How’s That Obamacare Waiver Workin’ Out for Ya?

Exactly two years ago this week, the Obama administration announced it had issued more than 100 waivers en masse to a select group of companies, unions and other health insurance providers seeking relief from the onerous federal health care law. The Obamacare waiver winner’s club now totals 2,000. Where are they now? Answer: In the same miserable boat as every other unlucky business struggling with the crushing costs and burdens of the mandate. Among the first and most prominent recipients of the Obamacare waivers for favors were large restaurant chains that provide low-wage, seasonal and part-time workers with low-cost health insurance plans called “mini-med” plans. An estimated 1.7 million workers benefit from such plans. Obamacare forced companies carrying such coverage to raise their minimum limits on coverage to no less than $750,000 annually. Another Obamacare provision forces all employers to spend at least 80 percent to 85 percent of their premium revenue on medical care. The social justice Democrats’ goal was to dictate insurance provider spending not just on coverage amounts, but also on executive salaries, marketing and other costs. The regulation punished companies with mini-med plans whose high administrative costs were due to frequent worker turnover and relatively low spending on claims — not “greed.” Complying with the provision would have meant tens of thousands of low-income workers would lose their benefits altogether. Darden Restaurants, the Florida-based parent company of Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Red Lobster and other chains, was a member of the Obamacare waiver early bird special. Their get-out-of-Obamacare card helped spare the company’s health insurance benefits for nearly 34,000 employees. Breathing a sigh of relief that it would allow chains to continue offering all employees access to affordable health insurance, Darden said in a statement in the fall of 2010 that “the waiver allows us to continue to do that as the various phases of the health care law are implemented.” Fast-forward to 2012. Darden announced last month that it would begin shifting full-time workers to part-time status to save money, cut health costs and circumvent Obamacare’s coverage mandate scheduled for full implementation in 2014. The move would reduce full-time employees’ hours to less than 30 hours a week; part-time workers are exempt from the insurance mandate. McDonald’s, another big Obamacare waiver recipient, is considering the same move. In fact, a survey of members of the Chain Restaurant Compensation Association (CRCA) conducted last year by Hay Group reported that a whopping 77 percent of “quick serve” restaurant operators said they were considering reducing employee hours to change their status from full-time to part-time. At least one Denny’s restaurant franchise owner in Florida is cutting hours and has openly contemplated an Obamacare surcharge. Jimmy John’s and Papa John’s are also slashing work hours. Applebee’s is mulling a freeze on both hiring and expansion. “There’s no such thing as a free lunch” is a race-neutral truth. But economically illiterate Obama supporters have now called for boycotts of these businesses and accused them of vengeful “racism” against the president. Instead of sympathy and gratitude for private businesses trying to do right by their workers, customers and shareholders, the corporate-bashers inundated Twitter this week with profanity-laced condemnations of the restaurant service industry. One protester tweeted: “@Applebees Your CEO is a racist piece of (redacted), he not hiring because Obama was elected…U WILL LOSE CUSTOMERS.” “Red Lobster, Olive Garden (are) using Obama re-election as an excuse to deny employees benefits and living wages,” Jon Marquis fumed. Twitter user Daphine Walker sent unhinged, ungrammatical messages to Red Lobster and Olive Garden in all-caps: “I WILL NEVER SPEND ANOTHER CENT ON THIS RACIST COMPANY WHO DOESNT GIVE A DAMN ABOUT THEIR EMPLOYEES.” The CEO of Red Lobster and Olive Garden is black. But no matter. Regardless of the actual facts, economic realities and entirely predictable and inevitable consequences of command-and-control government mandates, it’s always about identity politics for the Obama grievance mob. In good times and bad, the left never grants waivers from the race card. Michelle Malkin is the author of “Culture of Corruption: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks and Cronies” (Regnery 2010). Her e-mail address is malkinblog@gmail.com. COPYRIGHT 2012 CREATORS.COM

