Opinion

Our confusing federal government at work

Ann McFeatters
Ann McFeatters

It’s time to look once again into the “what’s up with that?” actions of our government.

▪ The other day nearly 1,000 flights were cancelled or delayed on the East Coast, causing chaos in the entire air traffic system. Was it bad weather? A bomb scare? Bad equipment? None of the above.

It was new software purchased by the Federal Aviation Administration to help jetliners get to their destinations faster. The FAA is explaining that the software caused a memory overload that shut down the Washington, D.C., area air control system. Some astute political observers noted that at least it was August and didn’t affect many members of Congress.

But it recalls the messy start of Obamacare when thousands of Americans couldn’t get on websites designed to help them sign up for health care insurance.

▪ It also calls to mind the recent hiring by the Environmental Protection Agency of contractors who managed to let loose a vile torrent of toxic waste from a Colorado mine that caused a state of emergency to be declared in three states and the Navajo Nation.

▪ There is good news in the graduation of two women from the Army’s tough, prestigious Ranger School. Also, women now may apply to join the Navy Seals. Of course, women have been in combat for years but have been forbidden to serve in certain units. That is changing, and there’s hope that by the end of the year women may be approved to serve across the board.

The bad news is that the people in Congress who want to go to war against Iran have cut so much money from military budgets that equipment, ammunition, spare parts and other essentials of modern warfare are lacking. Let’s hope the women are not expected to have bake sales to equip their units.

▪ Speaking of women, the Food and Drug administration has reversed itself and approved a new drug designed to get women in the mood for sex. This reportedly would help about 10 percent of women. However, there are a few caveats. No drinking. And there’s a risk of low blood pressure and fainting. Critics said this is a “mediocre aphrodisiac with significant side effects.” But at least the FDA is recognizing that Viagra is not the end of the libido discussion.

▪ The FDA also has made news by approving OxyContin as a painkiller for children 11 and over. With the addictive and costly drug a major reason for the rise in heroin use, some people have expressed dismay. Marijuana advocates point out that medical cannabis oil remains illegal for children.

▪ The ever-popular IRS has disclosed that twice as many taxpayers were hit by identity thieves as previously thought because of the agency’s ineptitude in protecting sensitive data. Such as hundreds of thousands of Social Security numbers. This is on top of loss of sensitive personal data lost by federal employees.

▪ That other popular institution, the U.S. Postal Service, which has been pondering ending Saturday service and closing a lot of post offices, is now saying it will make more same-day deliveries of such commodities as fresh fish. Not surprisingly, this is because a woman has taken the helm.

Postmaster General Megan Brennan also told The Wall Street Journal she wants Congress to approve the delivery of alcohol by your friendly mail carrier as well as groceries. (This, alas, will be of no comfort to low-libido women excited about the new FDA pill.)

Brennan is shopping for new trucks that are better designed to hold packages. Perhaps we should not be surprised that FedEx and UPS are furious, complaining that USPS doesn’t charge enough.

▪ Finally, the National Labor Relations Board has put the kibosh on unions for college athletes. This caused great rejoicing among colleges and the National College Athletic Association, which said piously that it only has the interests of its young athletes at heart. Collective bargaining may have been a step too far, but it’s hard to believe that the bottom line has not ruled again.

It is to be hoped that this litany of federal foibles has not depressed you. But at least you had a few moments without considering two politicians named Hillary and Donald.

Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send her email at amcfeatters@nationalpress.com.

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