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Charles Krauthammer: Video reveals cynicism behind Obamacare

MIT professor Jonathan Gruber, a principal architect of Obamacare, admitted that in order to get the law passed, it was made deliberately obscure and deceptive.
MIT professor Jonathan Gruber, a principal architect of Obamacare, admitted that in order to get the law passed, it was made deliberately obscure and deceptive.

It’s not exactly the Ems Dispatch (the diplomatic cable Bismarck doctored to provoke the 1870 Franco-Prussian War). But what the just-resurfaced Gruber Confession lacks in world-historical consequence, it makes up for in world-class cynicism.

This October 2013 video shows MIT professor Jonathan Gruber, a principal architect of Obamacare, admitting that in order to get it passed, the law was made deliberately obscure and deceptive.

“Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage,” said Gruber. “Basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass.”

First, Gruber said, the bill’s authors manipulated the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which issues gold-standard cost estimates of any legislative proposal: “This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes.” Why? Because “if CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies.” And yet the president himself openly insisted that the individual mandate – what you must pay the government if you fail to buy health insurance – was not a tax.

Worse was the pretense that Obamacare wouldn’t cost anyone anything. Skeptics like me pointed out the obvious: You can’t subsidize 30 million uninsured without someone paying something. Indeed, Gruber admits, Obamacare was a huge transfer of wealth – which had to be hidden from the American people because “if you had a law which ... made explicit that healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed.”

Remember: The whole premise of Obamacare was that it would help the needy, but if you were not in need, if you liked what you had, you would be left alone. Which is why Obama kept repeating – PolitiFact counted 31 times – that “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan.”

But as NBC News and others reported last year, the administration knew all along this wasn’t true. But White House political hands overrode those wary about the president’s phony promise.

It gets even worse, thanks again to Gruber. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case claiming that the administration is violating its own health care law, which clearly specifies that subsidies can be given only to insurance purchased on “exchanges established by the state.” Just 13 states have set up such exchanges. Yet the administration is giving tax credits to plans bought on the federal exchange – serving 37 states – despite what the law says.

The administration is frantically arguing that “exchanges established by the state” is merely sloppy drafting, a kind of legislative typo. And that the intent all along was to subsidize all plans on all exchanges.

Re-enter professor Gruber. On a separate video in a different speech, he explains what Obamacare intended: “If you’re a state and you don’t set up an exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits.” The legislative idea was to coerce states into setting up their own exchanges by otherwise denying their citizens subsidies.

This may have been a stupid idea, but it was no slip. And it’s the law, as written, as enacted and as intended. It can be changed by Congress only, not by the executive.

Thanks to these inadvertent displays of candor, we now know what lay behind Obama’s smooth reassurances – the arrogance of an academic liberalism that rules in the name of a citizenry it mocks, disdains and deliberately, contemptuously deceives.

Charles Krauthammer writes for the Washington Post Writers Group.