Jonathan Gruber? Never heard of him

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Jonathan Gruber is the MIT economics professor, often called the "architect of Obamacare," who has said publicly that Obamacare's passage owed much to the "stupidity of the American people" and that its authors necessarily obfuscated the impacts on taxpayers in order to get the bill passed.

"Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage," Gruber said. "Call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever. But basically, that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass."

Gruber added that he wished "we could make it all transparent," but said the bill would not have passed if not for the administration's art of deception on key features of the law.

"This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes," Gruber said. "If you had a law that made explicit that healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed."

The University of Pennsylvania deleted the video but restored it after public outcry. Three additional videos have surfaced of Gruber making the same argument in different appearances.

On MSNBC's Morning Joe, former Vermont Governor and Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean expressed outrage at Gruber's comments:

"The problem is not that he said it-the problem is that he thinks it," Dean said. "The core problem under the damn law is it was put together by a bunch of elitists who don't fundamentally understand the American people. That's what the problem is."

You may recall that Gruber was cited earlier this year as stating on at least seven occasions that Obamacare subsidies were intended as an incentive for states to set up their own Obamacare exchanges. If a state refused to set up their own exchanges, the subsidies would be denied to the citizens of that state, who would, Gruber hoped, pressure their state politicians to establish a state exchange. Now Gruber calls that provision of the law a "typo," but it is the central issue in Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt's challenge to the Obamacare law.

House Democrat Leader Nancy Pelosi, Speaker when the bill passed, is now claiming never to have heard of Gruber. But Hot Air has a screen grab from Pelosi's website and a video clip showing that Nancy Pelosi cited Jon Gruber as an authority in arguing for Obamacare's passage.

Here's Pelosi on November 5, 2009, citing Gruber's analysis of the Democrats' Obamacare bill.


Gruber is also described as the architect of Romneycare, the Massachusetts socialized medicine program on which Obamacare is based. Mitt Romney should have been smart enough to know that if you want a reform grounded in economic reality, you go to the University of Chicago or George Mason U. You don't go to the statists and socialists that define the economic department at my alma mater.

Keith Hennessey writes that Obamacare is far from the only government program that has been enacted by hiding subsidies and costs. Hennessey has a long list that only scratches the surface. Hennessey writes:

Apparently Dr. Gruber thinks it's OK to lie to American voters when his allies are in power to enact policies that he wants but the voters wouldn't. He then says American voters are "stupid" both for not agreeing with his value choices and for not figuring out the deception.

I disagree.

When you strip away all the complexity, economic policy is ultimately an expression of elected officials making difficult value choices. If over time these officials make value choices that do not reflect the values of the people whom they represent, they can, should, and will be replaced.

When these same elected officials, and those who advise them, deliberately construct policies to hide value choices that would be unpopular were they transparent and explicit, we end up with two terrible outcomes. We get policies that do not reflect our values, and we re-elect representatives who are lying to us.

The National Journal's Ron Fournier, who emphatically identifies himself as "not 'on the right,'" objects to efforts to spin the story as one in which only conservatives are outraged:

[Gruber] called you stupid. He admitted that the White House lied to you. Its officials lied to all of us--Republicans, Democrats, and independents; rich and poor; white and brown; men and women.

Liberals should be the angriest. Not only were they personally deceived, but the administration's dishonest approach to health care reform has helped make Obamacare unpopular while undermining the public's faith in an activist government. A double blow to progressives....

Last year, The Post helped document how Obama and his advisers knowingly misled the public during his 2012 reelection campaign by repeatedly saying that, under Obamacare, people could keep their doctors and keep their health plans. To knowingly mislead is to lie.

"It's hard to know what might have happened if the truth had won the day," writes Post columnist Kathleen Parker. "But we do know that truth squandered is trust lost."

And so even I have to admit, as a supporter, that Obamacare was built and sold on a foundation of lies. No way around it, unless you're willing to accept a political system that colors its lies--the reds, the whites, and the blues.

STILL MORE: In a June 2012 interview with PBS Frontline, Gruber tells us that the decision to mislead on employer-provided medical insurance went all the way to the top.

