What’s up with GruberGate?

Is it up to three cynical tapes about Obamacare now?   I’ve lost track.

I’m not so interested in pushing through the mud on this one.  It’s a healthy world where academics can speak their minds at conferences and the like without their words becoming political weapons in a bigger fight.  Or how about blogs?: do we want a world where no former advisor can write honestly about the policies of an administration?  I’ve disagreed with Gruber from the beginning on health care policy and I thought his ObamaCare comic book did the economics profession — and himself — a disservice.  But I’m simply not very interested in his proclamations on tape, which as far as I can tell are mostly correct albeit overly cynical.  (If anything he is overrating the American voter — most people weren’t even paying close enough attention to be tricked.)  Criticisms of Gruber are not criticisms of a policy, and it is policy we should focus upon and indeed there is still a great deal of health care policy we need to figure out.  It’s hardly news that intellectuals who hold political power, even as advisors, very often do not speak the truth.  If anything, I feel sorry for Gruber that he has subsequently felt the need to so overcompensate by actively voicing such ex post cynicism, it is perhaps the sign of a soul not at rest.

In the meantime, I’d like to see more open discourse, not less.  Perhaps we should subsidize people who end up looking foolish, rather than taxing them.

Comments

"Criticisms of Gruber are not criticisms of a policy, and it is policy we should focus upon"

Cant we do both? Why should we give a pass to Gruber and his behavior simply because policy is more important?

"It’s hardly news that intellectuals who hold political power, even as advisors, very often do not speak the truth"

Then they arent intellectuals.

A lot of America's ruling class seems to think that lying is fine if it is for a Democrat policy, but speaking an uncomfortable truth is unacceptable if it is by a Republican. Look how harsh people were to Romney even though he was right about Russia, right about the 47%, right about a lot of things.

Being an intellectual does not require you to speak the truth. Sartre was an intellectual whatever you think about the child abusing little apologist for mass murderers.

"right about the 47%"

Other than the fact that the statistic only applies to those who do not pay federal income tax (not FICA, state taxes, etc.), Romney was not criticized for being a liar in this context. He was criticized for being a coward and a hypocrite because he said one thing behind closed doors and then tried to run away from his words when in front of TV cameras (glad to see you hold Romney to his words, unlike the man himself). There is a difference. If you are a political candidate and you speak your mind, it is a given that the other side can simply repeat the unpopular opinions you express to turn voters against you. That's just about the most defensible sort of negative campaigning there is -- let people speak for themselves and then make them own their words. Gruber probably isn't running for public office anytime soon so he does not face this problem.

"Other than the fact that the statistic only applies to those who do not pay federal income tax (not FICA, state taxes, etc.), Romney was not criticized for being a liar in this context."

That would probably be because he said 47% did not pay income tax. Not that they did not pay any sort of tax. So it is hard to attack the man for lying when he did not actually lie. And he was right.

"He was criticized for being a coward and a hypocrite because he said one thing behind closed doors and then tried to run away from his words when in front of TV cameras (glad to see you hold Romney to his words, unlike the man himself). There is a difference."

Actually he did not do that either. At least not at first. Romney is not noted for his courage but he started out by saying that his words were poorly expressed, and tailored to the man he was speaking to, not that they were wrong. He later apologized for implying he did not care about poor people - but that was after a week of vicious press. For once in his life he was not cowardly about what he said.

"If you are a political candidate and you speak your mind, it is a given that the other side can simply repeat the unpopular opinions you express to turn voters against you."

Indeed. Although the media did not hold Obama to the same standard and never have. For instance when Romney said in a debate that Obama denied Benghazi was a terrorist attack, Crowley contradicted him. Even though Obama had in fact said that. And ABC was sitting on a tape of him doing precisely that.

"Gruber probably isn’t running for public office anytime soon so he does not face this problem."

No but he is one of a team that was being dishonest and lying to the public that they all appear to have held in contempt. Obama won't be running any time soon either but these words should be pasted on his record too. After all Earl Butz wasn't running for office either.

That would probably be because he said 47% did not pay income tax. Not that they did not pay any sort of tax. So it is hard to attack the man for lying when he did not actually lie. And he was right.

Exactly what is so magical about paying income taxes versus paying payroll taxes? Most people view them as exactly the same thing since they both are deducted from your paycheck.

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The misleading thing about the 47% number is that it's too low. It makes 53% of us feel smug, when in reality the percentage actually paying their own way is much smaller. If I pay $1,000 in income tax, I'm still a massive beneficiary of tax transfers from the people paying $60,000.

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How so?

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Exactly what is so magical about paying income taxes versus paying payroll taxes? Most people view them as exactly the same thing since they both are deducted from your paycheck.

Because everybody that has a job pays payroll taxes, yet some people with jobs pay either no income tax or actually receive income taxes from other taxpayers? That was Romney's point. And no, nobody that has a reasonable grasp of how they're paid considers income taxes the same thing as payroll taxes. You're either being intentionally obtuse or lying.

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Romney was right about the 47% existing, but then everything he went on to say about their behavior and attitudes was utterly absurd and mind-blowingly inaccurate. And if Romney was ever unaware of this, then he is an astoundingly stupid man (which I doubt to be the case)

The two groups that voted most strongly for Obama were African Americans and single Mothers. Romney won married women. He lost the single Mothers and so lost the election. He would have won if marriage rates were still as high as they had been under Nixon.

So no, he was not wrong about their behavior or attitudes.

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"Look how harsh people were to Romney even though he was right about Russia, right about the 47%, right about a lot of things"

Romney was not very different than Obama or Bush. He is still the typical politician who is looking to wield power over others. The US was entirely wrong about Russia because Russia is not the problem in Europe, a fact that many EU citizens are starting to figure out. The last thing we want is to spiral down further into an absolute police state but sadly, that is where the US is heading. Having grown up in a Communist system I see many parallels in the US. Americans glorify militarism and empire. They tolerate an intrusive state that regulates every aspect of their lives. They repeat state propaganda and honour panderers to power as they look suspiciously at truth tellers and dissidents. I think that all Americans need to start looking in the mirror and try to see if there is an alternative path that avoids the slippery slope towards totalitarianism that the left and right have taken while in power. Tyler needs to stop making excuses for liars and start to argue for the limited republic that the United States is supposed to be.

