If only Halloween hadn’t passed, someone could go as MIT’s Jonathan Gruber. He is the economist most likely to get people in Washington to run out of a room. At the moment he is a problem for the Obama administration and Democrats, though he’s spooked Republicans before, too. At an academic panel in 2013, Gruber said of the Affordable Care Act: “This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure” the Congressional Budget Office “did not score the mandate as taxes.” He also said that “lack of transparency is a huge political advantage,” and added, “Call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass.” The video has surfaced now and conservatives are pointing to the admission as more proof that the Obama administration, which came to town pledging new levels of transparency, was trying to hoodwink voters with the Affordable Care Act. Gruber has now distanced himself from his remarks.
“I don’t know who he is,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Thursday, although she has referred to his work in the past. “He didn’t help write our bill.” Democrats are saying that Gruber was only one of many advisers and that the $400,000 he was paid by the government was simply for his economic model. This reaction looks like panic to distance Democrats from Gruber, which is impossible. It’s impossible not only because Gruber says he helped with the law and visited the White House five times in 2009 to help craft it, but also because the Democrats were the first to use the MIT professor as a political weapon.