By – Peter A. Finocchio
On Tuesday, December 9, 2014, MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, one of the key architects of ObamaCare, appeared before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform alongside Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator, Marilyn Tavenner, in a hearing that focused on the lack of transparency surrounding both the passage and implementation of the health care law. Gruber was taken to task by both Republicans and Democrats for his now infamous and derisive comments about “the stupidity of the American voter” and his claims about the need to deceive the American people in order to pass the law. “Professor Gruber is often said in Washington to be the definition of a gaffe,” Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) noted in his opening remarks, adding “that’s when somebody accidentally tells the truth.” Republicans sought to show that Dr. Gruber’s remarks were indicative of the lack of transparency with which Democrats passed and are implementing their health care law. Democrats sought to distance themselves and the Obama Administration from Gruber’s indefensible comments, while continuing to defend the flawed law.
Gruber was intransigently uncooperative with Republican lawmakers throughout the testimony, refusing even to disclose how much he was paid, at taxpayer expense, for his work. “You’re making it very clear that we’re not only going to have to discuss with your counsel but we’re going to have to serve a subpoena,” Chairman Issa told Gruber, annoyed by his refusal to answer simple questions. “The fact that every answer is ‘well discuss with my lawyer’ makes it very clear that we’re going to have to do more investigating and likely you will be back here before the new Chairman.”
Congressman Kerry Bentivolio (R-MI) denounced the Administration’s repeated ObamaCare statements as “lies on top of lies,” and he further denounced Gruber as “a co-conspirator in deceiving the American people.” When pressed about his comments and about ObamaCare specifics, Gruber hid behind the fact that he wasn’t a politician and therefore didn’t have this knowledge. “I have listened to you all morning about your lack of political acumen and how you therefore don’t know not to call the American people stupid,” Congressman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) commented. “Mr. Gruber you have progressed in your ability to be political,” Congressman Tim Walberg (R-MI), who assumed temporary chairmanship of the Committee, noted. Congressman Mark Meadows (R-NC) came to a similar conclusion. “You have made over 20 statements this morning that you are not political, and yet the American people who are watching this morning would say that you are being political.” He held. “Your statement is contrived, it is orchestrated, and it is honestly not transparent.”
The Committee’s interest in Dr. Gruber even went beyond the realm of his recent comments. Congressman Thomas Massie (R-KY) interrogated Gruber on his disturbing past observations on abortion. In a May 1997 article that he co-authored for the National Bureau of Economic Research, Gruber inferred decades of legalized abortion has helped improve our nation’s economy and social environment. Unsettlingly referring to children not born as a result of abortion as “marginal,” Gruber and his two fellow writers held that these aborted children “would have systematically been born into worse circumstances had the pregnancies not been terminated.” The analysis also posited that abortion had saved the federal government over $14 billion in welfare payments. Breitbart has surmised that Gruber’s “abortion advocacy is of a particularly pungent eugenics variety.” Gruber insisted that his paper “was not a philosophical paper” but was “about historical facts.” Continuing to divorce epistemological insight from ethical implication, Gruber added, “I have no philosophy of abortion. I have no philosophy of end of life care. My job as an economist is to deliver the empirical facts.” These glib responses did not satisfy Rep. Massie. “What you inferred, I find chilling,” Massie remarked. “What you inferred is if you reduce the number of children born, life will be better for those of us still living.” Concerns over Gruber’s own controversial views on human life are magnified when combined with the fact that this man was one of the key architects of ObamaCare. Many older Americans continue to worry that ObamaCare’s limited resources could lead to rationing of health care. Furthermore, some ObamaCare plans continue to fund “non-excepted abortion services” (for pregnancies that are not a result of rape or incest or ones that do not threaten the life of the mother) at taxpayer expense.
The Obama Administration and their allies in Congress have been quick to distance themselves from Gruber since several videos emerged of him insulting the intelligence of American voters and discussing the ways in which lawmakers were able to mask the true nature of the law in order to get it passed. Chairman Issa noted in his opening remarks that the Administration even resisted the decision to have him appear before Congress and urged the Committee not to seat him by their witness, Marilyn Tavenner. In their treatment of Gruber’s remarks in the Committee hearing, Democrats appeared to be more concerned about their political blowback than about the economist’s apparent elitist disdain for the American people or his cynical statements about the need to deceive the American voters. The Committee’s Ranking Member, Elijah Cummings (D-MD), eviscerated Gruber in his opening remarks, exclaiming, “I am extremely frustrated with Dr. Gruber’s statements. They were irresponsibly, incredibly disrespectful, and did not reflect reality.” Later, he added, “Worst of all, Dr. Gruber’s statements gave Republicans a public relations gift in their relentless political campaign to tear down the ACA and eliminate healthcare for millions of Americans.”
A last-minute addition to the hearing panel, an independent consultant and Washington, D.C. resident Ari Goldmann, argued the success of ObamaCare by narrating his own ability to find lower-cost, better-value coverage under the new law. Republicans argued that while some may have been able to find better coverage and were therefore the perfect “poster child” for ObamaCare, the majority were worse off as a result of the law. Chairman Issa told the stories of many such individuals. Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) gave a heartfelt account of how her husband had died in his sleep from a massive heart attack after he had declined one last heart test because he had lost his health coverage due to ObamaCare. “I want to suggest that regardless of what happened to me personally, that there have been so many glitches in the passage and implementation of ObamaCare that have real life consequences on people’s lives and the so-called glibness that has been referenced today have direct consequences for real American people,” she concluded.
AMAC has opposed ObamaCare from the start. We will continue to fight for repeal and replacement. We also urge an independent investigation into the apparent attempt by Administration officials to conceal this law’s flaws from the American people. Gruber’s snide condescension toward “we the people” is suggestive of the attitudes of the lawmakers who passed ObamaCare and the bureaucratic administrators who are carrying out its decrees. Despite what Democrats claim, there has been a profound lack of transparency surrounding ObamaCare since its inception. We were told by the former Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA,) that we needed to pass the bill to find out what was in it. Lawmakers who disagreed with the bill were shut out from the negotiation process and their own counter-proposals weren’t even considered. For years, President Obama delayed the most harmful provisions of the law in order to postpone the political backlash against himself and his party. Only now are more people beginning to see the law for what it is – and it is hurting real people. Contrary to what Jonathan Gruber believes, it was not the “stupidity” of the American voter that could have thwarted ObamaCare, but our intelligence.