Are WE Really That Stupid or Have We Been Played?

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So the video has surfaced of the architect of Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act/ACA), Jonathon Gruber saying that the health care law only passed because of the “stupidity of the American voter.” Actually, a total of 5 videos have come to light.

Who is this Jonathan Gruber? He is Professor Gruber, an economics MIT professor who is one of the primary architect or designer of the Affordable Care Act/ACA. He has lots of experience in designing public health programs as evidence by his being the key designer of the 2006 Massachusetts state health care plan signed into law by then Governor Mitt Romney.

From 2009 to 2010 he served as a technical consultant to the White House as it pulled together the ACA and was paid dearly, about $392,000. Not bad for a consultant! The reports suggest that he was one of the people who convinced President Obama that the bill needed to include an individual mandate- the one part of the law requiring that almost everyone in the US get health care insurance. It is also interesting that Mr. Gruber went on to act as a consultant to a number of states and make an additional over $1,400,000 giving him total of about $2 million.

Now a few days ago the conservative group, the American Commitment posted a video clip Professor Gruber addressing a conference at the University of Pennsylvania in 2013. In the video Gruber is seen say that “lack of transparency is a huge advantage” and that “the stupidity of the American voter….was really critical for the ACA to pass.” Here he was referring to the bill treating the individual mandate.

The designers of the ACA went to great lengths to ensure that the Congressional Budget Office would not have the individual mandate deemed to be a tax. If it had the bill would have been much easier to characterize as a welfare plan and a burden on the middle class.

“If you had a law which said that healthy people are going to pay in … and sick people get money, it would not have passed,” said Gruber.

As I mentioned, it seems that more tapes have emerged, a total of 5 now, of him calling taxpayers “stupid” in other appearances at about the same time – one at Washington University in St. Louis, and another in Rhode Island.

As you can imagine, it also seems that the Conservative bloggers are very angry about this information.

My first comment is that this proves once again that doctoral degrees do not equate to common sense as most of have seem in academics. This gentleman was the architect of the Romney healthcare law and he has no healthcare education or background, which is also interesting. To call voters “stupid” in any public forum when you are partly responsible for a major change in US law that barely passed and remains the focus of repeal rhetoric fours year on is pretty, well, yes, stupid.

My second point is that Gruber’s remarks are old. It’s their release that’s new, as a number of articles discuss. It’s possible that these videos just came to American Commitment’s attention. It’s also possible that conservative groups have been sitting on this negative information for an opportune political moment, which has finally arrived, especially when one reviews the results of the mid-term elections and the GOP’s opportunities.

Now my third comment, this might cause real damage. Most gaffes do nothing but confirm the beliefs voters already hold, and this might well do the same. Conservatives are now outraged, but still liberals wonder what the fuss is about a point they feel is obvious, but poorly expressed.

As I stated it comes just as Republicans feel resurgent in the wake of their mid-term wave victories. They’ll take control of the Senate soon, giving them the majorities in both chambers of Congress. I heard that conservatives are talking about holding hearings on the Gruber contention. These words could further encourage the faction of the GOP that wants to continue to pursue full repeal, as opposed to incremental changes to the ACA.

As I write this post, there’s a new Supreme Court case that threatens the ACA structure. The nation’s high court is considering whether the bill’s wording limits insurance subsidies to states that have established their own health exchanges.

The Obama administration argues that it’s obvious the legislation intended to provide such subsidies to all states, whether it’s the state or federal government that’s running their insurance exchange marketplace. However, one of the ACA’s designers, that is Mr. Gruber, has actually argued the opposite in public, saying at a 2012 conference that “if you’re a state and you don’t set up an exchange that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits.” Given the high stakes in the latest legal challenge to the ACA, the White House might wish that Mr. Gruber spends the next few months avoiding academic conferences and video cameras of all kinds or just keep his mouth shut.

It is also interesting that Nancy Pelosi has denied knowing Mr. Gruber and that Mr. Gruber didn’t contribute to the writing and design of the ACA.

Review the article published by Kelley Beaucar Viahos, November 14, 2014 in FoxNews.com:

“Now, Washington Democrats have a new message: He’s not with us.

After a string of videos have emerged showing Gruber gloating about how the law’s authors exploited Americans’ “stupidity,” the White House has distanced itself. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi even claimed: “I don’t know who he is. He didn’t help write our bill.”

“But while Jonathan Gruber might not have been a familiar name until this week for many, Pelosi and the rest of the lawmakers who pushed the law certainly knew who he was in 2009 and 2010.

A look at the record shows he was in fact paid to advise the Department of Health and Human Services. And he continues to play a role in health policy elsewhere, even as his unearthed videos cause headaches for the administration, just ahead of this weekend’s Round 2 enrollment launch.

Gruber also spent a good deal of time testifying on the Hill and in meetings at the White House – 19 visits from 2009 to June of this year, according to publicly available logs.

In a 2012 interview with PBS, he made his involvement crystal-clear: “I helped [Governor] Romney develop the Massachusetts health care reform, or Romneycare. I then worked with the Obama administration and Congress to help develop the Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare.”

What drugs is Ms. Pelosi taking or is she suffering from some early signs of dementia. There is documentation that she and her staff were instrumental in engaging Mr. Gruber to assist in the writing of the law.

The timing of this information comes at the next enrollment period for people to sign up for the ACA. Calling the American public stupid and that the bill is a tax makes me wonder why would anyone trust this bill and go ahead and sign up for the ACA.

It will be interesting to see how these latest group of videos and information will be spun by the White House and how it will be interpreted by those that really need health care insurance and could take advantage of such a good intended bill.

It will be very interesting to see how the GOP uses this information to “derail” the ACA OR will they do the right thing. The right thing would be to modify the ACA so it really does what the president wanted to do, the right thing, which is providing care for those who need it but really find a way to afford it without causing the burden on the young workers and the middle class with high premiums and higher deductibles. Let’s see what the Supreme Court decides on the latest decision required on the ACA.

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