EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays.
Dear Reader (including the many new anti-Semitic and just plain bat-guano crazy people who’ve wandered into my life in recent days),
Last night I said on Twitter:
Forgetting may not be the right word. Though if this was the Soviet Union, teams of fat-fingered bureaucrats would be airbrushing his likeness from all official records.
In case you’re not up to speed, let’s recap. It’s really a wonderful, feel-good story for the whole family. In the Halbig
decision this week, the court ruled that according to a plain reading of the law, only state exchanges are eligible for premium subsidies under Obamacare. As a political and policy matter, this would be the equivalent of throwing a very large mackerel on a house of cards. It wouldn’t necessarily destroy Obamacare, but that would be the way to bet.
Anyway, the liberal response to the decision was really quite fun. They shrieked about how this was a mere “typo” or “drafting error” (which is just not true) and tried to make it seem like suggesting otherwise was dishonest madness of the sort reserved for the likes of Dr. Evil’s father and his claims to have invented the question mark. But what I really liked was the panic over “judicial activism.” E.J. Dionne — who has no problem with liberal judicial activism that simply invents new rights out of thin air — called this decision “anti-democratic sabotage.” This is funhouse logic. As NR put it in an editorial, “It’s an odd world in which judges are accused of usurping the role of Congress for ruling that the executive branch must follow the text of a law Congress wrote.” Seriously, who knows what will happen if the courts start adhering to the law as written? That’s like saying the IRS should be politically neutral. Madness!
Moreover, liberals insisted that nobody in their right mind ever believed Congress intended to withhold subsidies on the federal exchange in order to encourage states to create state exchanges.
A couple days ago E.J. Dionne said on the Dianne Rehm Show that “There is absolutely not a shred of evidence, not a bit, that this was intended as any sort of incentive.” He goes on to say that this rationale was “invented out of whole cloth.”
And on MSNBC Jonathan Gruber told Chris Matthews, “Chris, it is unambiguous this is a typo. Literally every single person involved in the crafting of this law has said that it`s a typo, that they had no intention of excluding the federal states. And why would they?”
No, really: “It’s just simply a typo, and it’s really criminal that this has even made it as far as it has.”
If this were a Godzilla movie, it would be around this moment that the government scientist said “A giant reptile from the bottom of the ocean? Please. There’s no such th . . .” at which point a giant scaly foot squishes him.
Because here’s Gruber giving a presentation in 2012:
Gruber: In the law, it says if the states don’t provide them, the federal backstop will. The federal government has been sort of slow in putting out its backstop, I think partly because they want to sort of squeeze the states to do it. 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. 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. I hope 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. But you know, once again, the politics can get ugly around this.
Now Michael Cannon — a heroic opponent of Obamacare and one of the architects of the Halbig suit – has some kind words for Gruber. And maybe Gruber has an explanation. That wasn’t me! That was my terrorist twin brother Hans! And Cannon is certainly right that this alone doesn’t prove congressional intent, though a quick Nexis search shows that Gruber was called “the architect” of Obamacare hundreds of times in the mainstream media and no one disputes that he and Zeke Emanuel were intellectual guiding lights of Obamacare. He even wrote a graphic novel on the subject.
In the world of health-care wonk debates, the emergence of this video reminds me a lot of this classic scene with Samuel L. Jackson.
As I’ve said before, “You’d have to have a heart of stone not to laugh at the unraveling of Obamacare.”