Saturday, November 15, 2014

Jonathan Gruber: One MIT Prof That Obama Didn't Need

MIT, let's make no mistake, has made some major technological contributions to this country, and continues to make educational ones with its open courseware program, e.g.

The profs giving those (video)courses, such as in math, chemistry and physics, deserve all the props for getting their lectures online so many around the world can benefit from them. (The ones on rocket propulsion engineering are especially good!)

But, on the other hand, some MIT profs have been colossal clowns and goofballs, one of whom is Richard Lindzen, who I already took down in previous blog posts for his climate science stance, e.g.

The latest goofball is Economic Prof. Jonathan Gruber, who has now become the Repukes' "star boy" since assorted videos have appeared where he basically disses the American voter for being "stupid" because of the lack of transparency he (and others) applied to the Affordable Care Act. The videos were excavated from online searches by some guy who became convinced that somewhere in the Youtube Archives one miscreant or other  must have discussed pulling the wool over the American people with "Obamacare".

In one video Gruber is seen saying:

"This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) did not score the mandate as taxes. If the CBO scored it as taxes, it dies."

He was referring here to the individual mandate which he also implemented as part of "Romney care" in Massachusetts, thereby mandating individuals pay in for private policies from insurance companies - or face tax penalties if they refused.

In another recovered video seen last night on CBS News we beheld Gruber bragging his sorry ass off how he got "the feds" to pour in money to support Romney's MA plan to the tune of $400 million. He fairly looked like a pig that had overeaten rotten squash and potatoes with his self-satisfied look - which is now playing nonstop on all the right wing channels- especially FOX. And we won't even go into how Limbaugh has bloviated that  "this proves Obamacare was a fraud".

But the worst "revelation" emerged from a particular video where Gruber appeared at some confab and blurted:

"Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. Basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass."

Well, I don't know what parallel universe Gruber inhabits, but it surely isn't the one I'm in. In fact, most voters -  left and right -  smelled a "rat" from the instant the Affordable Care Act was trotted out. On the Right, we beheld hundreds appearing at ACA informal events bearing their rifles - many loaded - along with degrading images of Obama (including with a bone through his nose in Witch doctor garb).

On the Left, while we didn't go off the deep end and bring loaded weapons to assorted ACA events, we were deeply suspicious. We simply didn't buy that the insurance companies that had swindled us over the years could possibly be legitimate partners in a health care rollout- whatever its name. And this is exactly why we fought for the public option - though our first choice was "Medicare for all". We felt at least a public option had a chance to pass, but the pussified Dems - though they held a 60-vote Senate majority -  were so desperate to get Reepo cooperation for political cover,  that they allowed 3 Reepos to be on the critical 7-member  finance committee headed by Max Baucus. The rest, as they say is history, and when Baucus aligned himself with the Reepo three we knew it was curtains for the option.

But don't  tell me that we the voters were "stupid", because that was a lie, and shows that Gruber is as dense or deluded as those who believed that the ACA would really cut long term costs without negatively impacting other programs, such as Medicare. (A $500b cut in that program was needed to help fund the ACA, along with reducing the frequency of many preventative tests- hence the new "formal guidelines" for fewer PSA test, mammograms, etc.)

At the end of the day, the wool wasn't pulled so much over the voters as the Congressional Budget Office which was charged with correctly assessing the impact on the long term budget while also discriminating between real taxation and non-taxation in the mandate.

By far the worst blunder of pandering the ACA to the masses was in telling them if they liked their plan they could keep it. This later turned into a fiasco as we saw after the rollout how the insurance companies "never heard of it" and kicked  tens of thousands off plans that were tailored to their needs to obtain general plans that were not (i.e. including pregnancy care, tests etc. even though a couple may be child free). Alternatively, the ones allowed to remain on their plans saw their premiums, their deductibles or both increase brutally.

But again most people were skeptical of the rosy promises from the get go. Most intelligent people also knew that any law requiring thousands of pages was likely laden with bullshit - as much or more so than Vince Buglisoi's 2,500 odd page tract on "Reclaiming History" (to try to show Oswald was the real JFK assassin after all).

Despite its flaws, and there are many (not the least of which is that the ACA was originally conceived by the Republicans in the Nixon era), bear in mind that given the political constraints and an administration not prepared to go full tilt on the public option - it was the only "game" in town.  It meant at least half of the population could finally secure health care as opposed to none, and as we know from provisional ethics, enabling half a loaf is to be preferred over none.

The moral of this story, if there is one, is for future presidents to be very careful about exactly who they select as advisers or as architects of a particular program or  policy.

If they aren't it may come back to bite them.

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