WaPo: Obamacare Consultant Under Fire For 'Stupidity of the American Voter' Comment

Originally posted at The Washington Post.

Economist Jonathan Gruber, one of the Obama administration’s consultants on the Affordable Care Act, is under attack from conservatives for comments he made last year in which he said the “stupidity of the American voter” was a factor in passing Obamacare in 2010.

The comments were made during the panel sessions at the Annual Health Economics Conference last year. A video of the panel began circulating Monday on conservative media.

“This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes,” he said during a panel discussion at the University of Pennsylvania in October, 2013. “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 getting the thing to pass.”

Gruber’s comments were part of a broader public conversation between him and economist Mark Pauly on the economics of health care reform. Gruber was responding to a remark by Pauly about financing transparency in the law and the politics surrounding the ACA’s individual mandate. The political process, he said, striking a critical tone, resulted in inefficiencies in the law which should be corrected.

“In terms of risk-rated subsidies, if you had a law which explicitly said that healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed,” he said. “You can’t do it politically, you just literally cannot do it. It’s not only transparent financing but also transparent spending.”

On Tuesday, conservatives tore into Gruber’s 2013 remarks, saying they served as an admission of intentional deceit by the Affordable Care Act’s architects.

“There you go, America. That is what the Democrat Party thinks of you,” Rush Limbaugh said on his radio show Monday, according to a transcript of the show. “They think most people are incompetent and will make the wrong decisions if living a life of self-reliance.”

Social media lit up with posts about the comments on Monday and Tuesday, with several lawmakers weighing in as well.

Rep. Bill Cassidy, who is challenging Sen. Mary Landrieu in a Senate rrunoff election next month, seized on the comments to ding his Democratic rival.”The architect of ObamaCare says it passed because voters are stupid. Does Landrieu think that about #LAsen voters?” he wrote on twitter.

“The crafting of Obamacare – amazing to hear their approach,” wrote Rep. Jason Chaffetz on Twitter, linking to the clip of Gruber’s comments.

In the video, Gruber appeared to be speaking specifically about the political environment in 2010 and its impact on the law’s funding mechanisms. Gruber takes a critical stance on some of those outcomes, calling them “irrational.”

“I wish Mark was right and we could make it all transparent but I’d rather have this law than not,” Gruber said. “That involves tradeoffs that we don’t prefer as economists but are realistic.”

On Tuesday Morning Independent Sen. Angus King, who caucuses with the Democrats, had a tense exchange with Fox News anchor Brian Kilmeade on air about the remark.

“I certainly don’t endorse those kind of comments. But I can recall that debate. I wasn’t in office. [I]t was a very vigorous debate,” King said when asked about Gruber’s comments. “Everybody knew that there were going to be additional taxes required to support the support for premiums under the Affordable Care Act. I don’t see it as any deep, dark conspiracy. There were all kinds of — there was long debate about it on both sides.”

“Really? He said he wasn’t transparent. Senator, he said he wasn’t transparent,” Kilmeade pushed back, beginning a tense exchange between himself and the senator.

“We’ve got eight million people that have insurance now, that didn’t before. And don’t lecture me about this. Because 40 years ago, I had insurance. If I hadn’t had it – it caught a cancer that saved my life,” said King.

Gruber apologized for his comments on Tuesday afternoon during an on-air interview with MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow.

“The comments in the video were made at an academic conference,” Gruber said. “I was speaking off the cuff and I basically spoke inappropriately and I regret having made those comments.”

Although Gruber apologized for the language he used, Gruber said that the larger point he was trying to make centered on the political pressures that shaped the law. He added that those pressures “led to an incomplete law with some typos.”

“It would have made more sense to do Obamacare the way we did in Massachusetts, which would be to just give people money to offset the cost of their health insurance,” Gruber said. “That was politically infeasible and so instead it was done through the tax code.”

Read more at The Washington Post.

 

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7 Comments

  • Cheryl says:

    November 12, 2014 at 10:53 PM

    The deception and outright lies from Obama and his cronies during the past 6 years that have been suspected all along by many, are finally brought into glaring light. Here’s the proof! Our country is being torn apart from the inside out because of the backroom politics of the left, and as far as I’m concerned, since it has all been absolutely intentional, it’s time for impeachment, possibly even treason charges, and every single piece of legislation Obama shoved down our throats should be ripped from the books immediately! No more Obamacare, no more Common Core, build a huge wall and deport all the illegals, especially the radical Muslims, he brought here, protect and provide for our military and allow them to do their job of protecting us who are here at home, defund all but the most essential entitlement programs, do something about the outrageous national debt, and get out of the states’ business! Obama’s reign is proof that big government is not just bad business, it is dangerous.

