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Why Nobody Admits Mistakes

Buried inside the Affordable Care Act was something called the CLASS Act, which dealt separately with long-term care issues. I didn’t follow the CLASS debate closely, but one claim the critics made was that it was a basically unworkable program that was being stashed into the ACA to make the 10-year deficit score look better but that would actually undermine the fiscal position of the United States over the long run. Late last week, the Obama administration decided that the critics were correct, the program is unworkable, and decided to scrap it. That seems like a good idea to me. Making the short-term deficit smaller has no value, and making the long-term deficit bigger is a bad idea. So good for President Obama and good for Secretary Sebelius.

But Fred Upton has another view:

“Make no mistake,” Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said in announcing the hearing, “the CLASS program was tucked into the health care law to provide $86 billion in false savings, and this budget gimmick is a prime example of why Americans are losing faith in Washington. We plan to hold this hearing to get answers about why this sham was carried on for as long as it was, and what cancellation of the program means for the law’s growing price tag.”

When it looked like CLASS was going to happen, Upton wanted to say it’s a costly boondoggle. But when Obama cancels CLASS, avoiding a costly boondoggle, Upton wants hearings into “what cancellation of the program means for the law’s growing price tag.” It means the price tag is going down! That was the entire point the critics were making all along.

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This is, at any rate, an example of the perversity of Washington that reminds me of the Solyndra “scandal.” Taking steps to stem costs on an initiative that’s not working out, sets off the frenzy.