Jonathan Who?

Daily Best of the Web   —   Posted on November 14, 2014

The following is an excerpt from OpinionJournal’s “Best of the Web” at WSJ written by the editor, James Taranto.


Jonathan Gruber

Jonathan Who?
This is beginning to take on a man-bites-dog quality. More video has surfaced in which ObamaCare architect Jonathan Gruber acknowledges the dishonesty that underlies the law. The Washington Examiner reports this one—a 2012 talk at the University of Rhode Island—has to do with the so-called luxury tax on employer-provided medical coverage:

“In America, we have a pernicious feature of our tax code, which says that if MIT pays me in wages, I get taxed,” Gruber, an MIT health economist, said during his address. “But if your employer pays you in health insurance, you do not.”

Gruber explained that most Americans become defensive and object when policymakers try to change this, because they don’t want their health insurance to be taxed. But it wasn’t until Secretary of State John Kerry, another Massachusetts “hero,” came along that he realized how to sell such a plan successfully.

“John Kerry said, ‘No, no. We’re not going to tax your health insurance. We’re going to tax those evil insurance companies. We’re going to impose a tax that if they sell insurance that’s too expensive, we’re going to tax them,’” Gruber said. “And, conveniently, the tax rate will happen to be the marginal tax rate under the income tax code.”

“So, basically, it’s the same thing: We just tax the insurance companies, they pass on higher prices that offsets the tax break we get, it ends up being the same thing,” he added. “It’s a very clever, you know, basically exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter.”

And CNN’s Jake Tapper reports on a fourth video, albeit one in which his “language is not as stark”:

“Barack Obama’s not a stupid man, okay?” Gruber said in his remarks at the College of the Holy Cross on March 11, 2010. “He knew when he was running for president that quite frankly the American public doesn’t actually care that much about the uninsured. . . . What the American public cares about is costs. And that’s why even though the bill that they made is 90% health insurance coverage and 10% about cost control, all you ever hear people talk about is cost control. How it’s going to lower the cost of health care, that’s all they talk about. Why? Because that’s what people want to hear about because a majority of American care about health care costs.”

You can tell this stuff is worrying ObamaCare supporters, because they’re anxiously trying to rationalize it away. The New York Times’s Neil Irwin, referring to one of the Gruber videos revealed earlier, writes:

It looks like a shocking instance of a onetime Obama adviser saying that the administration pulled the wool over America’s eyes in advancing major legislation. That is certainly how many conservatives are interpreting it after a video of the remarks started circulating this week.

But here’s the dirty little secret: Mr. Gruber was exposing something sordid yet completely commonplace about how Congress makes policy of all types: Legislators frequently game policy to fit the sometimes arbitrary conventions by which the Congressional Budget Office evaluates laws and the public debates them.

What doesn’t seem to occur to Irwin is that if this is commonplace, that makes Gruber’s candid acknowledgment of what he and other ObamaCare designers were up to all the more shocking.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake has a post titled “Why Jonathan Gruber Won’t Change the Obamacare Debate.” His main argument is true, but somewhat trivial: Gruber cannot turn the public against ObamaCare because the public is already against ObamaCare. But why can’t the opposition become broader, or more intense? Here’s Blake’s answer:

And Gruber’s comments, while damning, aren’t exactly the most fertile political territory. That’s because, while “stupidity of the American voter” is a pretty strong soundbite, Gruber’s connection to the law takes some explaining. And we’re not sure most people—apart from those who already decided the efficacy of the law years ago—are really keen on the latest Obamacare debate a week after the 2014 election.

In other words, the American people are too stupid to figure out who the guy calling them stupid is. But The Hill reports that one of the guy’s chief co-conspirators is pleading ignorance:

The ObamaCare consultant churning headlines this week for questioning voters’ intelligence is a stranger to Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader from California said Thursday.

“I don’t know who he is,” Pelosi said of Jonathan Gruber. “He didn’t help write our bill.”

In a March 2010 Huffington Post post, Jane Hamsher, a left-wing ObamaCare opponent, noted that “Pelosi touted ‘the Gruber analysis’ on the Speaker’s website.” That site now belongs to John Boehner, and the link brings up a 404 error. But you can find the original at, and it quotes Gruber quite extensively.

The Post’s Blake quotes Drew Hammill, a Pelosi spokesman: “She said she doesn’t ‘know who he is,’ not that she’s never heard of him.” Maybe he’s on to something. After all, nobody says a donkey never forgets.

For more “Best of the Web” click here and look for the “Best of the Web Today” link in the middle column below “Today’s Columnists.”