campaign donations and cries for no government interference.
Why so Much Stir over a Federal Loan?
So how does an insignificant bit of federal loan data gain so much media attention? What is this Bundy federal loan scandal all about? Is it perhaps the polarizing politicization of one political group by another political group? Mother Jones is a very liberal news source, but usually one that would defend small businesses from any unfair practice of the government, although probably not at gun point.
Mother Jones is usually a voice for fairness, but perhaps not for Ammon Bundy. Ammon Bundy is a registered Republican and Tea Party sympathizer taking a very libertarian stand. He is also taking his stand while carrying a gun. Bundy’s politics, though, is perhaps due to circumstances that have pitted his family and his community against certain U.S. government regulations for the past 90 years.
The Real Ammon Bundy Issue
Ammon Bundy, described by Laura Gunderson of Oregon Live as a quiet and otherwise peaceful Mormon man, has stepped into a 90-year-old feud between his family and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management over certain government lands. His cause also includes the imprisonment of some neighbors on domestic terrorism charges just for burning out some unwanted farm pests and lighting a backfire to save their ranch. Bundy has no criminal record other than one minor traffic ticket and a recent tendency to pay his property taxes late. There is no official record of any legal problems, at least until he mounted his armed protest.
For Bundy, his neighbors, and his family for the last 90 years, the battle over grazing, mining, and logging rights on land the government purchased has become a nightmare of changing policies, red tape, fees, and overall harassment. This battle has perhaps gotten out of hand. There have been charges of arson, domestic terrorism, and unpaid fees on one side, and on the rancher’s side against the government, there is the idea that the U.S. government is forcing them out of their livelihood and their way of life with mountains of fees and red tape. Is this Bundy federal loan scandal just another way to sway public opinion enough they can silence this community?
In 2014, the Bureau of Land Management seized cattle belonging to Cliven Bundy, father of Ammon Bundy, due to unpaid grazing fees. The now infamous standoff between the Bundy family and federal agents gained notoriety, as thousands of fellow ranchers rose up to defend the Bundy family. Ammon Bundy received a shock from agent’s stun guns during this confrontation, and he worries that he was secretly labeled a domestic terrorist at that time. He has been interrogated by TSA agents on three different occasions at airports in the past year.
Regardless of the new Bundy federal loan scandal, and regardless of politics, this story is really about whether or not government restrictions of federal lands are fair, or simply taking everything from already struggling people trying to earn an honest living. In many ways, this parallels a very old story, one of a village pauper hunting on the lands of the king and killing a rabbit to feed his family. In that story, the pauper was executed by an unjust king. Is that really what is happening here? Will Ammon Bundy be gunned down or arrested for his stand?
Thought Provoking Questions
Does anyone have a right to take over a government office with a gun? Just what is the recourse when one’s entire way of life is challenged by arbitrary and ever-changing government regulations? Was Ammon Bundy already branded a terrorist years before taking his stand? In time of need and desperation, could we all be demonized for political reasons? Is there a difference between crime, and acts of desperate protest in the face of unjust policies? Are conservatives and liberals really at war to the point we don’t care about an injustice perpetrated on the other parties? Does society still have room for cowboys, ranchers, and people lighting backfires? These are the real questions we should be asking? The Bundy federal loan scandal is just a smoke screen and perhaps a symptom of the more serious issues involved.
[Photo by Rick Bowmer/AP]