Patterico's Pontifications

11/14/2014

The White House Responds To Grilling About Gruber

Filed under: General — Dana @ 5:35 pm

[guest post by Dana]

Confirming that they really do think we are that stupid, the White House was in full-denial when responding to Fox News correspondent Ed Henry’s grilling about the Gruber affair:

During a press briefing held in Myanmar Thursday, Henry immediately questioned Earnest on comments made by Jonathan Gruber, the Obamacare consultant who suggested that the “stupidity of the American voter” contributed to the passing of the bill.

“[Gruber] went on to say, quote, ‘A lack of transparency was a huge political advantage for the President,’ in terms of selling it to the American people,” Henry said. “I thought it was just the opposite. Didn’t the President promise unprecedented transparency. Why would one of the architects of the law suggest that you were misleading people?”

“Well, again, it sounds like you may have watched the video a few more times than I have,” Earnest replied, adding that he wasn’t “going to quibble with what he actually said.”

Henry then asked if the White House felt “bad” about Gruber’s comments.

“I disagree vigorously with that assessment, I think is what I would say.I think the fact of the matter is this is a — this was a very difficult undertaking, but ultimately this is a law that has had significant benefits for millions of people that have been able to sign up through the marketplaces established by the Affordable Care Act,” Earnest replied.

–Dana

Jonathan Gruber’s Central (and Well-Paid) Role in Fooling the Public About the Cost of ObamaCare

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:39 am

We previously noted that Jonathan Gruber — the ObamaCare architect who is on video repeatedly saying Democrats fooled the stupid American voters with ObamaCare — was said by the New York Times to have been involved with developing the proposal and helping write the legislation:

After Mr. Gruber helped the administration put together the basic principles of the proposal, the White House lent him to Capitol Hill to help Congressional staff members draft the specifics of the legislation.

The hacks at Scott Lemieux’s (further fallout from my unwise wading into their comment section) point out that the next sentence says:

This assignment primarily involved asking his graduate student researchers to tweak his model’s software code.

As if this validates the idea that he was simply a “numbers cruncher” who had nothing to do with the way the law was written.

Let’s put aside the fact for a moment that the article itself says that Gruber (or “Mr. Mandate,” as the article calls him) is essentially single-handedly responsible for the mandate (“It is his research that convinced the Obama administration that health care reform could not work without requiring everyone to buy insurance.”) Let’s talk about that number-crunching, shall we?

Because it’s the number-crunching that allowed the law’s authors to write it in a way that would fool the CBO and the American people. And he was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to do this.

Ed Morrissey points to a fact-check in the Washington Post in which Glenn Kessler rates as “true” the claim that Gruber earned almost $400,000 from the Obama administration. Kessler adds value by describing Gruber’s number-crunching and what it did for lawmakers:

As the agency put it, “Dr. Gruber developed a proprietary statistically sophisticated micro-simulation model that has the flexibility to ascertain the distribution of changes in health care spending and public and private sector health care costs due to a large variety of changes in health insurance benefit design, public program eligibility criteria, and tax policy.”

The model, the Gruber Microsimulation Model, is the coin of the realm, in large part because it is similar to the model used by the Congressional Budget Office. That means administration policy-makers could predict with reasonable certainty how CBO would score legislation. Given that legislation in Washington often falls or rises depending on the CBO score, that made this model a very powerful tool for administration officials.

So it’s clear that part of his job was to disguise the cost of the plan by running models similar to what CBO runs. Remember when he said that “this bill was written in a tortured way to make sure” the Congressional Budget Office “did not score the mandate as taxes”? He was right there with the lawmakers, crunching numbers and working with them to make sure that the language of the law was “tortured” to take advantage of what he calls “the stupidity of the American voter.”

This is not a guy on the outside looking in — although Kessler notes in his fact-check that he often pretended to be, and the White House went along with that deception too:

In one especially fishy circumstance, Nancy-Ann DeParle, at the time the director of the White House Office of Health Reform, wrote about Gruber’s work on the White House blog on Nov. 29, 2009. “MIT Economist Confirms Senate Health Reform Bill Reduces Costs and Improves Coverage” was the headline on the post.

DeParle made no reference to the fact that Gruber had already earned hundreds of thousands of dollars working for the administration. She described him as “a MIT economist who has been closely following the health insurance reform process.”

The deception in the presentation of the law’s costs was both breathtaking and commonplace. For example: remember how the law’s benefits oddly didn’t kick in for years? That was deliberate. It was done so the administration could claim that the “10-year cost” of the law was a certain figure. CBO looks out only 10 years, you see, so if you defer the payments, you can deceive the stupid American voter. Neil Irwin had a piece on this in the New York Times a couple of days ago.

[A]s Sarah Kliff notes at Vox, it is also why the law was structured to expand insurance coverage three years after passage. That way its cost estimate by the C.B.O. was kept under $1 trillion during the first decade after enactment. One trillion was the highest number that Democratic leaders thought was politically feasible.

(Irwin noted that our beloved President Bush engaged in similar chicanery with that shiny new prescription drug benefit we got the last time Republicans controlled Congress and the White House.)

Jonathan Gruber had a direct and very well-paid role, not just in crafting this law, but in manipulating its language to disguise its ultimate cost from the American voting public that he holds in such contempt.

Congressional hearings? You bet we need Congressional hearings.


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