Jonathan Gruber is an MIT professor who helped Mitt Romney design Massachusetts’ health care reform plan and did the same for Barack Obama and the Affordable Care Act. He was already involved in a controversy earlier this year when a video located by a “mild-mannered investment adviser” who lives near Philadelphia showed Gruber suggesting the ACA is designed to force states into creating insurance exchanges by withholding subsidies if they chose not to, an assertion that contradicts the Obama administration’s official stance on the matter. In recent days, three more unflattering videos of Gruber discussing Obamacare have emerged, the first uncovered by the aforementioned mild-mannered investment adviser. (The second was found by Fox News and the third by the Daily Caller.)
In the first video, Gruber says that identifying the ACA’s individual mandate as a mandate and not a tax was a ruse that plays on “the stupidity of the American voter.” In the second and third, he says a tax that the law levies on insurance companies was politically palatable, even though citizens ultimately pay for it via higher rates, because voters are too “stupid” to understand that by signing off on a tax on insurers they are actually taxing themselves. Here are the three clips:
Gruber has said he “spoke inappropriately” in the first clip but doesn’t seem to have addressed the others.
On the one hand, it’s true that using rhetorical runarounds to avoid using the word “tax” or avoid admitting that voters might lose money under a given policy is a cynical technique that plays on electoral ignorance. On the other hand, both parties play games with the definition of “tax,” and neither example cited by Gruber was in any way complicated enough to actually hoodwink anyone who spent more than a few minutes considering the ACA. And in the end, voters who don’t want politicians to treat them like they’re ignorant always have the option of reading and learning in order to become less ignorant. I wouldn’t bet on that happening.