Answer the Questions

TAMPA, Fla. — This is the hometown of U.S. Special Operations Command — at nearby MacDill Air Force Base. This headquarters dispatches our military’s special operators — Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines — on missions in the most difficult and dangerous places on earth. It’s also the place where “action officers” are burning the midnight oil — but not necessarily planning new targets for our Navy SEALs. Apparently, a “good number” of SOCOM’s staff members are busy preparing responses to the batches of inquiries about what really happened in Benghazi, Libya — before, during and after the terror attack on the night of Sept. 11-12 that resulted in four dead Americans. Answers have been slow in coming. Three days after the assault, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the FBI would investigate the attack as a criminal matter, not as an act of war. For reasons left to our imagination, the FBI didn’t move fast enough, so the Obama administration appointed a special review board to develop a “full picture” of all that transpired at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. This accountability review board is being co-chaired by former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Thomas Pickering and retired Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Investigating the murder of a U.S. diplomat is an assignment for which Pickering is uniquely suited. When he was President Ronald Reagan’s ambassador to El Salvador in the 1980s, Pickering was targeted for assassination. As a consequence of the threat, enhanced security measures were put in place to protect him. Apparently, no such steps were taken to safeguard Ambassador Christopher Stevens and his fellow diplomats in Libya. In the absence of answers, one can only wonder why. The Pickering-Mullen panel supposedly will aggregate information received from SOCOM, European Command, Africa Command, the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon, the CIA, other intelligence organizations and the State Department. If the White House is to be believed, the review board will produce a “rigorous” report when its “investigation is complete” and “hold accountable” anyone who “didn’t do their job.” At the glacial rate things are moving, we may not know what really happened that terrible night in Benghazi until well after President Barack Obama’s second inauguration. Maybe that’s the idea. But if members of the O-Team believe that the questions are going to go away just because he won re-election, they’re wrong. On election eve, the president claimed, “Four years after I took office, America’s respect and resolve around the world is unquestioned.” Yet just hours later, Osama bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahri, in a propaganda broadcast to radical Islamists in Somalia, said, “(The United States is) defeated in Iraq, and they are withdrawing from Afghanistan, and their ambassador in Benghazi was killed, and the flags of their embassies were lowered in Cairo and Sanaa.” Now Fox News journalists Jennifer Griffin and Catherine Herridge and a handful of others have uncovered facts that point to a possible cover-up. Thanks to their intrepid digging for the truth, we now know that a classified cable from Aug. 16 detailed vulnerabilities at the Benghazi facility that were identified by the State Department’s regional security officer — the official responsible for protecting diplomatic posts in North Africa. We also know that six weeks before the attack, Stevens requested additional host-nation security protection from Libya’s Foreign Ministry. And we know for certain that on the night of the attack, U.S. diplomats and CIA personnel in Benghazi begged for help that never came. What we don’t know is what — if anything — officials in Washington did about any of these and a host of other problems leading up to and during this debacle. Why, for example, was our ambassador in Benghazi — without a security detail — on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks? During a series of military assaults over more than seven hours against the consulate compound and a CIA facility about a mile away, at least two unarmed unmanned aerial vehicles and other sensors broadcast live imagery of the attacks to command centers in Washington. According to unnamed administration officials, there were no U.S. military forces or assets available to respond to pleas for help from the Americans fighting for their lives. But there are other reports of U.S. aircraft — and armed UAVs — that could have been dispatched to the scene. What’s the truth? The so-called mainstream media all but ignored the disaster in Benghazi in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 6 election. Our enemies now gloat that America’s “awe is lost” and that our “might is gone.” Members of both parties in Congress are finally demanding answers. They are right to do so. The urgency to find out what happened in Benghazi is neither prurient nor political. An officer assigned here at SOCOM told me this week, “Everything that could go wrong in Benghazi did.” That may be just one officer’s opinion, but if it’s even half-right, the facts need to be known now so steps can be taken to reduce the likelihood of its ever happening again. Oliver North is the host of “War Stories” on Fox News Channel, the founder and honorary chairman of Freedom Alliance, and the author of “Heroes Proved.” Join Oliver North in Israel by going to https://www.olivernorthisrael.com. To find out more about Oliver North and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2012 CREATORS.COM