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It's hard to focus on two things at once, more or less by the definition of the word "focus." Tyler's point is that at any given moment we should err on the side focusing on policy.

Oh ah. This explains: "I feel sorry for Gruber..."

I really hope Tyler wakes up tomorrow and makes another run at this.

Mr. Gruber is the living embodiment of every right-wing nightmare. Breezy dismissal of these concerns is gasoline on the fire.

Many people support Obamacare. Others, like me, are ambivalent but think a repeal effort is a huge mistake. But does anyone think Gruber is not awfully slimy?

Yes -- I do not think Gruber is slimy. There's one.

Why?

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My point is that it is not an either/or proposition. By the way, its not hard to focus on two things at once, according to google, at least one definition of focus is "pay particular attention to.", that is not exclusive.

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“It’s hardly news that intellectuals who hold political power, even as advisors, very often do not speak the truth”

Then they arent intellectuals.

--
I take it you are not a fan of Leo Strauss.

Ricardo: did you ever meet anyone with political power who spoke the truth? I am still waiting....

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It is about policy in a very straightforward sense. This kind of law is designed to transfer costs from healthy, young people to sick ones. That is a defensible policy with arguments on both sides. And I saw those arguments made loud and long in the blogsphere.

But I don't watch American TV, and what Gruber seems to be saying is that they did not want to defend this policy in front of the voters and lawmakers of the US. That should make us downgrade our assessments of (a) how good that policy is, and (b) how morally legitimate the law that implements that policy is.

Well said.

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That would require that both morality and the judgement of what makes a policy "good" be based in current popular opinion, wouldn't it?

If a policy's own backers feel they cannot argue in favour of it, then that must shift your assessment of the probabilities at least a little. The only alternative is to have either absolutely prior certainty in the policy or else to have absolutely no for the judgment of your fellow citizens.

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"This kind of law is designed to transfer costs from healthy, young people to sick ones."

Isn't this the definition of health insurance? I can't understand why this is so controversial.

It's not. Guaranteed issue and a mandate are the Romney plan, and if Republicans and Democrats agree on something then I'm justified in calling it relatively uncontroversial. The rest of Obama's ACA micro-regulates the practice of medicine and is the reason why your doctor now works in a hospital or you don't even see the same doctor twice for the same illness. Obamacare also removes incentives for companies to provide employees with insurance in ways that the Romney plan didn't. That's what's controversial.

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It's not the plain-English definition of health insurance. Insurance, at it simplest, is when policy holders with roughly equal risk profiles all pay premiums and where the few unlucky ones receive payouts.

But you are right that in (American?) politics "health insurance", doesn't really mean insurance. It means "prepaid health care", or "health care provided by the community", or something. That's why the transfer I described is a defensible policy. I'm just amused that the backers of Obamacare did not feel they could defend it in public.

Correct. And healthy, young people do not have equal risk profiles to older, already sick, people.

Normal insurance premiums vary according to the policy holder's risk level over the term of the contract. The ACA makes that illegal.

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Down vote for being petty, mofo.

I'm curious - in what sense should Gruber be 'held accountable'? Which of his statements were inaccurate? Did he actually mislead or lie to the public?

No, Gruber did none of these things. He spoke plainly and crassly. That's not a crime, it's not nonintellectual either. There's nothing new or novel about wanting a good PR campaign. It's pretty naive to think the ACA passed by accident - that the whole people of the United States were hoodwinked, or what have you.

"Did he actually mislead or lie to the public?"

No, he didn't lie in this case. Instead he publicly admitted that the process to pass the law was designed to mislead the public.

Directly from the video:
"Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical for the thing to pass… Look, I wish Mark was right that we could make it all transparent, but I’d rather have this law than not."

Lack of transparency in this context is, in the minds of most people, a form of deception.

Exactly. And the held accountable part is where people no longer take him seriously because he admits, hell, brags about deceiving people to get his way. That is nonintellectual. Intellectuals have some commitment to the truth, he is just a well credentialed spin doctor.

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It is Gruber's responsibility to educate the public and those around him. Part of the job of policymaker should be education and persuasion.

He did educate us.

Progressives lie cheat and thug (a verb now) for the cause.

Disgusting.

Man, you are really bringing the quality of discourse in the comments section down, and fast.

Sorry if the truth isn't intellectually deep enough for you.

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Wait, so because you and Gruber say that American voters are stupid, we should surrender our laws to activist economists like yourselves? Why have democracy at all then? There is no room for debate. Whatever economist is in charge, go at it!

I think the sentiment comes from the fact that once the debate includes the public, you get things like talk of death panels and signs that say, "Keep the government out of my Medicare."

After all, how many voters do you think realized that McCain's dream for healthcare reform was to kill employer-sponsored health insurance plans and have everyone buy individual plans on Obamacare-like exchanges? It was essentially, "healthcare.gov for all" (only, all insurance plans compete nationally instead of on a state-by-state basis).* For some, breaking the link between employment and insurance may be well-received, but others may not like that idea. Overall though, I'd say only a very small percentage of the population realized that was the health care reform policy they were supporting or voting against during the 2008 election.

*There was a lot else to the plan. I'm just making the point that I doubt the public knew that McCain desired the end of employer-sponsored health insurance.

Eventually, you will learn that the "death panel" criticism, like all the others, was well-founded.

Okay, typical American voter.

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It's inevitable and right. If you don't want to be subject to a death panel, pay for your healthcare with your own money not somebody else's.

Kindly leave me that choice, then.

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Say what else you will about it, Honkie, but Obamacare leaves you free to buy all the extra insurance and health care you like.

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Sure, with anything you might have left after the compulsory charges. Bless their kind hearts!

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Of course there are and will be death panels.

That's admittedly a histrionic phrase but still accurate.

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On the contrary, "death panels" is the other side of the same cynical coin: the assumption is that the public is too stupid to engage in arguments about end of life cost and care.

No, not stupid, just understanding political economy. People voluntarily provide suboptimal levels of public goods. Law, written in stone by the hand of God.

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There is nothing magical or beneficial about employer sponsorship of health plans, other than the tax incentives. Health insurance is tax deductible when an employer buys it for you. Otherwise, it is paid out of after-tax disposable income. That is the primary reason that employer plans are thought of as good.

McCain proposed that individuals receive mostly the same tax treatment as companies.

