Politics & Policy

The Gruber Confession

Jonathan Gruber
Now we see the arrogance that lay behind Obama’s smooth reassurances.

It’s not exactly the Ems Dispatch (the diplomatic cable Bismarck doctored to provoke the 1870 Franco​–​Prussian War). But what the just-resurfaced Gruber Confession lacks in world-historical consequence, it makes up for in world-class cynicism. This October 2013 video shows MIT professor Jonathan Gruber, a principal architect of Obamacare, admitting that, in order to get it passed, the law was made deliberately obscure and deceptive. It constitutes the ultimate vindication of the charge that Obamacare was sold on a pack of lies.

“Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage,” said Gruber. “Basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass.”

First, Gruber said, the bill’s authors manipulated the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which issues gold-standard cost estimates of any legislative proposal: “This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes.” Why? Because “if CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies.” And yet, the president himself openly insisted that the individual mandate — what you must pay the government if you fail to buy health insurance — was not a tax.

Worse was the pretense that Obamacare wouldn’t cost anyone anything. On the contrary, it’s a win–win, insisted President Obama, promising that the “typical family” would save $2,500 on premiums every year.

Skeptics like me pointed out the obvious: You can’t subsidize 30 million uninsured without someone paying something. Indeed, Gruber admits, Obamacare was a huge transfer of wealth — which had to be hidden from the American people, because “if you had a law which . . . made explicit that healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed.”

Remember: The whole premise of Obamacare was that it would help the needy, but if you were not in need, if you liked what you had, you would be left alone. Which is why Obama kept repeating — Politifact counted 31 times — that “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan.”

But of course you couldn’t, as millions discovered when they were kicked off their plans last year. Millions more were further shocked when they discovered major hikes in their premiums and deductibles. It was their wealth that was being redistributed.

As NBC News and others reported last year, the administration knew this all along. But White House political hands overrode those wary about the president’s phony promise. In fact, Obama knew the falsity of his claim as far back as February 2010 when, at a meeting with congressional leaders, he agreed that millions would lose their plans.

Now, it’s not unconstitutional to lie. But it is helpful for citizens to know the cynicism with which the massive federalization of their health care was crafted.

It gets even worse, thanks again to Gruber. Last week, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case claiming that the administration is violating its own health-care law, which clearly specifies that subsidies can be given only to insurance purchased on “exchanges established by the state.” Just 13 states have set up such exchanges. Yet the administration is giving tax credits to plans bought on the federal exchange — serving 37 states — despite what the law says.

If the government loses, the subsidy system collapses and, with it, Obamacare itself. Which is why the administration is frantically arguing that “exchanges established by the state” is merely sloppy drafting, a kind of legislative typo. And that the intent all along was to subsidize all plans on all exchanges.

Reenter professor Gruber. On a separate video in a different speech, he explains what Obamacare intended: “If you’re a state and you don’t set up an exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits.” The legislative idea was to coerce states into setting up their own exchanges by otherwise denying their citizens subsidies.

This may have been a stupid idea, but it was no slip. And it’s the law, as written, as enacted and as intended. It can be changed by Congress only, not by the executive. Which is precisely what the plaintiffs are saying. Q.E.D.

It’s refreshing that “the most transparent administration in history,” as this administration fancies itself, should finally display candor about its signature act of social change. Inadvertently, of course. But now we know what lay behind Obama’s smooth reassurances — the arrogance of an academic liberalism that rules in the name of a citizenry it mocks, disdains, and deliberately, contemptuously deceives.

 Charles Krauthammer is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2014 The Washington Post Writers Group

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