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It’s Time For Leftist Gruber Truthers To Give It A Rest


Jonathan Gruber was a key architect of Obamacare who was intimately involved in the drafting of the legislation.

That is a fact. It is not arguable. It is not assailable. It is backed up by overwhelming contemporaneous evidence long before Gruber became a controversial figure whose loose lips threatened to sink the Obamacare ship. And the people who pimped Gruber as the all-knowing health care savior who single-handedly built the model that guaranteed a future of health care glory were not Obamacare’s critics. They were its most ardent proponents.

Gruber’s numerous video-taped remarks have caused enormous problems for the pro-Obamacare left. Enormous. And the problems are directly related to the lawsuits challenging the validity of an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rule that says patients in states without state health care exchanges are eligible to receive federal subsidies to offset the obscene costs of their health insurance plans. The text of the Affordable Care Act repeatedly states that federal subsidies may only flow to those who purchase their plans from an exchange “established by the State” as opposed to one established by the federal government.

Unfortunately for the Obama administration, states weren’t all that keen on the whole state exchange idea. So most of them balked. And when it became clear that states would not do Obama’s dirty work in establishing their own exchanges, the IRS came to the rescue and promulgated a rule stating that federal subsidies would be available to everyone.

Without the facade of federal subsidies to help mask the massive cost increases caused by Obamacare, the already rickety law collapses. And the best part about the whole legal controversy over the IRS rule is that the self-styled brightest minds of the leftist online commentariat never saw it coming. As I wrote back in July, if nothing else, the whole Halbig hullabaloo just goes to show how bad most leftist wonks are at their jobs.

The latest uproar over Gruber proves it once again.

Now, to their credit, they seem to finally understand how bad Gruber’s comments are for the pending Supreme Court case about the IRS rule. And his comments are damaging because they fly in the face of the government’s arguments about the absurdity of believing that the law meant to prevent subsidies from flowing through federal exchanges. But in one of his many videos, Gruber clearly states that what the government says is absurd is actually the precise outcome intended by those who designed the law: the federal government wanted all 50 states to establish exchanges. What better way to coerce them into doing that than by making federal subsidies contingent upon the establishment of a state exchange? What the Obama administration’s legal briefs say is absurd is exactly what the law’s architect said was the end goal.

And therein lies the latest mission for Obamacare’s dimwitted online propagandists: let’s just tell everyone Gruber wasn’t the law’s architect! Yeah, that’s the ticket. Enter Jonathan Chait:

I can never quite tell if Chait himself is dumb as paste, or if he merely assumes that his readership is dumb as paste, which would just make him one of the Internet’s most intellectually deceitful writers, rather than one of its dumbest. Maybe it’s both. Who knows. I’ll leave that to the discerning reader to decide.

Chait’s claim is great precisely because it’s just so…not believable in any way, shape, or form. Let’s take a look at the evidence. We’ll start with the New York Times:

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.

The language used in the story is fascinating, since it basically characterizes Gruber as the property of the White House. How else could the White House lend him to Capitol Hill unless it owned him outright?

“But how would the newspaper even know if Gruber helped draft the law?” an intellectually challenged person with a penchant for conspiracy theories and a crippling case of epistemological closure might ask. Fair enough. Here we have the Obama campaign itself declaring in 2012 that Gruber “helped write Obamacare“:

Gruber Helped Write Obamacare

Now enter Jonathan Cohn of TNR.

Cohn has long been a direct conduit for Obamacare spin from Gruber. As a result, Cohn pitches himself as a true expert on Obamacare, one of the few people who followed every zig and zag of the law as it moved through the legislative process. He then uses this authority-by-osmosis to bash the notion that Obamacare prohibits federal subsidies from flowing through federal exchanges. And how does Cohn describe Gruber? Why, as Obamacare’s architect. Over and over and over again. It’s almost as if Cohn had a keyboard macro specifically designed to refer to MIT economist Jonathan Gruber as Obamacare’s architect. Let’s take a look back at a few of the different ways Cohn described Gruber before the Halbig/King/Burwell unpleasantness began.

On May 21, 2010, in an article entitled “How They Did It,” here’s how Cohn described Gruber:

MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, one of the plan’s architects, led a group of center-left intellectuals who hyped the experiment’s success and touted it as a model for national action in articles, speeches, and consultation with prominent Democratic Party politicians.

On October 11, 2011, Cohn included Gruber in a story with the sub-headline “A timely reminder of just how closely the architects of Obamacare modeled their efforts on Romneycare.” Cohn asserted Gruber’s authority as the architect of Obamacare and Romneycare in order to bash Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Care to guess how Romney’s team addressed the controversy? By saying Gruber wasn’t really all that involved in Romneycare. Sound familiar?

Or take this passage by Cohn from May 21, 2012:

I’ll have more to say about Massachusetts and, in particular, the cost control efforts later in the week. But for now I’ll leave you with the verdict of Jonathan Gruber, the MIT economist who was a key architect of both Romneycare and Obamacare[.]

Here’s how Cohn described Gruber in an article from January 30, 2014:

For many people, the Patient CARE Act really would mean cheaper insurance, just like the proposal’s champions say. But that’s because there’d be less security. “It doesn’t work if you’re poor or if you’re sick—other than that, it’s ok,” quips Jonathan Gruber, the MIT economist and Obamacare architect.

Why are all of Cohn’s characterizations of Gruber as the “architect” of Obamacare important? Because Cohn introduced a new Gruber exoneration theory yesterday: sure Gruber was an architect, but not that kind of architect:

Let’s start with the question of whether Gruber was, as he himself sometimes says, an “architect” of Obamacare. He was, but not in the sense that most people are using the word.

That is some straight-up amazing historical revisionism right there. First off, note how Cohn passively lets himself off the hook for his own fawning descriptions of Gruber. Who referred to Gruber as an “architect of Obamacare?” Gruber did. Silly Gruber. And is the use of the word “architect” important? Well, yes, kind of, but only if you understand what the word architect really means.

Come. On. I hate to break it to you all, but Gruber doesn’t get to be an architect of Obamacare and Romneycare when you want to use his authority and credentials to bash Republicans or spin for the law, and then radically transform into one of three Jon Grubers who just happens to live in Obama’s neighborhood once Gruber becomes a massive liability for the Left.

Gruber was one of the key architects of Obamacare. He didn’t just build econometric simulation models based on the law. He was also involved in drafting its key components. And he was paid enormous sums of money for his advice and counsel. These are facts. Accept them, learn to deal with them, and give the embarrassingly bad Gruber Truthing a rest.

UPDATE: Jonathan Chait has responded to my piece here. It is about as convincing as this treatise on why fire can’t melt steel. In other words: vintage Chait.

As Peter Suderman at Reason notes, Gruber himself acknowledged in a 2012 presentation that he literally wrote, at a bare minimum, the portion of the law containing small business tax credits.

And then you have Sen. Max Baucus, the chairman of the ultra-powerful Senate Finance Committee, state on the Senate floor that Gruber made CBO’s scoring model for the bill possible. The reason that so many people — especially those who desperately wanted Obamacare to become law — referred to Gruber as the law’s architect is because he helped design, build, and perfect it from the ground up.