Another employer effect is that employed people are generally not seriously, chronically ill. This reduces the cost of employer group plans, at the cost of seriously ill people no longer being able to work, then losing their insurance. This is another reason to buy insurance focused on the individual and not some group he belongs to.

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you get things like talk of death panels and signs that say, “Keep the government out of my Medicare.”

Death panels exist, cf., IPAB.
"Keep the government out of my Medicare" = a particularly stupid way of saying, "No benefit cuts or eligibility tightening for Medicare."

Progressives just love having a reason to do whatever they want. Those ignorant, unwashed masses are an obstacle but not an insurmountable one.

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Kind of like, keep your government out of my uterus, but pay for my choices?

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"Keep the government out of my Medicare" is only silly if you don't think about it very carefully. Medicare is a program for using public funds to pay for the *private* provision of medical care. If the government itself provides the care, that's a big change that most people (especially veterans who have seen how the VA works) don't want.

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"In the meantime, I’d like to see more open discourse, not less."

Non-academics would also like to see more open discourse. Of course, we'd like to see it before the bill is passed, not after.

You're right. There were 10,000 pages of Obamacare regulations released 3 days before it passed. They intentionally made discourse impossible.

It doesn't matter what was written in that law. Most of the details would have been made up as they go along through the federal rulemaking process.

...or just not enforced as the President pleases...oh wait...

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Breitbart ? really ?

He links to Vox and Huffpost. What's the difference?

The difference is the idiot leftist thinks he made a point by saying "Breitbart."

Party of science.

Breitbart is a world of difference from Vox, far off the starboard of the ship of sanity. Hell, it even denies global warming exists, which just begins to scratch the surface of its inanity.

...and a couple authors on HuffPo push Homeopathy. They all have their blind spots. If you have a beef with the article or the facts therein then by all means share.

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And Vox thinks the "hands up" gesture was invented in Ferguson, Missouri.

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Not arguing about Breitbart though you are wrong. Vox is a very slick lie collection.

Tyler linked to Breitbart but it's something reported everywhere, and you lefties think you win an argument by mentioning Breitbart. Party of science and truth. Ha. Just lying socialist jokes.

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and i don't read those sources either.

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He was just saying what every progressive technocrat already believes. This is why some people represent Washingtonian elitism. It's not that 'average' people hate education or science, they hate that there are some people like Gruber that think they're too stupid to be in charge of their own lives.

Exactly.

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It’s a healthy world where academics can speak their minds at conferences and the like without their words becoming political weapons in a bigger fight.

Yes but we don't live in that world. Every academic knows that they are only one step away from misspeaking and calling someone "dear" or "fey" and they will be fired. In fact some people have written books on this subject. Let's ask Larry Summers. Deirdre N. McCloskey not only tried to get J. Michael Bailey fired, McCloskey tried to get him jailed.

But I’m simply not very interested in his proclamations on tape, which as far as I can tell are mostly correct albeit overly cynical.

Correct? American voters are stupid? Some times tapes break the surface and they show us all what our Betters really do think about us. As such they are priceless. Was it wrong to quote Early Butz's off-the-record comments about African-Americans and their .... ambitions?

Criticisms of Gruber are not criticisms of a policy, and it is policy we should focus upon and indeed there is still a great deal of health care policy we need to figure out.

Yes they are. Just as Bush Senior's bewilderment at the supermarket said a lot about his character and background so does Gruber's nasty hate-filled cynicism tell us a great deal about the sort of people who run this administration. They are liars who hate ordinary people and so ordinary people would be fools to trust them.

In the meantime, I’d like to see more open discourse, not less.

Condemn the firing of Butz then.

"Bush Senior’s bewilderment at the supermarket"

Didn't happen. http://www.mrc.org/articles/great-george-bush-sr-grocery-scanner-urban-legend-lives

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Yes they are. Just as Bush Senior’s bewilderment at the supermarket said a lot about his character and background so does Gruber’s nasty hate-filled cynicism tell us a great deal about the sort of people who run this administration. They are liars who hate ordinary people and so ordinary people would be fools to trust them.

Nope. Still not policy. And of course they are hate-filled liars. Didn't you know every Democrat is! Just hate hate hate!

Actually it is criticism of a policy. Even better a meta-policy if you will. It goes directly to character and motivation. So everyone knows what sort of policy it will be. Just as with the 1965 Immigration Reform Act. Teddy Kennedy stood up and said that American cities would not be flooded with millions of immigrants, there would be no change to the levels America took and that the ethnic make-up of the country would not be changed. Actually he was a lying little toad. If they had been honest with the public it would not have happened. But also if the voters of Massachusetts had correctly judged Kennedy's character - leaving a woman to die of asphyxiation is hardly a minor issue - it wouldn't have happened either.

And yes, thank you for proving my point Jan. The Left hates. They need to to get the vote out. That is why Biden accused Republicans of wanting to bring back slavery. That is why the Democrats engaged in a pointless and unjust persecution of George Zimmerman. That is why they were accusing Republicans of wanting to prohibit condoms.

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"And of course they are hate-filled liars. Didn’t you know every Democrat is! Just hate hate hate!"

He didn't mention Democrats, your comment is a straw man argument.

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If open discourse involves lying, hypocrisy, and open contempt for other participants, and if promoting open discourse requires not calling people out on their lying, hypocrisy, and contempt lest we frighten them away or shame them into silence, I am unconvinced of the value of this "open discourse".

Or possibly it's a class thing - it's OK to lie to the contemptable masses, and we should promote open discussion among us elites about how and why we are lying to the contemptible masses, we all do it, so the real hypocrisy would be calling out another of the elite for doing the same. And don't go blabbing to the masses about any of this, that's Just Not Done.

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Gruber made hundreds of thousands of dollars (I've read $400,000) in consulting fees in the writing of the PPACA.

He isn't just an "academic", he is a government contractor, and his statements should be reflected upon as such.

I was just going to say the exact same thing.

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Since this story has surfaced, I've been dying to know if Gruber paid taxes on his consulting fees, or has he pulled a "Timmy Geithner" and pretended he did not know he was subject to IRS rules like the rest of us.

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Does Gruber have a first name?

Hans

Fantastic response, but in this cynical atmosphere, I am inclined to believe that the same person teed up the joke and then hit it under a different name. That way they seem more witty than they actually are. You can't trust anybody these days.

