The last thing Obama needed brought up during the just concluded G-20 conference, where world leaders generously agreed to boost global GDP by $2 trillion (let's all hold our breath while they "just go find a cash machine") while bashing Putin pretty much non-stop for 48 hours to the point where the Russian leader left early (due to "lack of sleep"), was the whole "Gruber thing", i.e., the recent revelations that the architect of the "Affordable" Care Act, Jonathan Gruber, relied on the "stupidity of American voters" to pass Obamacare. Sadly for the American president, not even halfway around the world could he get away from the humiliation that has clouded his one and only domestic policy "success" in his 6 year tenure.
Alas, a question about Grubergate is precisely what Obama got when after preaching about "accountability to the people", a member of the press asked the head of the "most hypocritical transparent administration ever" if Obama "misled Americans" about the taxes and about keeping the plan "in order to get the bill passed?"
Obama's response:"No, i did not." This was Obama's conclusion after he had just gotten "well-briefed before he came out here." Indeed, nothing escapes the American president who continued: "The fact that some adviser who never worked on our staff expressed an opinion that I completely disagree with in terms of the voters is no reflection on the actual process that was run."
Obama's argument in a nutshell: "we had a lengthy argument" in the US about Obamacare. True, one that was rammed down the throats of Americans as a tax courtesy of the Supreme Court: a decision that as we now know relied on the stupidity of the American voters. Apparently, one that also relied on the partisan nature of the Supreme Court. But it's ok, because the misleading was done not by the architect of Obamacare but, suddenly, just "some advisor who never worked on our staff."
Unfortunately, because Obama apparently wasn't briefed quite as well as he would have hoped, let's just take a look at what Dr. Gruber did do.
On March 25, 2009, HHS awarded a contract to Dr. Jonathan Gruber, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to "produce a series of technical memoranda on the estimated changes in health insurance coverage and associated costs and impacts to the government under alternative specifications of health system reform."  HHS Contract No. HHSP233200900181P, at 3. The contract required Dr. Gruber to consult with senior HHS officials "to develop detailed specifications of alternative proposals to increase health insurance coverage" and to use the specifications to "develop estimates of the change in the number of individuals with health insurance coverage . . . and the costs to the government and the private sector associated with these estimated changes in coverage." Id. This was a firm, fixed-price contract for $95,000. Id., at 1. On June 19, 2009, HHS awarded another firm, fixed-price contract to Dr. Gruber for similar services for $297,600. HHS Contract No. HHSP23320094301EC.
Subsequent to the award of the HHS contracts, Dr. Gruber authored opinion pieces on health care policy that were published in national newspapers. E.g., Jonathan Gruber, Reform requires consumer pressure, Boston Globe, Sept. 3, 2009, at 17; Jonathan Gruber, A Loophole Worth Closing, N.Y. Times, July 12, 2009, at WK-10. Several media outlets quoted Dr. Gruber in articles regarding health care policy. E.g., Alec MacGillis, Would Tax on Benefits Rein In Spending?, Washington Post, July 30, 2009, at A1; Lisa Wangsness, Mass. health overhaul offers lessons for US program; Employees not being dumped on public plan, Boston Globe, July 10, 2009, at 2. In 2009, Dr. Gruber twice testified before a Senate committee on health care policy issues. Increasing Health Costs Facing Small Businesses: Hearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, Nov. 3, 2009, video available at help.senate.gov/hearings; Healthcare Reform: Hearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, June 11, 2009, available at help.senate.gov/hearings.
At issue here is whether HHS violated the prohibition against using appropriations for publicity or propaganda purposes when it awarded the contract for technical assistance and when it used appropriated funds to produce and air the television advertisements. The applicable prohibition states that "[n]o part of any appropriation contained in this or any other Act shall be used directly or indirectly, including by private contractor, for publicity or propaganda purposes within the United States not heretofore authorized by Congress."
In other words Obama is right that Gruber wasn't part of the administration. He was nothing short than a well-paid propaganda tool designed to take advantage of, in his own words, American stupidity.
Did we say well paid? We meant very well paid. To wit:
- Michigan: $481,050 (source)
- Minnesota: $329,000 (source)
- Vermont: $400,000 (source)
- Wisconsin: $400,000 (source)
- West Virginia: $121,500 (source)
... and so on, and on, and on.
Because it suddenly becomes all too clear that Gruber was indeed telling the truth: only a nation full of idiots would pay a lying, self-serving propaganda tool nearly $2 million for nothing but constant lies.
As for the Obama exchange, here it is.