— This article by Jerry Cates, first published on 12 November 2014, was last revised on 20 November 2014. © Govinthenews Vol. 5:11(2).
Jonathan Gruber is an M.I.T. health economist with a unique perspective on the Affordable Care Act (ACA). He’s a real stand-up guy who loves to speak his mind. He’s also a stand-out member of a body of individuals whose association with the ACA has made each of them quite wealthy, much like the way parasites benefit by sucking the blood of their hosts. Remember, though the government — whether federal or state — paid Dr. Gruber’s invoices (some $2 million worth, at minimum, according to most sources), the money that’s doled out comes from you and me, the American taxpayer. As such we form a grouping that Dr. Gruber likes to label in a special way that we’ll get to in a moment.
But first, back to that ultra-special group of which Dr. Gruber is a member. Even there he’s extraordinary. He’s recently become famous for expressing, out loud — not just once but, at last count, at least four times — how the ACA was pushed through the legislative process using intentionally deceptive practices. To hear him tell it Dr. Gruber advised the government to lie to the American people. Worse, those practices were intended, in Gruber’s own words, to get past what he refers to as the “stupidity of the American voter.” He means, of course, you and me. We vote — if you don’t, you may stop reading now — and to Dr. Gruber that makes us stupid. I wonder, does Dr. Gruber vote? Interesting question…
American conservatives have decried the deceptive practices of this White House for years. Thus, except for his characterization of American voters as stupid, Gruber’s comments might not have made headlines. He started by characterizing those who vote at the polls, many of whom elected our current president into office, as intellectually deficient, dull, dumb, senseless fools (we could list more synonyms for the word stupid, but you get my point) and then he went further. He outlined, in detail, just how the government suckered American voters into voting in favor of the ACA. Yes, suckered, as a result of being treated to a particularly egregious form of lying. When the government does that it’s ok, says Dr. Gruber.
But who’s really being stupid here? His candid admissions of deceptive practices amounted to a plea of guilty, not just for him but for the White House as a whole, to a number of reprehensible, even — were he and his co-conspirators in government not effectively exempt from prosecution — criminal acts. And that guilty plea came from one who was in a position to know. After all, it was he, Jonathan Gruber, PhD, who helped design the earlier health reform program in Massachusetts on which Obamacare was based, and it was also he, the very same Jonathan Gruber, PhD, who later signed on with the White House as chief architect of the ACA’s ultimate design.
Oh, but don’t tell that to Ms. House Minority Leader. The same woman who has, on a number of occasions in the not-too-distant past, extolled Dr. Gruber’s qualifications in flowery language that suggested she and Gruber were close confidants. Yet on 13 November 2014 she claimed — on national television — that she didn’t know who he was, in a sputtering, spitting, morse-code-kind-of-speech that would have made Barney Frank proud. In any case, she went on to say, he (Dr. Gruver) had nothing to do with the ACA so any questions about his involvement are irrelevant.
Nothing to do with the ACA? Does this woman really think she can lie to us with impunity? Well, she must. She has a history of doing just that throughout her tenure in Congress, and American voters in her neck of the woods have been voting her back into office for a long, long time. Which tells us that Gruber does have a point, at least about the stupidity of some American voters…
But, back to Gruber’s involvement in the ACA: one need only do a little digging to discover proof that he can rightly be considered the ACA’s Guru in chief. The evidence suggests he was its chief engineer and navigator, whose advice, meticulously followed, guided it through the legislative process and made it happen. Nobody else is so conversant with it that they are comfortable enough to write a comic book on the ACA, but Dr. Gruber was, and yes, he did in fact write a graphic, comic-style book about it. In that comic book he paints himself as its special spokesperson. Why should we doubt that? How many people do we know who have earned over $2 million advising the federal government, and the governments of at least eight states, usually at about $400k a whack, on the ACA? If he has nothing to do with it, isn’t that somewhat odd, to say the least?
Ah, but there’s more, and some of what’s more is a trifle humorous to boot. Nobody else has been willing, time and time again, to tell others, particularly other academics in conferences and similar settings, the naked truth about the actual cost of the ACA and how it was pushed through Congress. Only Honest-Abe Gruber, and he’s done that repeatedly. He must really think we are stupid, so stupid, in fact, that we’d never find out all the Gruverisms he’s served up on the ACA and how it came into being, Gruverisms that he’s been giddily explaining to his high-brow, intellectually superior buddies in Academia. Or maybe he thought that, even if we learned about those Gruverisms, we’d be too stupid to understand what they really meant.
Well, if that’s what he thought, he’s a lot like that woman mentioned above. And, like her, he’s also wrong.
His candid discussions on the ACA remind me of an old joke about another engineer — this time a fictional character — who was sentenced to the guillotine. On the day of his execution he avoids being beheaded three times in a row when, inexplicably, the blade stops just short of his neck. “Turn me over, so I’m facing up,” he tells the executioner, who is busily preparing the guillotine for a fourth try. The executioner complies, and then, when the blade again stops just short of his neck, the engineer exclaims “There! That’s the problem. See that set-screw? Loosen it up, just a little, and — by golly — on the next try the blade should whistle through the channel perfectly!”