...and then undercut his dissenters with a third comment of apparent dissent. Sick and brilliant.

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What is the meaning of Hans Gruber?

Meaning of Hans Gruber - http://bit.ly/110Kzw3

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Funny, but, I don't know that composer, and I never saw Die Hard, so please explain....

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Hans, bubby, I'm your White Knight!

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go watch die hard right now

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Well, you'd be wrong to believe that.

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It's Christmas Theo, it's the time of miracles

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Wow, candor in academia is a necessity, while speaking to the general public requires dishonesty.

The only way both statements can be true is if the academics and the general public are completely separate entities. Tyler Cowen is clearly so immersed in the academic bubble, he doesn't see anything wrong with that. I picture him lounging in a toga, lazily reaching his wine goblet out so the uneducated masses (or undergrads?) can refill it.

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“Criticisms of Gruber are not criticisms of a policy, and it is policy we should focus upon”

There has been plenty of criticism of the policy and criticisms of the policy will continue. The policy was a terrible mistake which will continue to do serious harm to younger Americans until it is finally repealed. It seems to me, however, that we ought to make time on our schedule for criticisms of the way the policy was sold. If not, we should expect that the same methods of deception will be practiced in the future. We should at least require the Grubers and Obamas of the world to come up with new methods.

At best, the assertion that policy is the only thing which matters and therefore we should ignore the working of politics is a pose. At worst, it is a continuation of the same type of cynical deception which is now (far too late!!) being exposed by these videos. If the policy matters at all, then the way the policy was sold also matters. In this context, pretending to be too high minded to care about politics is contemptible.

Meanwhile, millions more people have health insurance, health care spending growth has slowed and insurance premiums are on average going down. Debacle. I hate my children and that is why I supported this policy.

Is that what's happening? And what of the cost? Why didn't we simply fix the corruption first? Fixing corruption is much more efficient dollar for dollar than throwing more s**t on the steaming pile and hoping it smells a little better.

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Thus Jan hurdles past the 36th floor of the Empire State building, screaming "So far, so good". Support the policy all you like. At some point the health system is going to meet the sidewalk.

Yes millions more people have insurance. At enormous cost to the tax payer - the ten year costs were expected to be $900 billion. They are now estimated at something like $.27 trillion. Health care spending has not slowed. As a percentage of GDP it peaked in 2009 and has remained flat ever since. Cost inflation peaked in 2002 and then declined steadily - until 2009 and then it flat lined. Insurance premiums are not declining, if you take the subsidies into account. And of course given the uncertainty, you would expect little change anyway because the insurance companies don't know what they can or will be doing and so won't offer much new.

The sidewalk is coming. Accept the reality.

Isnt .27 trillion smaller than 900 billion?

http://www.cbo.gov/publication/45159 says $1.5 trillion, so I'm guessing he just typoed the 1.

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Do millions more people have health insurance as a result of ACA? I'm not saying you're wrong, only that I've seen a number of conflicting reports that make it unclear whether more people have insurance at all, and if so whether that's attributable to the ACA.

On your other point, insurance premiums going down are utterly irrelevant if you fail to consider deductibles. An insurance plan with an extremely high deductible can have pretty low premiums; that doesn't mean it's cheaper.

More than that. Deductible and premium combinations do not all provide the same utility. Lowering premiums and raising deductibles changes the point of tangency with the policyholder's risk preferences. Market determined combinations are likely (but not guaranteed) to have a Pareto superior allocation.

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They also narrowed the provider networks, so quality of care may or may not be affected.

And then there's the risk corridors, in which the insurance companies are bailed out if they misprice their policies. That is supposed to be phased out by 2017.

Finally, I'm not sure if its worth bragging about insuring millions more when a) the insured are lower than projected and b) you penaltax them if they don't sign up.

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Assuming Jan really does hate her own kids and assuming she really did support Obamacare on that basis, I can see why she feels that her support for the program was not obtained under false pretenses.

If, however, your support for Obamacare was based on: (1) your belief that if you liked your healthcare plan, Doctor, or healthcare facility you could keep them; or (2) you understood that Obamacare did not involve a massive and regressive tax on the lower middle class; or (3) you understood that Obamacare did not involve a massive transfer of wealth from the young to the not quite old enough for Medicare (which is to say generally a transfer of wealth from the relatively poor to the relatively wealthy); or (4) you understood that the "cost curve" would be "bent" by magic rather than rationing healthcare--you were lied to.

Don't forget the average savings of $2,500 per family.

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The context is crucial in determining the importance of Gruber's "speakos": a challenge to the law was just granted cert to the Supreme Court, and those defending the ACA will be making the argument that the law couldn't have been intended to work as the plain language seems to indicate because that doesn't make sense, and that therefore the court must interpret it in a way that makes sense rather than based on the text itself. In the videos we see Gruber saying that no, doing things in the most straightforward way that makes the most sense was not a priority at all--in fact it was to be avoided at all costs because it would never have become law if it were structured in a way that makes sense in terms of efficiency (as opposed to making sense in political terms). The structure was much more complex and elaborately structured than what the ideal version would be because it was intended to be seen as something other than what it is. In addition, the earlier Gruber videos showed that the plain language interpretation of the structure makes Machiavellian sense, and was intended to make states an offer they couldn't refuse. (Of course they later did refuse, but it was thought at the time that they wouldn't.) So in the context of the upcoming supreme court case intent is key, and Gruber's disclosure of cynical intent is not just an embarrassment to him; it goes to the heart of the challenge to the law. The schadenfreude may be fun too, but it's just the icing, not the cake.

But that wasn't the source of the obsfucation that Gruber was talking about.

My interpretation was that they structured the bill to make things more palatable for the voters. For instance by paying for it by taxing healthcare insurers rather than healthcare consumers because the voters won't realize the costs will get passed on (because the voters are stupid). They were trying to obfuscate the wealth transfer aspect of the bill, but they weren't really trying to obsfucate the general bill itself. That being said if they were trying to obfuscate the bill in general that would actually support upholding the bill as the language in this case could be seen as an unintentional side-effect that should be ignored.

As to his previous comments as to the subsidies not being allowed for the states I think it's likely that Gruber did think that was the original purpose, or he read it later and assumed that purpose to try and scare red states into signing up. Even if he thought that was the original purpose it's not as relevant what he thought as what the original legislators assumed. If the legislators thought the bill would do X I think the court should treat the actual language as a software bug that shouldn't be executed.