  • thinkingabovemypaygr says:

    November 14, 2014 at 9:54 AM

    Note Gruber’s other comment…

    “It would have made more sense to do Obamacare the way we did in Massachusetts, which would be to just give people money to offset the cost of their health insurance,” Gruber said. “That was politically infeasible and so instead it was done through the tax code.”

    So…the FIRST rule in healthcare is…do no harm…to your political agenda.

    ***Wondering about the Law of Unintended Consequences…How will the bulky unclear bill, and the other political manueverings…affect healthcare???***

  • Art Brown says:

    November 15, 2014 at 12:10 AM

    Economist Jonathan Gruber
    It goes to show the american people once again they think the American people are stupid and don’t need to know because those in power know everything. The reality when we elect or politicians we believe they will represent us the people, not those who lobby congress. I think the American people are waking up and are fed up of trusting our government when most of up are working so hard to keep our heads above water. Washington needs to wake up and start representing up and not go to congress to become millionaers on the back of the American people. Look how much vacation time the are off, how much time they are representing the people who are struggling, on food stamps, working a job that is only part time and to busy of making money in congress. If you think about how much money they spend on an election, sometimes it is more than they make during there entire term they spend in congress. HOW SAD they only think of themselves and not the american people. Retired Chief Petty Officer Brown USN

  • Russ Perry says:

    November 16, 2014 at 1:47 PM

    My question is will enough American people wake up to prevent the election of Alinskyite Marxist Hillary before 2016? I certainly believe many American are beginning to understand the Democrat party is now the Marxist revolutionary party. But there are still many idealists that don’t understand the change the Democrat party has undergone. Even conservative commentators are still referring to them as liberal democrats or just plain liberals. They don’t realize the real liberals of today are the moderate Republicans who are catering to the Marxist-oriented media. Will they wake up too late, as the Germans did in the 1930s?

  • Millie says:

    November 22, 2014 at 3:26 PM

    Jonathan Gruber, in the latest video states with incredulity that red state governors rejected Federally run healthcare because they are exceedingly evil, racist and hate poor people. One would think that with his personal knowledge of the fraud he perpetrated on the American people that there would have been another possibility. Maybe those red state governors were not so stupid after all. In spite of Jonathan Gruber’s lies, some of them realized the numbers just didn’t add up. They were actually trying to protect the people of their states from him.

  • Dean says:

    November 23, 2014 at 1:12 PM

    America’s founders told us that our nation’s system of balance of powers and two parties would only work with a religious people. And we must understand that in their minds religious meant biblical, evangelical Christian, which included Anglican, which George Washington was. (See GEORGE WASHINGTON’S SACRED FIRE for a 1000 page documentation and explanation of that.) They understood that a free society would not work with liars and crooks and intransigent bullies and thugs. For our system of government with balance of powers and more than one party, there has to be a certain level of civility and congeniality and agreement around certain core values. (A good book on this is GOD OF LIBERTY, which outlines the central values agreed upon by deists and evangelicals at the start.)

    The New Zealander Trevor Loudon, who I have had dinner with, has written two thorough books laying how how Marxists in America, a bunch of them now in Congress, and he documents that, have set out to replace our mostly Christian system of government and society with a system of dictatorship, where there is no balance of powers, no two parties, and no free media. This administration has taken that massively forward. It explains why the President has been trying to be a dictator and Harry Reid has been backing that agenda in the Congress, both of them blocking all cooperation and collegiality with the second party that they want to eradicate so they can be dictators. In Jesus’ name be gone, you crooks and scoundrels.

    By the way, the system of government I believe they are trying to establish, to “fundamental transform” America into by design, the one with only one party and government and big business as one, with the press acting like Pravda, is known by the word SOVIET.

  • Millie says:

    November 23, 2014 at 5:03 PM

    I agree. I was made aware of an activist progressive movement called “democratic constitutionalism” in which exchanging our Constitution with a progressive constitution was the goal. Laws were to be passed making it easier to change our founding documents initially but why do that when you can just do it with a unilateral swipe of the pen? Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is part of this movement. Her quote, “I would not look to the U.S. Constitution, if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012. I might look at the Constitution of South Africa…a fundamental instrument of government that embraced basic human rights…”
    You can keep R.B. Ginsburg. Give me Thomas Jefferson and James Madison!