Monday, November 17, 2014

ObamaCare and JonathonGruber Cannot Escape History

My fellow citizens, you cannot escape history.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), Second Annual Message to Congress (1862)

In 2009, when President Obama took office, it was clear something had to be done about health care. Costs were going up, the number of uninsured were rising, the economy was in free fall, Medicare and other entitlements were the biggest contributors to the federal budget deficit.

But what to do and who to do it? Democrats were the obvious choice to do the job. They controlled the three branches of government. Republicans were in disarray and held responsible for the Great Recession.

There were two paths to curing the health care crisis: government or market reform. And there was one model that seemed to have worked, Romney Care in Massachusetts. The so-called “architect” of that model was Jonathon Gruber, an MIT economics professor. That model had some political credibility because it was passed under the aegis of Mitt Romney, a Republican governor.

There were also two ways to institute reform: comprehensively and all-at-once without consulting Republicans or incrementally and piecemeal by building the reform infrastructure behind closed doors.

President Obama chose the first way. He was bold. He regarded himself as transcendental and transformative - a President of Manifest Destiny. But he was smart too. He and Democrats knew the nation’s voters would not accept reform that raised taxes or smacked of “socialized medicine” with total government control . So they acted clandestinely, mixing government and business reforms, persuading or buying off major players – the drug industry, health plans, the AMA, votes from states whose Senators they needed – Nebraska, Louisiana, and Connecticut among them – through Medicaid deals. To allay fears, they promised voters that they could keep their doctors and health plans and that their premiums would be lowered.

To seal the new deal, they wrote the Affordable Care Act in such a way as to make it “tortuous” , full of legalese, stretching over 10 years, lengthy , hard to decipher, and ambiguous, e.g, subsidies to the uninsured could only be offered in health exchanges “established by the state,” when they really meant exchanges created by the federal government. You could fool most of the American people, who did not have the intelligence to know what was going on.

The money involved in this political herculean effort was enormous – officially $983 billion, soon to grow by various government estimates to $1.5 trillion to $2.5 trillion over the next 10 to 15 years. But never mind the details. It was the principle, providing affordable care to the uninsured masses, and not the money, that counted.

But that fickle beast, history, intervened. Premiums rose, plans were cancelled, confusion and uncertainty reigned, the economy stalled.the health exchanges proved to be a nightmare, and the middle class objected to the transfer of resources from the uninsured to the insured classes.

We will probably never knew the identities or roles of the various players who met behind closed doors and who composed the health care sausage known as ObamaCare. But we do know the most widely heralded “architect” was Jonathon Gruber.

Among Democrats, his role is now being downplayed by the President and prominent Democrats. President Obama yesterday said, “ I just heard about this,” and Nancy Pelosi denies ever knowing Gruber, though she is on video praising him in 2009. David Axelrod, Obama's former principal political adviser, called Gruber "stupid," and Rush Limbaugh weighed in by saying Gruber's comments unveiled a massive "con game" perpetrated on the American people.

Now this news is breaking : Gruber has collected consulting fees of $5.9 million, from federal and state governments, $6.7 million, if you include fees paid by California and Massachusetts. In a series of six videos , Gruber is shown talking to academic conferences and like-minded audiences about how the law was passed and how misleading language was used to assure its passage so “stupid voters” would not know what was going on. Yesterday, on Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer asked Gruber point-blank, “If all this is bad as you say, why did you take the money you earned. Is it too late to give it all back?”

This, of course, will never happen.

Why not? I suppose there are two answers: one, when you say it’s the principle and not the money, it’s the money; and two, as H.L, Mencken (1880-1956) noted, “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.”

Maybe so. But according to the latest Gallup poll, ObamaCare approval has reached an all-time low of 37 percent and Republicans now control the House and Senate and 31 State governments. Video histories can be a political nightmare.

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