A two videos have surfaced showing Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber calling the American people stupid. And in Washington, congressional Republicans reacted furiously to the first video, and the White House sought to distance itself from the man who was a key adviser in the development of Affordable Care Act legislation.
Earlier this week, a year-old video surfaced of Gruber saying that passage of Obamacare depended on a "lack of transparency" and also "the stupidity of the American voter or whatever" (below, starting at about the 21:00 mark).
On Wednesdsay night Fox News broadcast another tape in which Gruber talks about the "Cadillac tax" provision of the Affordable Care Act.
"They proposed it and that passed, because American voters were too stupid to understand the difference," he says in a talk at Washington University in St. Louis in October 2013. He was referring to a decision to tax insurers, rather than individuals, for providing the highest levels of coverage.
Gruber, an economics professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, became known as "Mr. Mandate" because of his insistence that the Affordable Care Act could not go forward without a requirement that virtually all adults be insured.
"A lack of transparency is a huge political advantage," Gruber says on the video that came out earlier this week, "and basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to getting the thing passed. It's the second-best argument. I wish Mark was right, that we could make it all transparent, but I'd rather have this law than not. . . . I think that involved tradeoffs that we don't prefer as academic economists but which are realistic."
U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., told reporters Wednesday that "the strategy was to hide the truth from the American people."
"I'm not into this post-modern world where you can say whatever you want to in order to achieve your agenda. That is a threat to the American republic... This is far deeper and more significant than the fact that he just spoke," Sessions said.
The White House sought to put some distance between it and Gruber.
“The Affordable Care Act was publicly debated over the course of 14 months, with dozens of congressional hearings, and countless town halls, speeches, and debates,” White House spokeswoman Jessica Santillo said. “The tax credits in the law that help millions of middle class Americans afford coverage were no secret, and in fact were central to the legislation. Not only do we disagree with [Gruber’s] comments, they’re simply not true.”
In the first instance, Gruber was speaking at 24th Annual Economic Health Conference that took place in October 2013 at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics at Pennsylvania University. The "Mark" he referred to was Mark Pauly, a professor of health care management at Penn.
The economist has apologized for his comments, telling MSNBC that he "spoke inappropriately."
“The comments in the video were made in an academic conference,” Gruber said on MSNBC . “I was speaking off the cuff, and I basically spoke inappropriately. And I regret having made those comments.
In a report posted Tuesday night, the Washington Post noted that some of the law's critics were "pointing to Gruber’s comments as evidence that the administration intentionally deceived the American public on the costs of the program."
The report also notes that Gruber, a member of the Obama transition team in 2008, worked with Mitt Romney in Massachusetts on the state-level health care transformation there.
Bloomberg News reported that an investment adviser in Philadelphia named Rich Weinstein dug up the piece of videotape a few days ago. Weinstein, the news service said, has reviewed many hours of videotape on which Gruber appears.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.