A reader wrote last week to ask me whether or not Jonathan Gruber’s admissions about the conspiracy to pass Obamacare were being circulated beyond the confines of Fox News.
“Has there been any hint of this in any of the mainstream press,” he asked.
At the time there hadn’t been, but by now everyone may be familiar with it. Republicans in Congress have seized on Gruber’s candid admissions to take renewed aim against the Affordable Care Act, and by Friday the Associated Press could no longer ignore the story, meaning it has now appeared in newspapers across the entire country.
“Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage,” Gruber exclaimed in one of the newly uncovered videos that show him telling how the Obama administration tricked the public into supporting the Affordable Care Act. “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.”
Well, as Mr. Gruber is now finding out, the reverse is true as well. Because when you manipulatively hide the truth from the American public, and then you get pulled out of the shadows to face them, there is hell to pay.
Gruber, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was hired by President Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services to provide “technical assistance” on creating the new health-care law sometime around 2009. He did so, and yet he also made public appearances as an apparently independent expert to promote health-care reform as well.
In August 2010, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform issued a minority report that pointed out that Gruber was paid nearly $400,000 for his help in shaping the health-care law, but that “Gruber’s status as a paid consultant to HHS was not disclosed in interviews with Time, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the New Republic, and elsewhere.”
Of course, nowadays, it seems as though Democrats want you to believe they have never heard of Gruber. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi actually made that claim, even though she had touted him as an expert in 2009. Indeed, everyone knew he was an expert on the Affordable Care Act until he had the misfortune of chewing on his own foot in public.
A search of the Internet reveals multiple instances over the past several years where he has been referred to as the “chief architect of Obamacare,” but now Democrats are trying to minimize his role as much as possible.
To be sure, there are many other pretenders to the throne of “chief architect,” ranging from Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel and Elizabeth Fowler to former Rep. Anthony Weiner and former Sen. Max Baucus, and even Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, but it doesn’t matter what title you give Gruber. The facts are plain that he played a huge role in shaping the Affordable Care Act.
It is also plain — at least in retrospect — that he was comfortable doing so through deception, subterfuge and sleight-of-hand. The video clips of Gruber that have surfaced over the last week are nothing less than stunning in their suggestion of an intentional deception of the American people and perhaps their legislators.
In the first one, Gruber admitted, “This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure the CBO [Congressional Budget Office] did not score the mandate as taxes. If the CBO scores the mandate as taxes, the bill dies. … Basically, you know, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, that was really really critical to get the thing to pass.”
That is highly significant because the question of whether the penalty charged to non-participants in the program was a tax was crucial in the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling that preserved Obamacare. And by that time, the Obama administration had turned 180 degrees and was now insisting it was indeed a tax.
Perhaps the most important impact of the Gruber videos will be felt in yet another Supreme Court ruling that may come next year.
In particular, one of the videos from January 2012 has Gruber explicitly describing how Obamacare’s tax credits were intended only for citizens who used state-established health-insurance exchanges, not for customers of the federal exchange.
Since that very point is the basis of the latest lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act which the Supreme Court has already agreed to hear, that admission is huge.
The Obama administration has been arguing that although the law, as written, clearly states that the subsidy or tax credit is available only to customers of state exchanges, the intention of legislators was just the opposite. Obamacare advocates, in other words, are claiming that the wording was just a big typo — a clerical error that should not stand in the way of the implementation of the law.
But how will they be able to make that case before the Supreme Court with a straight face when one of the architects of Obamacare already told the truth. Judge for yourself. Here is Gruber’s analysis:
"I think what’s important to remember politically about this is, if you’re a state and you don’t set up an exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits," Gruber said. "But your citizens still pay the taxes that support this bill. So you’re essentially saying to your citizens, you’re going to pay all the taxes to help all the other states in the country.”
Gruber made it clear that this language was included intentionally in order to encourage the states to set up their own exchanges by depriving a benefit from them if they did not!
“I hope,” he said, “that’s a blatant enough political reality that states will get their act together and realize there are billions of dollars at stake here in setting up these exchanges, and that they’ll do it."
The video on which Gruber confirmed this important information was located and published online by the Competitive Enterprise Institute as long ago as July 2014. It was subsequently noted by a Wall Street Journal blog as well, but its significance remained obscure until Gruber’s comments calling the public “stupid” went viral last week.
Well, stupid is as stupid does, and when measuring stupidity one really must acknowledge Gruber’s peculiar penchant for undermining the Affordable Care Act which he supposedly helped build as its chief architect.
It is ironic that the great Ayn Rand novel “The Fountainhead” was built around a plot that involved a brilliant young architect blowing up a building of his own design to protect it from being compromised.
But don’t get the wrong impression. Gruber is no Howard Roark, the architect hero of Rand’s novel. Roark represented the triumph of the individual in what Rand labeled the war of “individualism versus collectivism,” whereas Gruber’s construct of Obamacare was the enslavement of the individual by the collective.
Now, we must wait to see whether the American public once again embraces freedom, or prefers to remain shackled to a health-care system that has been exposed as a cynical scheme by people who will say or do anything to increase their own power.
We know who’s betting the American public is too stupid to pick freedom, but I am putting my money on the same people who just said “enough is enough” to Sen. Harry Reid and his crony in the White House.
Frank Miele has been managing editor of the Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell, Montana, since 2000 and writes a weekly column of personal reflection and political opinion.