The Purging of Professor Gruber: ACA Architect Disavowed In The Beltway

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 8.45.49 AMPelosi-denies-Gruber-2014nov-fullIt appears that friends (albeit a dwindling number) of MIT professor Jonathan Gruber may soon have to put his face on milk cartons to locate the economist. After a series of frank but embarrassing statements on the strategies behind the Administration’s passage of the Affordable Car Act (ACA), Gruber has moved from the status of “disfavored” to “disavowed” to “disappeared.” This week, Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi expressed a complete lack of knowledge of who Gruber is, was, or will be — even though she previously cited his work and he was paid $400,000 as one of the architects of Obamacare and has made over $2 million from HHS. Such roles are often difficult for scholars in moving between the political and academic worlds, but it is rare to find an academic become such an issue in a national debate.

Gruber had already previously attracted controversy with statements where he endorsed the theory at the heart of the recent decisions in Halbig and King by challengers to the ACA: to wit, that the federal funding provision was a quid pro quo device to reward states with their own exchanges and to punish those that force the creation of federal exchanges. That issue will now be decided by the United States Supreme Court. Gruber caused uproar when, after he had denounced the theory as “nutty” during the arguments in Halbig and King, he was shown later to have embraced that same interpretation. Gruber has become a major liability in the litigation. Gruber then was back in the news with an equally startling admission that the Obama Administration (and Gruber) succeeded in passing the ACA only by engineering a “lack of transparency” on the details and relying on “the stupidity of the American voter.” Now a new videotape has surfaced from Gruber speaking at the University of Rhode Island in 2012 and expressing the same contempt for the intelligence of citizens — suggesting again that they were hoodwinked to “the lack of economic understanding of the American voter.” In another view taken from at an October 2013 event at Washington University in St. Louis, Gruber also refers to the “Cadillac tax,” and says “They proposed it and that passed, because the American people are too stupid to understand the difference.” His comments of working in Massachusetts (with Mitt Romney) are no less insulting to an array of people.

That is when the Beltway machine kicked into high gear to erase all memory of a professor named Gruber. If this trend continues, we will need dental records just to confirm his identity.

The Washington Post noted after Pelosi’s press conference that she cited Gruber’s work by name in support of Obamacare:

PELOSI: We’re not finished getting all of our reports back from CBO, but we’ll have a side by side to compare. But our bill brings down rates. I don’t know if you have seen Jonathan Gruber of MIT’s analysis of what the comparison is to the status quo versus what will happen in our bill for those who seek insurance within the exchange.

Her office also relied on Gruber when fighting to pass the law.

Before he was “disappeared,” he was widely cited as an architect of the act. The New York Times said in 2012:

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.

Nevertheless, the White House used an anonymous official to disavow Gruber’s role as an architect of the Act and insist that he never “worked in the White House” — a comment that may refer to the location of his actual desk.

He was widely sought as one of the architect of the law, which ultimately proved his undoing since many of these comments came in the same 2012-13 period. Supporters of the White House have even challenged the $400,000 figure paid out for Gruber. However, the Washington Post not only affirmed the figure used by Republicans but found that he had received $2 million on various contracts. Pretty good for a guy who must not now be named.

The tempest swirling around Gruber is difficult to watch. He is an accomplished scholar with a long list of accomplishments to his credit. The frankness with which he has spoken is a signature of an academic, though his view of the intelligence of the American people is quite shocking. It will remain a cautionary tale for those traveling between the academic and political worlds.

244 thoughts on “The Purging of Professor Gruber: ACA Architect Disavowed In The Beltway”

  1. LJC,
    I must be reading this all wrong; here is what this survey seems to be indicating.

    Gallup surveyed 10,647; 85% had insurance (9,623); of that number, 19% had a new policy (1,541) and of that number, 27% got them through the exchanges (407). Overall, of the total number of people surveyed, only 4% got plans through an exchange. Of that number, 25% are dissatisfied and will not be returning to the exchanges.

    To conclude, the survey demonstrates that 97% of the respondents have not or will not participate in the exchanges. I believe the Edsel had better numbers than this!

  2. How many bought? That number changes daily. If it’s 7 out of 10 for 7 million people, then 4.9 million are happy. If it’s 10 million, then 7 million are happy. For a country of 300+ million, I think that’s pathetic! If it was so wonderful, 100+ millions should be on it. We spent who knows how many hundreds of millions. To have 7 million people happy. If we’d had a wise President, it would have been deferred a year (as recommended to him). But not this President. He wanted it, we got it, and millions of people are uninsured. Who were insured and happy. I want to know how many of the 7 or 10 million had no insurance prior to Ocare. Does anyone know that number?

  3. Of course they are Paul because you don’t like the results. Do you have any factual evidence that shows they are a democratic pollster? If you were not one of them, although I would be surprised if you have not posted that, just given the usual tenor of your comments, and your right antiObama leaning, I apologize although in rereding your reply I never said the ACA and gallup but “people hating the ACA”

  4. Not sure if it was this post where Paul et al were saying people hate the ACA Gallup has found that not to be the case:

    PRINCETON, N.J. — Over seven in 10 Americans who bought new health insurance policies through the government exchanges earlier this year rate the quality of their healthcare and their healthcare coverage as “excellent” or “good.” These positive evaluations are generally similar to the reviews that all insured Americans give to their health insurance

    1. leejcaroll – I don’t think I made a comment regarding Gallup and Obamacare. My problem with Gallup is that they are generally a Democratic pollster. That colors their results. I think they are putting their fingers on the scales when they are reporting results.

  5. Now Obama doesn’t remember him being in a meeting, even though he’s in the WH logs as visiting 20 times! Obama is a lot like a Hillary, a compulsive liar. Maybe she won’t run when she sees lying doesn’t work as good as when Bill was President!

    1. Sandi – Obama doesn’t remember him but has been quoted as saying he cribbed stuff from Gruber.

  6. Please stop calling Gruber an economist. He is a Keynesian court astrologer like Krugman, whose career consists of concocting asinine excuses for any and all government expansion.


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