Engineers like Gruber focus so intently on the mechanics of the jobs they perform, and become so proud of the processes they’ve contrived and executed that they can’t be quiet about it. They have to tell someone, anyone, how their ingenuity made the gears mesh, as components of a well-oiled machine, to boldly accomplish the desired objective. The difference between the fictional engineer in the joke and real people like Dr. Gruber and others, like Ms. House Minority Leader, is that the engineer of fiction knew the next try would almost certainly end his life. Miscreants like Dr. Gruber and his kind in the White House believe, based on their abilities to skate by every charge of misconduct in the past, that they are immune to both discovery of, and punishment for, their misdeeds. I mentioned earlier that such people are effectively exempt from prosecution. Well, maybe so, maybe not. Government workers — including members of Congress and the Executive Branch — are generally subject to the same laws as ordinary American citizens. But, because of their abilities to influence those who would be prosecuting them, it’s harder to make charges against them stick. Still, misbehaving never goes unpunished forever. Today, Dr. Gruber is likely having second thoughts on how immune he may or may not be to prosecution for his conduct, but so must many others who have a history similar to his in the White House. The joke, from all indications, is on him and his partners in crime…
While speaking last year at an academic panel discussing the ACA, Gruber pointed out in graphic terms how the ACA “was written in a tortured way” to ensure that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) didn’t score “the mandate as taxes.” That stratagem, you recall, enabled a benighted U.S. Supreme Court to proclaim that even though the U.S. Government was forcing the America people to buy into the ACA or face heavy fines, the ACA mandate did not amount — according to the Supreme Court’s own tortured, inexplicable logic — to an unconstitutional tax. Dr. Gruber further explained, with an air of academic superiority, that the absence of transparency is “a huge political advantage,” before breathlessly uttering the veritable icing on the cake: “Call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass.”
When I first heard about Dr. Gruber’s recordings, the first word that came to my mind was Goober… That word, “Goober,” is often used as a term of endearment, though it’s usually applied to lovable, harmless persons of generally inferior intellect. Though not dumb, Gruver is a lovable guy, if only because his candid comments on the record provide the best evidence we’ve found, thus far, to prove what we’ve known about the ACA all along. Now, Goober is also used in an unflattering way to describe otherwise intelligent people who — either in word or deed — repeatedly screw things up. So, you see, while Dr. Gruber may not be a total Goober in the first sense of the word, he is an Uber-Goober in the second. And, fortunately for the “stupid” American public but unfortunately for Gruber and his cronies in the White House, his Goobernotorious screwups have the potential to force the unraveling of the ACA altogether, when the — hopefully, now somewhat more level-headed — U.S. Supreme Court rules, in early 2015, on the legality of the federal subsidies that are being applied in states which have not established healthcare exchanges.
One wonders, too, if the first sense of the meaning of Goober fits Dr. Gruber’s less-than-genius-like comments in defense of his now-infamous four-fold admissions to the academic throngs who hung on his every word. When the first recording of those comments surfaced — laying out his admissions about the tortured way the ACA was written, the need for a lack of transparency in government as a stratagem useful for getting controversial bills passed, and on what he smugly referred to as “the stupidity of the American voter” — he explained them away as off-the-cuff remarks that he didn’t mean, er, exactly. Then, soon thereafter, those three additional recordings came to light, from similar meetings in which he’d made almost identical, if not even more damning, statements that contradicted his hastily prepared defense. Clearly the candid remarks Dr. Gruber was making were not off-the-cuff. He meant them, exactly. And, it can convincingly be said by his critics that he was speaking, directly, for the man at the top in the White House.
Which, in the view of many, makes Dr. Gruber a serious contender for the title of Goober of the Year. To win that title, however, he’ll first have to beat out the man whose name is most closely associated with the ACA, and who, from all indications, feels exactly the same way he does about the way to get legislation passed under the noses of “stupid American voters“…
Oh, yes, one more thing: the American people want their money back, Dr. Gruber. We hope you haven’t spent it all yet, because we have a strong suspicion the stupid American voters you mentioned are about to descend upon you, looking for restitution. But don’t fret. You are not alone. Lots of others like you are being found out. It would not be good to be in your and their shoes once America’s stupid voters get wind of you. And hey, you, Ms. House Minority Leader! Being Queen of the Sound Byte works some of the time, but not All Of The Time. The old saying “You can fool all the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but not all of the people all of the time” is still true, and the some of us stupid voters who aren’t fooled by you are probably getting ready to deal with you, too. There are thousands of humane but effective ways to mete out punishment for the crime of deception, and I suspect the Republican-led Congress will know, and be capable of wielding, all of them…
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