Here's what Gruber says in the video:

Now, the problem is, it's a political nightmare, ... and people say, "No, you can't tax my benefits." So what we did a lot in that room was talk about, well, how could we make this work? And Obama was like, "Well, you know" -- I mean, he is really a realistic guy. He is like, "Look, I can't just do this." He said: "It is just not going to happen politically. The bill will not pass. How do we manage to get there through phases and other things?" And we talked about it. And he was just very interested in that topic.

That ultimately became the genesis of what's called the "Cadillac tax" in the healthcare bill which I think is one of the most important and bravest parts of the health care law and, um, doesn't get nearly enough credit.

In that same PBS Frontline episode, Gruber explains the three key elements that made Romneycare in Massachusetts "work": A relatively low number of uninsured, an insurance market "destroyed" (Gruber's word) by a previously-adopted requirement to ignore pre-existing conditions, and most of all, $400 million a year in Other People's Money:

Third, we had a major source of financing in place, which we had formerly had a pretty powerful senator named Ted Kennedy who had been delivering about $400 million a year in slush funds to our safety-net hospitals that the Bush administration was threatening to take away.

The Romney administration, to their credit, went to Washington and said, "Can we keep this money if we use it to cover the uninsured?" And the Bush administration, to their credit, said yes.

So those pieces pulled together made a really interesting opportunity to actually cover the uninsured and fix a broken, non-group market on the federal dime. And that was a really unique opportunity, which I think Romney as a kind of management consultant was excited to take advantage of.


Long-time Boston Herald political columnist Howie Carr says that Gruber (MIT '87, Harvard Ph.D. '92) is just another goober from Cambridge.

Do you realize that every last one of the many disasters that has befallen this nation in the last half-century can be traced right back here to the banks of the Charles River?

C'mon down, Jonathan Gruber, economics professor at MIT. He's the moonbat who, after engineering the ongoing fiasco that is Obamacare, then took a nationwide victory lap in which he repeatedly described the American people as "too stupid" to realize the Democrats were destroying their health care.

Maybe he's right about our stupidity. After all, he cashed in $392,000 worth of federal no-bid contracts to wreck the best health care system in the world, plus another $1.6 million or so in various state wrecking-ball contracts.

This goober, I mean Gruber, now says that when he sneered about how stupid Americans are, he made a mistake. Oddly, he made the same "mistake" five times (and counting). When you say something publicly five times, it's part of your stump speech.

Nice Deb is compiling all the Gruber videos and links to stories and transcripts.

The Conservative Voices blog is self-hosting the Gruber videos, just in case they get taken down on other sites. The Gruber category has entries with individual videos as well. (Gruber's speech to the University of Rhode Island Fall 2012 Honors Colloqium has been deleted from URI's YouTube account, for example, even though they had submitted it to to crowdsource the transcription of the video.)

NRO's Rich Lowry wants to thank Jonathan Gruber:

He has done us all a favor by affording us an unvarnished look into the progressive mind, which values complexity over simplicity, favors indirect taxes and impositions on the American public so their costs can be hidden, and has a dim view of the average American.

Complexity is a staple of liberal policymaking. It is a product of its scale and reach, but also of the imperative to hide the ball. Taxing and spending and redistributive schemes tend to be unpopular, so clever ways have to be found to deny that they are happening. This is what Gruber was getting at. One reason Obamacare was so convoluted is that its supporters didn't want to straightforwardly admit how much the law was raising taxes and using the young and healthy to subsidize everyone else.

Gruber crowed about the exertions undertaken to make an unpopular tax on expensive health-insurance plans, the so-called Cadillac tax, more palatable. It was levied on employers instead of employees. No one realized, Gruber explained, that the tax would be functionally the same even if not directly imposed on workers. This wasn't a one-off deception. This kind of sleight of hand is crucial to the progressive project, which always involves imposing taxes, regulations, and mandates at one remove from the average person so he or she won't realize that the costs are passed down regardless.

Most liberals would never come out and call Americans stupid in a public forum, as Gruber did. But the debate between conservatives and liberals on health-care policy and much else comes down to how much average Americans can be trusted to make decisions on their own without the guiding, correcting hand of government. An assumption that Americans are incompetent is woven into the Left's worldview. It is reluctant to entrust individuals with free choice for fear they will exercise it poorly and irresponsibly.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on November 13, 2014 5:49 PM.

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