One thing about a lie is that you can’t hide from the truth. So Obama, you want to say again he is just some ‘adviser’?
In the space of a week, Jonathan Gruber has become a non-person in Washington. Until last Monday, the MIT health economist was widely and uncontroversially cited as an “architect” of the Affordable Care Act, a go-toexpert regarding the law’s politics and mechanics. But after multiple videos surfaced in which Gruber said or implied that the bill’s backers relied on deception and an assumption of voter stupidity in order to pass it, Obamacare’s backers moved swiftly to distance themselves from Gruber and downplay his role in the creation of the law.
Asked about Gruber’s videotaped declaration that “lack of transparency” provided “a huge political advantage,” Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi responded dismissively. “I don’t know who he is,” she said. “He didn’t help write our bill.” A Wall Street Journal item by Neera Tanden, the president of the liberal Center for American Progress and a former administration staffer, opened by insisting that Gruber “did not make policy, nor did he work for the White House, HHS, or any congressional committee.” Jay Angoff, the former overseer of the health law’s implementation at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), told Politico that Gruber was neither a legislator nor a staffer. “He’s like 300 million other Americans who can have their opinion.”
Even the president himself weighed in. Responding over the weekend to questions about Gruber’s statements, President Obama pushed back on Gruber’s role, labeling him “some adviser who was never on our staff.” Gruber’s remarks, Obama said, were “not a reflection on the actual process that was run” when crafting and passing Obamacare.
These reactions from Obama and others were, for the most part, technically true—but nonetheless misleading about Gruber’s influence on the law. At a minimum, they were not fully transparent about his role. In attempting to downplay Gruber’s remarks, Obamacare’s supporters had instead proved him right.
Nancy Pelosi, for example, knew Gruber’s name when she cited his work by 2009 in support of the law. And while Tanden is technically right that Gruber did not work for the White House, the Department of Health and Human Services, or any congressional committee as a staffer, he did, as she notes, work as a contractor, receiving almost $400,000 for a technical analysis of the law.
As for whether Gruber helped write the law, he has claimed explicitly that he did. In a 2012 lecture on the structure of the law, Gruber says that the small business tax credits are a portion of the bill that he “actually wrote.”