Economics professors get paid to teach people about tax incidence. As a policy advisor, he has a duty to advocate for truth in economic costs and benefits. He cannot be trusted any longer in his research or teaching.

So where was CBO in all of this? They are supposed to have Econ PhDs there who know that statutory incidence and economic incidence are independent! It is certainly their duty to score this right.

That's quite a leap of logic, do you intend to kick anyone who plays politics out of academia?

And I don't understand why you're talking about the CBO, what would this have had to do with their scoring?

"That’s quite a leap of logic, do you intend to kick anyone who plays politics out of academia? "

Gruber was paid $400,000 to assist with the design of the legislation. He wasn't just playing politics.

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This is a pretty weak defense.

If Gruber were merely an academic- and not someone who was deeply involved in the drafting of the legislation- there might be some merit to this response. But that isn't so.

The more interesting thing is that this is really almost a media scandal, or more of cultural literacy scandal. Most informed commenters were saying the same things Gruber's been caught saying- no one who can count to six without removing their shoes didn't know that the CBO score was being gamed- you just couldn't get a primary news source to actually report the reality of what was occurring.

And now, only the most sycophantic of supporters will be able to ignore the obvious. Watching them do so will almost be worth it.

Good point. Gruber is a very special case, not just some random academic discussing the topic.

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no one who can count to six without removing their shoes

You ever get the feeling there are aliens posting in these threads?

lol, I have 5 toes, I can count to 5, but once I remove my shoes(sssssssss) I can count all the way to ten~!

So, is two on one foot, and three on the other?

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Some people reserve one hand for manipulating the mouse, or something.

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C'mon, Tyler. Why can't you just call a lie a lie?

Because that would concede that academics could be called to account for violations of community norms accessible through common sense. Cannot have that. Only the Anointed may judge the Anointed.

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"C’mon, Tyler. Why can’t you just call a lie a lie?"

This is the most embarrassingly ivory tower posts that I've read from Prof. Cowen. It's basically giving a completely dishonest putz who was paid $400K for his expertise on this issue a pass on his egregious behavior.

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Public intellectuals lie...so why get upset about this one public intellectual lying.

So your standard is more open discourse. What about honest discourse? Would the world be better off with more honest discourse or more open discourse? Your argument is (implicitly) that we can't have more honest discourse so we may as well have more open discourse. I say go for the honest discourse.

That's the point. Gruber was telling the truth in this video. We want progressives to tell the truth about what they really think as much as possible.

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To Hazel Meade, In support,

I love the confession. I hate the crime.

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I operate under the assumption that i am always being lied to by politicians. That key details are always overlooked or sugar-coated. That most politicians don't understand the laws themselves. That public opinion can be swayed any which-way by how you phrase the question. That laws will get passed regardless of public opinion (why not referendums?). etc. etc.

Does anyone think otherwise? Seems to me that if you trust politicians and/or the political process and/or the incentives inherent in the system...then, well, you probably are somewhat stupid.

This guy isn't a politician, though, he's an academic. What has become more than abundantly clear is that he's a political hack.

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Tyrone seems to have posted under the wrong name again.

It’s a healthy world where academics can speak their minds at conferences and the like without their words becoming political weapons in a bigger fight.

Interesting how honesty becomes the controlling consideration the instant it ceases to have any immediate use.

Coming clean is not the same thing as being honest.

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Gruber should not be criticized -- he should be thanked. He stated out loud, and in public, the true purposes of the ACA and the true beliefs of the White House. Revealed preference. The key point of this entire episode is how the White House deceived voters, and relied upon the opacity of the ACA to bring about its enactment. As Michael Kinsley once stated, Gruber committed a gaffe -- he committed truth when cameras were rolling. He deserves our gratitude.

So if I kill you, your loved ones should thank me if I get caught admitting my crime on a recording that I didnt expect people to notice because I was honest with my co-conspirators in the room?

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Translation: he's one of us, so public exposure of dishonest and dishonorable behavior should have no consequences.

Youre really good at translation.

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Yep. Just imagine Gruber is a car mechanic.

You want aftermarket parts, because they are cheaper.

But Gruber secretly uses dealer parts, because he thinks they are better.

Then he hands you the bill, which is much higher than you planned. Maybe its breaks your budget.

Then he smirks to his associates and says you're stupid.

I'm sure Tyler Cowen wouldn't be so forgiving then. There might even be lawyers involved.

Cuz this analogy would be this guy repaired an entire rental fleet with more expensive parts without consent.

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I am still trying to figure out who was deceived about any important feature of ACA. As I understood the plan it was that Lots of previously uninsured people got insured. Some of those were uninsured because they were correctly believed to be higher risk than folks who pay for their health insurance as part of their wages or individuals who were buying individual policies. Ergo the newly insured people were going to be relatively high cost. Mitt Romeny or somebody came up with an idea to leave the employer-transacted schemes mainly alone (except covering children up to age 26 and requiring that the polices cover contraception) and require everybody else buy insurance on Federal or State exchanges in each state with the cost partially subsidized AND bribe states expand Medicaid.

And so it came to pass except the bribe was not big enough in the states that really really hate poor people and some people, on the basis of some sloppy drafting, think that Congress wanted to punish people for living in states that did not establish "State" exchanges by denying them subsidies. Neither of these departures can be counted, in my book, as a deception by the proponents of the law.

If Gruber thinks otherwise, he should explain.

"the states that really really hate poor people...."

Interesting, if ridiculous, phrase.

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If I were reading your post, not knowing who Gruber was, I'd get the impression that he's an outsider to this, probably a right winger, trying to discredit the bill.

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Deceived about being able to keep the plan and doctors you like.

Deceived about the individual mandate not being a tax.

Deceived about the cost savings.

Deceived about implementation.

Deceived about all the details that hadnt been made up yet.

10,000 page bill released 3 days before the vote after promising plenty of time for public discourse and you think they weren't being opaque?

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It's all noteworthy that the implementation has been fairly authoritarian with little regard to the schedule that was actually written in the law. Numerous provisions have been delayed for what appears to be largely political reasons, apparently to delay unpopular provisions until after this previous election (last week).

