Jonathan Gruber is an Idiot. Back in October of 2013, Gruber — a consultant who served as a technical advisor during the creation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (also known as the ACA or “Obamacare”) and during the 2006 Massachusetts law that became known as “Romneycare” — made certain remarks during the 24th Annual Health Economics Conference at the University of Pennsylvania’s Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, which were captured on video. The video came to the attention of American Commitment, a conservative, right-wing 501(c)(4) non-profit organization founded by right-wing operative Sean Noble and led by Phil Kerpen, former vice president of Americans for Prosperity. The footage of the conference ran for nearly an hour and covered issues tangential to Obamacare, such as its classification as a tax, subsidies, and how the bill came into law. However, in 52 second of the footage, Gruber can be heard saying the following (see the video footage here).
This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure [the Congressional Budget Office] did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies. OK? So it’s written to do that. In terms of risk-rated subsidies, if you had a law which said healthy people are going to pay in — you made explicit that healthy people pay in and sick people get money — it would not have passed. OK? Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to get the thing to pass. Look, I wish … we could make it all transparent, but I’d rather have this law than not.
When it comes to Obamacare, the Obama administration and its supporters keep shooting themselves in the foot. It’s both unfortunate and enraging. First the website itself was, as everyone famously knows, not ready for prime-time. That was a huge failing. Then Obama promised everybody that no one would have to change their health insurance when his advisors should have told him that this was not true. Huge faux pas. And now this idiot. Of course, the Obama administration did not initially want any part of the bill characterized as a tax, because everyone hates taxes. Of course, when it went up to the Supreme Court, that’s exactly what the court determined: that it was a tax, and thereby within the power of the Congress’ authority to tax. (See National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius.)
And now comes this idiot and his wayward pronouncements. Well, before we turn the hysteria machine into overdrive (I’m looking at you Fox News) let’s just remember the following:
- Jonathan Gruber is just one guy, and he doesn’t speak for the Obama administration. Unlike Mitt Romney when he made his famous remark about the “other 47%,” Gruber is not running for President.
- The core aspect of Obamacare that the conservatives claim to hate so much — the individual mandate — is an idea that came out of the conservative Heritage foundation in response to the failed Clinton health care plan.
- Despite what the Conservative media will tell you, a large percentage of Americans actually backs the idea of universal health care, which is exactly what the Affordable Care Act seeks to deliver.
Like any 2000 page bill — really, they needed 2000 pages to make this work? — the Affordable Care Act is far from perfect. There’s plenty there that could be tweaked, simplified, or just left behind. But what Republicans are really afraid of is not that the Act will ruin our economy or our society; what they are really afraid of is that it will soon be considered as indispensable as Social Security. And that the Democrats will get the credit for it. Again. Some of that can be seen in candid remarks that were made this time by Joni Ernst, the newly elected Senator from Iowa (you know, the one who is going to “make them squeal“), who worries candidly about how hard it is going to be to “remove” people from “these programs” once they’ve “already been on” for a while. Candid revelation comes in both flavors, I guess.