Wednesday, November 12, 2014

"GruberGate" and the 'Stupidity of the American Voter'

There has been a fair amount of talk on the internet the last week or so concerning the so-called "GruberGate" (I hate that EVERYBODY gets a "gate" these days, should be preserved for proper scandals..).

Interestingly though, the biggest element of this "scandal" is how LITTLE more traditional or "mainstream media" have covered it, if at all in fact, which gives the conservative media something to complain about..A never-ending cycle of American media and politics, gotta love it.

Anyway, back to the "scandal". Here is the short version:

Jonathan Gruber is a professor of economics at MIT and was, by his admission, one of the chief architects of Massachusetts's 2006 healthcare reform program (aka "RomneyCare") and the 2006 Affordable Healthcare Act (aka "ObamaCare"). In other words, probably not the most well liked guy in conservative circles.

While at a conference in 2013, Mr. Gruber made the following comment concerning the 2009 healthcare law:

"Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage and basically, call it the 'stupidity of the American voter' or whatever, that was really critical to getting the thing passed."

Pretty damning quote right? Hard to argue with that..but you all know me better than that.

As is so often the case, I suspected that there was more to this quote than the one minute soundbite, so I found a video of the WHOLE conference (all 51 minutes of it) to see what exactly Mr. Gruber was talking about when he made that now famous quote.

Turns out, the quote is a bit taken out of context (contain your shock folks!), but NOT as much as many liberal/progressive commentators would lead you to believe. As you might have expected, this story goes a little both ways.

The overall point Mr. Gruber was trying to make is this: most elements of the healthcare law, if explained in "layman's terms" would probably not be popular with a majority of Americans, largely because most Americans don't truly understand how health insurance works.

Harsh reality: He's not wrong. I've written on many occassions how there is ABUNDANT evidence that the average American voter is poorly informed about even the most basic tenets of American history and more frighteningly, even current events. Imagine this same problem applied to a basic understanding of how health insurance and healthcare works in reality (not how folks THINK it works).

Further, his overall point is not a new one, because just as the old saying goes, "There are two things in the world you never want to let people see how you make 'em: laws and sausages."

Why? Because politicians and political operatives like Mr. Gruber assume the average person won't understand what the law is trying to do or if they did, they would be furious with how it is being written and what tactics it sometimes takes to get a bill passed into law.

So, conservatives are correct in stating that Mr. Gruber did indeed infer that American voters are not quite smart enough to understand the exact mechanisms of the healthcare law or see that it is ultimately "for their own good" not to know.

But, and this is a fairly big butt, Mr. Gruber also points out several major flaws with the law that was passed in the very same video (criticizing the 'Cadillac Tax', employer mandate, and the subsidies program) and yet that never seems to get mentioned in the conservative media's coverage of "GruberGate". Again, contain your shock..

Regardless of the media's fight of this "scandal", I want to go back to Mr. Gruber's premise that transparency about such contentious issues is an inherently bad thing politically to try because the average voter won't understand and thus be suspicious of it. Instead, according to Mr. Gruber, the best idea is to NOT talk about the inter-workings of the law and just rush it through Congress and THEN let folks find out how the law actually works...

This is EXACTLY why a lot of Americans don't trust Congress or the federal government to do the right thing when nobody is watching.

I have a novel idea for you Mr. Gruber, instead of just assuming the average voter is too dumb to understand your law and thus will immediately distrust it, why not try to, I don't know, EDUCATE THEM ON THE SUBJECT!

Folks like Mr. Gruber have no problem complaining that the American voter is uninformed on the issues but yet they never seem to care enough about the problem to invest in actually educating the electorate on the issues. Why? Because it's so much easier just to deceive the average voter, ram your agenda through congressional committee after committee until you think nobody is watching and then get it passed into law.

For those also wishing to educate yourself on this "scandal", I strongly encourage you to watch the entire segment of this 51 minute video concerning Mr. Gruber and draw your own conclusions..

While Mr. Gruber may be too lazy to try and educate the public on a highly contentious issue, I am not.


All comments and/or opinions expressed in the above work are purely those of the author unless otherwise noted and do not represent that opinions/positions of any political or non-political organization or the Department of the Defense. Any/all distribution of this work MUST contain this disclaimer. 

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