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ThomasH's impression of things is largely the same as mine. I'd be very interested in hearing a counterpoint to this if someone is interested to try to persuade someone.

All of Willitt's points seem to be rather obvious counterpoints. If you are going to dismiss them out of hand then no facts are ever going to persuade you on the subject.

Okay, here is what I think of Willitt's points:
-I don't really care about keeping a specific doctor. I'm fairly convinced that modern medicine is becoming close to a commodity. Any idiot can fix a broken bone, and I haven't not successfully diagnosed myself/child with the internet for 2 years now; the doctor is just the signature I need to go get if I need medicine.
-I really think that the nature of the bill as a tax/penalty, etc, comes down to semantics and doesn't matter. In any case, I am smart enough to know that a tax on the insurance companies means higher prices for their customers. I was certainly never confused into believing that things don't cost money.
-I'm under the impression that cost curve is indeed perhaps maybe bending. In any case, one year after partial implementation seems too early to tell. Am I wildly mistaken?
-I don't really know anything about the proposed/actual implementation, except that they delayed some stuff, the website was bad and that some states are basically not participating

"Okay, here is what I think of Willitt’s points: I don’t really care about keeping a specific doctor. "

Stating that it's not an important issue to you, doesn't change the fact that it's clearly an important issue to a lot of people. The fact that the Administration was willing to repeatedly promise something that they couldn't deliver indicates how politically important it was.

"I really think that the nature of the bill as a tax/penalty, etc, comes down to semantics and doesn’t matter."

That's not a response, that's hand waving away an issue.

"I was certainly never confused into believing that things don’t cost money."

And yet by Gruber's own statement, the issue was intentionally obfuscated to fool the "stupid voters".

"I don’t really know anything about the proposed/actual implementation, except that they delayed some stuff, the website was bad and that some states are basically not participating"

Yes, they delayed some "stuff" because it was politically advantageous to have certain aspects not be obvious till after this election. The penalty/mandate for example, was delayed, so that it's first appearance will be this tax season. I expect there to be quite a few irate people when their tax preparers tell them that them they've been penalized 1% of their gross income for the year. You can expect the approval rating of Obamacare to take another hit this next spring.

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I don’t really care about keeping a specific doctor

You might care when you are in your 50s and you have a specific doctor who knows your health history in detail for the last 20 years.

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You left out how all young people are going to forcibly subsidize older people. How everyone is going to forcibly subsidize substance abuse treatment and mental health care. Men are going to forcibly subsidize women, Nobody is going to get out-of-network coverage, and your deductibles and premiums are going to go up to cover all this cross-subsidization.

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Much too forgiving, how things are done, whether honestly or with 10 levels of trickery and force, matters.

This was not democracy it was, even with a giant majority at all levels, the act of thugs and that of a junta.

That matters whether their intentions are good or evil.

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"It’s a healthy world where academics can speak their minds at conferences and the like without their words becoming political weapons in a bigger fight"

If academics speak the truth, what's wrong with their words becoming political weapons?

"do we want a world where no former advisor can write honestly about the policies of an administration?"

Absolutely nothing prevents a former advisor from writing honestly about the policies of an administration.

Your attitude in these two statements is troubling. If you think it's necessary to lie to prevent your words being used to attack your opinions, maybe you should reconsider your opinions. You're a smart guy Tyler; go back and read some of your Keith Stanovich links.

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What's the problem, exactly? Hadn't heard of this till now and watched the video. He's saying the objective content of the law doesn't matter so much as the subjective way in which it's described (mandate = tax; risk pooling + mandate = healthy pay for sick). This is because American voters are conditioned by, you know, decades of political rhetoric that "tax = redistribution = bad" ... "stupidity of the American voter" is a stupid, inflammatory/elitist rhetoric for a politician, but that's why he's an academic.

I'm sure Rush et al will play this clip over and over... it'll be effective in that context, but, thanks in part to the stupidity of the American voter*, this is too complex an issue for this to bring down Obamacare.

* Not actually stupid, just choosing to prioritize things other than political policy minutia in their lives, much like Gruber prioritizes intellectual freedom over speaking politely.

Sorry Zach, but it doesn't take conditioning to know that a cost is something that isn't desirable. Your claim is ridiculous. Taxes are a priori bad and cab become justified only when benefits are considered.

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Case 1: The voter is dumb and uninformed. I'm trying my best to clear things up for him.

Case 2: The voter is dumb and uninformed. I am using my knowledge of economics to sell him something that he wouldn't want if he really understood it.

Which one fits Jonathan Gruber? I thought the government is supposed to be protecting people from technically correct but misleading choices and contracts. Such an attitude in a commercial transaction invites the wrath of the government. But, not when it is itself selling something

One of the things that a lot of conservatives attacking Gruber (rather than Obamacare) seem to assume is that a) he had role in the CBO-gaming etc. and b) that he thinks it's a good thing.
From all we know about Gruber (and as actually evidenced by the full quote--"written in a tortured way" and all) neither of these are true. His point is that the way laws are written is terrible and makes them worse and that that's true even when you agree with the law's general direction (as he surely does).
I can see how that's a reason for criticizing the Obama administration (though personally I don't think anyone who didn't also criticize the Bush administration for the CBO-gaming of Medicare Plan B and the tax cut is in a position to claim they're an honest critic on this), but why all the hating on Gruber--that I don't understand.

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". . . most people weren’t even paying close enough attention to be tricked." But most people know a few people who were paying just that much attention, though not more. When, as occasionally will happen, the total ignoramus gets into conversation with someone who clearly knows more about the subject, he finds it hard not to be influenced. And so he is tricked at one remove.

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You can tell where this is going when you ask,

What's up with TylerGate?

Sound partisan when you put a gate behind something?

So, what does it say when the title is GruberGate? Or, is it TylerGate? Or KrugmanGate? Or von MisesGate?

So many gates, and so little wisdom through them when the rhetoric blocks the understanding.

Was this the same Gruber who mentally entranced a certain Massachusetts governor?

How quickly they turn on you.

'Rhetoric blocks understanding'... Spot on

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Excellent point

We got obamacare despite them owning congress through intentional lies, bribery, and thuggery, but you can mention Romney and think you've made a point.

Lefties talk about being smart all the time and only spout idiocy for each other's consumption.

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This is why everyone hates Democrats so much -- they are generally soulless, left-wing swine -- the Grubers and Obamas of the world.

