Jonathan Gruber, a previously little known MIT professor, has stumbled into the national limelight with statements about “stupid voters” and the intentional use of non-transparency in drafting and promoting the Affordable Care Act (ACA) so that voters would not realize what was in it.
Gruber candidly admitted the promoters of the law determined it would not have passed but for the non-transparency, quickly adding that it was important to keep the truth from the voters because the law was too important to risk not passing it.
Regardless of one’s view of “Obamacare”, our nation should be up in arms over the revelation that non-transparency was employed by design in the drafting of the law and in getting it passed. We should be outraged and offended at the notion that we are too stupid to understand and not to be entrusted with the a clear explanation. American citizens should be taking action to ensure that our nation’s law, which require transparency in government, are enforced at the highest levels.
One MSNBC blogger, however, called the “Jonathan Gruber mess” much to do about nothing. (MSNBC)
Champions of the ACA are scrambling to minimize the damage and downplay Jonathan Gruber’s role in writing the law and getting it passed. Nancy Pelosi says she does not know who Jonathan Gruber is. (Washington Post) Nancy Pelosi responded soon after his remarks leaked out to the public that Jonathan Gruber was not involved in the drafting of the Affordable Care Act. Unfortunately for Pelosi, the Washington Post found a 2009 video in which she specifically cites Gruber’s work associated with the Act. (Washington Post) Sarah Kliff of left-leaning Vox.com, now says Gruber was “merely a number-cruncher”, though she previously said Jonathan Gruber “pretty much wrote Obamacare.” (the redstate.com)
Unsurprisingly, the real politicians are not as apt to be candid, as Jonathan Gruber was, about the facts.
Ironically, Nancy Pelosi’s 2009 comment cites Jonathan Gruber for the point that the ACA bill (then) will bring down the spiraling costs of health care. (Washington Post) Jonathan Gruber, himself, however, says that the ACA was never intended to bring the costs of health care down. In fact, he pointedly said it would not bring the costs of health care down; they just had to spin it that way because that is what the voters wanted to hear. (See the video of Gruber’s statement in the Washington Examiner) This is another variation on the “stupid voters” statement that has put Gruber in the public and Congressional cross-hairs.
The post remarks spin on Gruber is disingenuous and underscores the lack of honesty and transparency in our government at the highest level. Nothing is more disheartening to me than this utter lack of forthrightness in our federal government that appears to be fueled and justified by an elitist notion that “they know what is best for us” (so it does not matter how oblique they are with the American voters).
An article at reason.com shows just how disingenuous the backpedaling is. “These reactions from Obama and others were, for the most part, technically true—but nonetheless misleading about Gruber’s influence on the law. At a minimum, they were not fully transparent about his role.” This article lays out how intimately and completely Gruber was involved in both the drafting of the law and in selling it to the public.
The elitist idea that politicians know best and, therefore, are justified in obfuscating the facts in order to pass a law is dangerous thinking! It is fundamentally un-American. It is the primary reason that people are so skeptical and do not trust politicians; indeed, “politics” is a dirty word for reasons like the Gruber remarks.
It is not the remarks, per se, but what they reveal. The Gruber remarks epitomize all that is wrong with politics. He said in one of the videos that has been circulating around, “Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage.” The remark reveals an attitude that anything goes as long as we succeed. Succeeding in politics means advancing the party’s platform and (most importantly) staying in office at all costs. Transparency should be the unequivocal benchmark that is protected with non-partisan diligence, but it turns out it is merely a partisan tool to be discarded for a more expedient device.
In the congressional hearings, Gruber seems to be using “the stupid defense” to explain the statements that he made. (townhall.com) (He says they were glib and inappropriate; he says he was trying to make himself look smart on subjects (politics) about which he is ignorant.) I am disposed to believe he is just being dumb like a fox. It seems completely disingenuous.
On the other hand, maybe there is something different about Gruber (from professional politicians). Maybe there is some semblance of sincerity in his obsequious explanation for the “glib” and “inappropriate” remarks when he says, that he was not as smart as he thought he was and should not have tried to wade into the politics of the Act. Politicians would not be so glib (think candid). They are more practiced in the art of making appropriate remarks (think spin and cover up). Gruber’s forthright (albeit arrogant) admissions of the game plan for Obamacare would not come out of a practiced politician’s mouth.
In the same congressional hearing, Jonathan Gruber stated under oath that he was not the “architect” of Obamacare. (Fox News) Calling him the “architect” may or may not be an accurate description, but he was most certainly involved. Gruber may not have been “the” architect of Obamacare, but he spoke at length on the “detail we considered when we wrote the Law” at a presentation in 2012. (January 18, 2012 Speech) During the recent congressional hearing, Gruber refused to disclose how much money he made from his work on Obamacare. (thefiscaltimes.org (unofficial estimates are between $2 million and $5.9 million))
It appears that Gruber has learned a thing or two about politics since he made the candid remarks that got him trouble, and that is not a good thing.
I am afraid that the real problem with politics in this country will be lost in the partisan scramble to make hay out of the Gruber debacle. People will forget the exposure of the ugly underbelly of politics for all of the furor over health care issues. They will miss the forest for the trees. Health care is an important issue in this country, as Gruber even pointed out. We need to fix health care, but Gruber exposes a more fundamental, farther-reaching and indemic problem, and that is politics itself!
I am afraid that problem will be swept under the rug, by both sides. Gruber’s forthright statements about non-transparency are fodder for Republican opportunists, but they may only be useful for partisan purposes. They will be used to advance the conservative cause, but they are much too dangerous to be used for any other purpose. If Congress took the time to focus on the what is wrong with politics, they would all have to play dumb.