Why Vote for People Who Think You Are Stupid?

MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who was the key outside consultant to have helped design and push for Obamacare–come on, you remember him–has decided to reveal to the entire planet just what port-side politicians and wonks think about the masses:

“This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO [Congressional Budget Office] scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies. Okay, so it’s written to do that.  In terms of risk rated subsidies, if you had a law which said that healthy people are going to pay in – you made explicit healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed… 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.”

Quoth Peter Suderman:

This validates much of what critics have said about the health care law, and the tactics used to pass it, for years.

For one thing, it is an explicit admission that the law was designed in such a way to avoid a CBO score that would have tanked the bill. Basically, the Democrats who wrote the bill knowingly gamed the CBO process.

It’s also an admission that the law’s authors understood that one of the effects of the bill would be to make healthy people pay for the sick, but declined to say this for fear that it would kill the bill’s chances. In other words, the law’s supporters believed the public would not like some of the bill’s consequences, and knowingly attempted to hide those consequences from the public.

Most importantly, however, it is an admission that Gruber thinks it’s acceptable to deceive people if he believes that’s the only way to achieve his policy preference. That’s not exactly surprising, given that he failed to disclose payments from the administration to consult on Obamacare even while providing the media with supposedly independent assessments of the law.

Keith Hennessey:

Apparently Dr. Gruber thinks it’s OK to lie to American voters when his allies are in power to enact policies that he wants but the voters wouldn’t. He then says American voters are “stupid” both for not agreeing with his value choices and for not figuring out the deception.

I disagree.

When you strip away all the complexity, economic policy is ultimately an expression of elected officials making difficult value choices. If over time these officials make value choices that do not reflect the values of the people whom they represent, they can, should, and will be replaced.

When these same elected officials, and those who advise them, deliberately construct policies to hide value choices that would be unpopular were they transparent and explicit, we end up with two terrible outcomes. We get policies that do not reflect our values, and we re-elect representatives who are lying to us.

All of these condemnations of Gruber’s comments are, of course, entirely accurate. And they lead to the question I ask in the title of this blog post. Politicians who ask for your vote are supposed to respect you. Political movements that seek your support are supposed to treat you like functioning adults and are supposed to understand that in a democratic republic, true power is in the hands of those who go to the polls to cast ballots. If one political movement or party insults voters and considers them stupid–and is made up of people who are dumb enough to admit on camera that they think voters are stupid and should be deceived/lied to–then there is no way on this or any other planet that the movement or party in question should win elections, either now or in the foreseeable future.

I am sure that there are people who will claim that Jonathan Gruber’s latest comments do no reflect the views of Barack Obama, or anyone in his administration. To which I would reply as follows: Jonathan Gruber got paid over $400,000 to design and implement Obamacare, and to help sell it. If the president of the United States and his allies really didn’t want Jonathan Gruber to speak for them, then they shouldn’t have fattened his bank account by nearly half a million dollars.

Oh, and by the way, if any port-side pundits have condemned Gruber’s comments, I have yet to hear of it. Of course, it is entirely possible that port-side pundits agree completely with Gruber’s comments. I would not be surprised one bit if they do.