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Oh please! This is not merely an academic who has a different opinion on policy. This is an academic that admits to being part of an elaborate political deception based on widespread ignorance that he is paid to dispel - and then he gloats about it. He has no business being in academia anymore.

and he took tax payer money while doing so. He's not just some commentator.

Also, he's lied several times. Its not just this latest admission.

His first lie was advocating for the ACA without mentioning he was a paid consultant.

Reposting after any comment where it seems relevant

Since this story has surfaced, I've been dying to know if Gruber paid taxes on his consulting fees, or has he pulled a "Timmy Geithner" and pretended he did not know he was subject to IRS rules like the rest of us.

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It’s a healthy world where academics can speak their minds at conferences and the like without their words becoming political weapons in a bigger fight.

If that academic takes half a million dollars from a highly politicized administration to write a highly politicized law about a highly politicized subject, and then uses political maneuvering to pass it, there's the distinct possibility that his words are going to be used as weapons in a political fight.

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Gruber was not just engaged in academic study. He was engaged in political activism.

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Criticisms of Gruber *are* criticisms of policy. Most people understand that politicians have to be 'politically sensitive,' and we tolerate some white lies. But the magnitude of the deceptions make people feel that we were treated very disrespectfully. And now to the connection:
This is a 2700 page bill which is almost certainly impossible to actually read and understand by any individual (to read without understanding was probably done by a few people). If our lawmakers disrespect us, why should we believe that the policy benefits us?

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I'm disappointed in Tyler. The public expects (rightly) that academics will be honest: that they will give their honest views on matters that affect the public, and not lie (even by omission). The fact that Prof. Gruber had a big hand in drafting the ACA added credibility to it — credibility which we now can see was misplaced.

Gruber has squandered a great deal of the credibility that academic economists have with the general public when discussing legislation and policy. More broadly, he's eroded the credibility of all academics. And he's not sorry for what he did. Academics, and academic economists in particular, should be at the forefront of those heaping scorn on him.

Again, hoodwinking the public and gaming the CBO into a corner so legislation can be dishonestly brought up as "budget reconciliation" (thus avoiding a filibuster) is the job of the James Carvilles of the world: the people we expect to lie to us. We expect (and have a right to expect) academics to tell us the truth, which is why we protect them with tenure and give added weight to their views.

Expecting academics to tell the truth is very naive. Of course in the long run all this deception and lying causes a steady erosion of social trust. Survey data in the US indicate an enormous decline in trust in social institutions over the past decades.

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"Sunlight and candor are the best disinfectants." - John Dehlin

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Just because you are an odious, corrupt, compromised hack doesn't necessarily mean you are wrong. But doesn't Bayes have something to say about this?

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Another 90+ comments on a healthcare post. Shows how ignorant America has become, worrying about this political issue instead of making needed structural changes.

And those changes are made through the political process. So, yeah it kind of matters if the last political process to make structutal reforms was based on lies.

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So a consultant on healthcare reform, who also advised Romney on the same stuff by the way, is cynical about the methods needed to get such reforms adopted. So?

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Nobody's willing to say it, however - Gruber's comments were a very typical expression of Jewish anti-gentile prejudice.

Honestly, I wonder how many people here have close Jewish upper-middle class friends if they're shocked by his admission.

Nobody’s willing to say it, however – Cohokia’s comments were a very typical expression of Gentile anti-semitic prejudice.

Honestly, I wonder how many people here have close Gentile libertarian upper-middle class friends if they’re shocked by his admission.

*yawn*

You know very well that anti-semitism among WASPS and other elite gentiles is all but extinct.

Damn shame too, amirite?

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"Honestly, I wonder how many ..."

Honestly, I wonder how much your post is just a complete canard and totally unrelated to the subject at hand.

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Gotta disagree sharply. It's clear the man knowingly lied in order to reap great profit and in doing so helped fool people into buying an incredibly expensive "product". If he were an executive and a private firm, people would be calling for him to be fined and jailed.

Reposting after any comment where it seems relevant

Since this story has surfaced, I’ve been dying to know if Gruber paid taxes on his consulting fees, or has he pulled a “Timmy Geithner” and pretended he did not know he was subject to IRS rules like the rest of us. -

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“Criticisms of Gruber are not criticisms of a policy, and it is policy we should focus upon”

While I agree with your general thrust the other side is that we are all forced by the limitations of time to occasionally rely on the advice and statements of those considered to be professionals in the area of question. It is thus of great importance that when one is discovered to be a mountebank that the knowledge be shared as publicly as possible so that ourselves and others can protect against future deception.

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http://lesswrong.com/lw/gw/politics_is_the_mindkiller/

If you do not lie or do wahatever it takes to support your arguments you will let down your side. This is the reality of human nature.

http://lesswrong.com/lw/gw/politics_is_the_mindkiller/

"Politics is an extension of war by other means. Arguments are soldiers. Once you know which side you're on, you must support all arguments of that side, and attack all arguments that appear to favor the enemy side; otherwise it's like stabbing your soldiers in the back—providing aid and comfort to the enemy. "

Hey, this is my philosophy too!

WINNING!

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Sounds like SEC football. "If you aren't cheatin', you aren't trying hard enough"

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"It’s a healthy world where academics can speak their minds at conferences and the like without their words becoming political weapons in a bigger fight. Or how about blogs?: do we want a world where no former advisor can write honestly about the policies of an administration?"

This completely misses the point. Thoughtful critics of Gruber are not critical of his "speaking his mind" at academic conferences. They applaud it! See, for example, the recent column ("The Honest Man") by James Taranto at the WSJ.

http://online.wsj.com/articles/the-honest-man-1415825249

The problem is the dishonesty before and after these academic conferences (where it carries a lot more weight as far as public policy is concerned) and the damage that does to our system of governance (a more serious issue than the narrow interests of "academics"). Gruber's honesty at the academic conference is in stark contrast to his (and the administration's) public positions before and after that conference. After the fact he claimed to MSNBC that he misspoke. *That* is dishonest. This is consistent with his ex-post dishonesty in first claiming to an academic audience that the law expressly restricted tax subsidies in the ACA to policies sold on state exchanges and after-the-fact statement to the public that the failure for the subsidies to apply to federal exchanges was a "typo".

