The CLASS Act, a new entitlement to insurance for long-term care, was passed alongside Obamacare. The program was structured to take in taxes before paying out benefits and thus made the overall legislation appear to save money. But it has long been clear that the program will quickly become insolvent: “Totally unsustainable” is the way HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius described it. The program’s chief actuary sent out an e-mail saying that HHS was closing the office tasked with implementing the program and reassigning its staff. HHS promptly denied that the office was being closed down. The fate of the program itself is unclear: It seems to both exist and not exist, in a state of quantum indeterminacy. Just like the savings from Obamacare.
A story recently broke that the Department of Justice spent staggering amounts of money on refreshments at a conference: A government auditor found that $32 was spent per attendee to provide a snack consisting of candy bars and Cracker Jack, and muffins cost $16 each. It turns out that these findings were based on averaging the cost of food at the conferences across all items, and to no one’s surprise, the government did not actually pay $16 for each muffin. But they did spend an average of $49,000 on food and beverage per conference, and $121 million on conferences overall in 2008 and 2009. The incident is reminiscent of the $640 Navy toilet seat and $600 Pentagon hammer in more than one way: Sloppy accounting may explain the shocking numbers, but the reality of government waste should still scandalize.
Was there any doubt who would win when two of the Left’s causes — the sick and poor, and the environment — came into conflict? As of the end of 2011, it will be illegal to sell over-the-counter asthma inhalers, simply because those inhalers contain CFCs. Those who rely on these inexpensive devices will instead be forced to turn to prescription models, which cost more and of course require a doctor’s appointment. And even those inhalers aren’t the same as they used to be; several years ago, the EPA required manufacturers to use CFC-free propellants, which, some users report, makes the medication less effective. Reducing the use of CFCs is a valuable goal, as they have been shown to damage the ozone layer, and laws mandating such reductions may be justified in some circumstances. But this policy change makes asthma medication less available to the poor, and it should be reversed before it can begin causing real harm.
The Palestinians took their bid for a state to the U.N. As Turtle Bay theater and posturing for a domestic audience, it was a masterstroke. But the push was so poorly conceived that it immediately stalled in the Security Council. As Elliott Abrams wrote on National Review Online, the Palestinians succeeded only in further alienating the two parties on which their statehood project most depends, the Israelis and the Americans. The Obama administration gave every sign of having finally shelved its obsession with the Israeli settlements and its grudge match with the Israeli government of Bibi Netanyahu, both of which only fueled Palestinian intransigence. We hope this reflects a genuine chastening of an Obama team that believed forging a peace deal was merely a matter of willing it and of scolding Israel. But Barack Obama sounds markedly more pro-Israel with a periodicity that happens to track the U.S. election cycle.
Adm. Mike Mullen, outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, dropped a farewell bombshell at a Senate hearing when he accused Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, the ISI, of being behind a spate of attacks by the Haqqani network on targets, such as the U.S. embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul, that have high propaganda value. He says he has credible intelligence to back him up. Put another way, a supposed ally is secretly supporting a deadly enemy. Maulvi Jalaluddin Haqqani, his sons, and his extended family — Islamists long devoted to violence — form a freelance militia close to the Taliban, called a network for want of a better term. Admiral Mullen’s reference to the Haqqani network as the ISI’s “veritable arm” has outraged the Pakistani top brass, all the more because it is almost certainly true but supposed to be invisible to outsiders.