11/13/14

MIT economic professor Jonathan Gruber was one of the ACA main architects. As the man behind the Massachusetts health care plan (known as RomneyCare) which was used as the blue print for the ACA, he was recruited by the Obama administration early in the process of designing the ACA, was paid $400,000 for his services and was relied upon heavily by the administration and Democrats in Congress to provide the mental of “scientific” basis for the foundation of the plan.

In recent days, three separate videos of him taken over a period of over a year became public. He was caught, on video, speaking in various appearances in academic and other events discussing the ACA as saying the following:

  • “The administration used ‘tormented language’ to hide the real essence of the personal mandate penalty—a tax.”
  • “The administration used the ‘stupidity’ of the American public to hide the huge wealth transfer that the ACA represents from the young and the healthy to the old and the sick.”
  • “Senate Democrats, specifically senator Kerry (the genius…) used the ‘stupidity’ of the American public when designing the tax on the ‘Cadillac’ health plans as a tax on the insurers when, in fact, it is a tax on the public.”
  • Being able to NOT have transparency is a great political advantage
  • He would have liked to have transparency but he knows that the law would not pass with it so he prefers that the law passed without transparency.

In response to the public airing of his views, Prof. Gruber went on NPR and MSNBC (both very liberal progressive outlets with TINY numbers of listeners) and apologized for “calling the American public stupid.” He did NOT take back his claims about misleading and obfuscation. He did not say, “I was wrong, what I suggested did not actually take place. I invented it.” He simply said that he was sorry to have called the public stupid.

He made these appearances after the first video became public and tried to suggest that it was a onetime slip of the tongue. Since then, we have had two more videos of him using the same language and concept—the ACA was only passed because the Obama administration used subterfuge and mislead the public; which was good thing and easy to do thanks to the stupidity of the public. We can all be assured that if he said it three times on video he probably said it many, many more times when he was not being recorded.

Let’s analyze this episode:

First we need to be clear, the issue here is NOT, as some progressive are trying to suggest, in defending the ACA; it is not whether or not the ACA is a good law. For the record, I think it is a terrible law but for the limited purpose of this blog I will accept their view that it is a good law.

Does that justify passing it by lies and deception?

Does the end justify the means?

I have said many times before that this mantra (the goal, or end, justifies the means) is very typical of ideologues; hard ideologues who believe that they know what is best for others and, indeed, that everyone else is stupid. More than once, I have clearly stated that I believe this is the prevailing view—the dominant streak—in the Obama administration. I also believe that it is WRONG, so VERY wrong. In all cases, the means matter but mostly in politics where, very often, the goals are never achieved (as is the case with the ACA) and all we are left with are the means.

So, who really are the stupid ones in this whole unfortunate story of the ACA?

Is it Democrats who passed the law, ostensibly not knowing what is in it? I never believed that story. They knew exactly what is in it. Most of them believed that they were doing a good thing AND accepted their leadership pressure that the end justifies the means. Remember, this was in the heady days of 2009 when they had just gained a huge victory in the election and controlled the White House and Congress with large and unprecedented majorities. Surely, they thought, they were on the right track and it is time to make history. They were intoxicated with their own hype/BS. Maybe some had doubts about the means but they were swept aside by the wave of Obama’s huge election victory and the leadership in Congress. So, I do NOT buy that they are stupid nor will I give them such an easy pass. They knew EXACTLY what they were doing and were complicit in misleading the American public.

Republicans? Also no. They were not stupid. They, too, knew exactly what the ACA was about. They were largely incompetent in making their case against it. As usual, they were not eloquent and were not able to forge a good enough media strategy to expose the lies and deceptions. But they were not stupid.

The media? My view of the media is well known. I loathe it. I loathe it because, as I have written many times, they are both lazy and completely biased. The media, too, knew what was happening, but they did not care. They, too, were drunk from the success of their progressive ideals and the coming of the messiah (Obama), and they continue to be totally submissive to him. They have completely abdicated their role as holding politicians’ legs to the fire; of demanding the truth and making the truth public. The media is probably the biggest culprit in this whole story because it was their ROLE to expose the truth and, instead, they covered it up—knowingly.  However culpable in perpetrating the scam, stupid they were not.

The public? This is, after all, what the esteemed professor is telling us. First let me be clear that, in general, I do not accept the notion that the American public (body politics, the aggregate of the electorate) is stupid. The founding of the USA 240 years ago, its progress to becoming the greatest and most successful experiment in human progress and governing, does not indicate that overall its body politics is stupid. Does the public as a whole make mistakes? Of course. I think they chose the wrong president in 2008 and again in 2012, but clever entities make mistakes too. A more specific examination of Gruber’s claim that the public is stupid shows that he is wrong even in this specific case—badly wrong.

The public opposition to this law started early (remember the “town hall” meetings of the summer of 2009?) before it passed and has continued consistently to this day. In spite of the collusion, the abdication by the media (whose job it was to expose the lies), and the Republican’s incompetence in making this case—in spite of it all, the public knew. They knew and they did the only thing open to them in a democratic country: They threw out the bums that passed the law.

The results of the elections in 2010 and in 2014 are a clear statement of the public’s view about the ACA, which, after all, is without doubt the signature piece of legislation of this administration, if not the only one. True, in 2012 the public was not as harsh, but that was at the exact point were the law was the least relevant. It passed two years before and its effects were still a year away. The public has spoken clearly against the law in elections, in polls everywhere, all the time. It did so partially because of the foul MEANS that were used to pass it. So, no, the public is the exact opposite of what Professor Gruber claims.

So, no one is stupid? I actually have a good candidate for stupidity in this episode and that is Prof. Gruber, himself. He IS stupid.

Not only did he get the analysis of the facts wrong, as I just showed above, but a man whose arrogance exceeds his wisdom by far is, by my definition, stupid. That he is a professor of economics at a venerable institution like MIT says a lot about MIT. Perhaps they should stick to technology, as their experiment in social and political sciences has turned sour—very sour.