Calling Gruber (and others) out on this obvious hypocrisy isn't really going to jeopardize meaningful discourse. At best, it would mean that politicians and their academic enablers will need to start being more honest to non-academics, and at worst that academics are treated to the same lies as the general public. Why a very limited circle of academics is more important than the overall populace is beyond me. It doesn't strike me as unreasonable or a problem to expect academics to be just as honest to the general public as they are among themselves.

The real issue is indeed not about ACA per se. The issue is about maintaining what little is left (or even restoring what has been lost) of our governmental institutions and democratic processes. Economists such as Gruber (and here Cowen) seem to place too much emphasis on immediate goals and their own selfish interests and lose sight of the larger institutional issues (perhaps their sense of superiority and hubris suggests they don't owe any duties to anyone they think is beneath them). Gruber explicitly stated that he was willing to sacrifice the means for the end. That admission is honest, even if inadvertent, but in the larger sense it's also a great example of the difference being being "smart" and being wise.

Excellent post.

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Unless there's some evidence he was the one who proposed or advised how to draft the law in such a way to manipulate the CBO to scoring it other than a tax, what's the scandal here?

Otherwise all he's saying is: this is the kind of cynical thing they do in Washington to get laws passed. And he's dead-on right, of course. Do some of you think Republicans never craft legislation carefully to manipulate how the CBO will score it? Both parties do it with practically every major bill that affects the budget.

Our leaders are psychopaths. Gruber may be brilliant but he is nevertheless a psychopath.

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There are quite a few commenters in here who I wholeheartedly agree with. To clarify my position early, I can't have helped to immediately have thought that Tyler's point is, at best, hopelessly naive.

Why can't we discuss policy instead of being upset with Mr. Gruber? Why does it always have to be political? Can't academics just say whatever they want whenever they want at all times?

Mr. Gruber can say whatever he wants. There should be no doubt. But to be free from "attack" (otherwise known as criticism except that this has some more emotion attached because, you know, affecting millions of people and their lifestyle, expenditures, some might suggest freedom) is the hopelessly naive part about which I just can't get past actually reading Tyler's expressing confusion. Within my own naivety I remember the government ruling at the express consent of the people. Not the other way around. So when someone who helped write law admits that certain things may have been withheld from the people from home consent must be collected it sort of seem pretty incredibly obvious why everyone is mad.

I feel like people use the LIV concept as permission to paternalize instead of realizing that the LIV concept might just mean you're supposed to try a bit harder. At this point it seems like Tyler is at most concerned with Gruber's cynicism and not that anyone so smart as he and Tyler shouldn't have to try harder to explain how they're forcefully going to change the lives of these LIVs. I don't fully understand the bio-chemistry and medicine involved in some of the treatments I receive from doctors. But I thought it was pretty well understood that morally that doesn't give the doctor the right to just treat me anyway by telling me it's no big deal and there are no potential side effects. The way I read this it would seem Tyler sees no reason that a LIV shouldn't just shut their mouth and bask in the wisdom of policy.

I'd love for Tyler to clarify.

Let me rephrase the situation to see if it might change Tyler's mind. If Gruber knew what was being said wasn't what the law would do or wasn't what the law said is there not some expectation of an academic to share that? Can we not be upset with an academic who so blatantly shows partisanship? And when they do, are we still not allowed to criticise them (AND the policy)?

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Cowen isn't naive...he's a genius. He is also a devoted leftist tool that defends, endorses, and propagandizes for leftist ideology. He idolizes Paul Krugman and other scum, after all. You'll wait forever for Cowen to explain his "expressing confusion"...it's not confusion, he is simply trying to trivialize the fraud that been performed by Goober and Preezy Ozero.

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Let's all remember that Gruber isn't just an academic speaking his opinions.

He was a paid consultant for Obamacare. He took taxpayer money.

He still is taking taxpayer money from Vermont: $400,000

Also recall he lied about receiving money while advocating for the ACA. He also made a speak-o, another lie.

And now he admits the whole bill was a kid of lie.

This isn't no big deal stuff. Especially for us folks buying insurance in the individual market.

If economists want to lie and dissemble and commit fraud, let them do it on their own dimes or at a private university.

If this guy was a drywall contractor who lied twice to you, and then handed you a bill of materials that was different from what he had discussed with you, would you guys be all "leave Gruber alone!"

No. You'd be angry.

Reposting after any comment where it seems relevant

Since this story has surfaced, I’ve been dying to know if Gruber paid taxes on his consulting fees, or has he pulled a “Timmy Geithner” and pretended he did not know he was subject to IRS rules like the rest of us. -

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If the policy was enacted at the point of a gun, or through blackmail, extortion or bribery, would it be unfair to criticize the manner in which the policy was enacted? Or should we confine our criticism to the policy itself? And isn't the criticism of Gruber a criticism of a meta policy? Or, rather, the policy (i.e., dishonesty and obfuscation) by which other policies are enacted?

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Fooling the public is what skilled politicians do.

"Fooling the public is what skilled politicians do."

Of course this is an example of failing to fool the public.

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It’s a healthy world where academics can speak their minds at conferences and the like without their words becoming political weapons in a bigger fight

I have no problem with this as long as the targeted academic hasn't sold himself as a political weapon himself. Gruber is getting what he deserves.

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I tend to agree with you on most things, but you are really, really wrong about this. You're saying that it doesn't matter how a policy is passed; we should debate the policy on its merits regardless. In any case, Gruber has forfeited any right to be taken seriously by lying (his own admission) in order to act as justification for a policy that isn't good and wouldn't have been enacted had people like him not lied. But yes, poor, poor economists. We should really protect their right to say whatever they want without ridicule. /end sarcasm. In the real world, people who say stupid, contradictory things get mocked, particularly if they're saying stupid contradictory things in the service of an ideological agenda. You wouldn't tolerate this from libertarians; why would we tolerate it from quasi-socialists? Do we really need to make it even easier on them?

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>I’m not so interested in pushing through the mud on this one.

Shocking. An Obamacare architect has revealed that he knew he had to lie to get the law passed, that the current legal defense of the law is utterly baseless, that the law is being interpreted exactly as it was intended and Obama is currently lying about that, and that he has nothing but contempt for US voters.

Far too much confusing "mud" to "push through" on this. I'm surprised you mentioned it at all. Other than to dismiss it, of course.

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