The federal government "is broken," it has been said. Why? Because incompetence is rewarded too often while misconduct goes unpunished.
It has happened again, this time regarding mistakes that may well have cost lives.
For many months the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives operated a program code-named "Fast and Furious." Its intent was to learn more about how U.S. firearms are sent to Mexico, where drug cartels put them to murderous use.
But "Fast and Furious" fought fire by pouring gasoline on it, in effect. ATF agents knowingly allowed hundreds of firearms to be purchased in the United States, then sent to the cartels. Instead of intercepting the guns, the ATF in some ways sped them on their way to Mexico.
While the initiative was in progress, other law enforcement agencies, including those working in Mexico against the cartels were kept ignorant of it.
No one can say how many of the weapons were used in drug cartel killings. It is suspected at least one of them was used to murder a U.S. Border Patrol agent.
This week U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, demanded more information about why three ATF officials involved in "Fast and Furious" received job promotions.
Yes, promotions. Far from being disciplined for their errors in judgment or, at the very least, disqualified from advancement, the three were rewarded.
Cornyn is right to demand more information from Attorney General Eric Holder.
But one question already has been answered: Why is the government broken? Because many bureaucrats can get away with critical mistakes and, instead of being penalized, reap rewards.