Vermonters have been waiting years to find out how the state plans to pay for a $5 billion plus single payer healthcare system that will require at a minimum $2 billion in new taxes. The law putting Vermont on the path to single payer says that funding plan was to have been completed in January of 2013. It’s two years late because governor Peter Shumlin says, “We’ve got to get it right.”
Well, now it turns out the guy tasked with determining whether or not the plan will be “right”, Jonathan Gruber, has been all over the national news, captured in a number of embarrassing videos bragging about how he and others misled us “stupid” American voters into supporting (or at least not actively opposing) the Affordable Care Act under false premises.
In one video Gruber says:
This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies…. 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 … that we could make it all transparent, but I’d rather have this law than not.
Translation: I misled the American people to see a bill I wanted to see pass pass.
Today, Vermonters are paying this guy $400,000 of taxpayer money ($500/hr.) to vet the most expensive, complicated and intrusive government program in state history – a program that Gruber really really wants to see implemented.
This is totally unacceptable. We cannot trust him. Jonathan Gruber is a single payer evangelist. He was a co-author of the Hsiao Report of 2011 that launched Vermont on the path toward the nation’s first single payer system. He has a personal and ideological stake in the outcome.
Will he tell us the truth about whether the numbers work? Will he tell us the truth about how single payer will impact businesses, families, individuals, and taxpayers? Qr, will he take advantage of our ‘stupidity’ to sell us a bill of goods because he’d rather have a “first in the nation” single payer program than not? The safe money has to be on the latter.
We also have to ask ourselves if the Shumlin Administration that hired Gruber and single payer advocates in the legislature share their high-priced consultant’s view that “lack of transparency is a huge political advantage,” and, when you’d rather have something than not, the ends justify the means.
Certainly the fact that the Administration has gone to extraordinary lengths to keep any details of a funding plan secret for three years, even despite court actions and Freedom of Information requests, indicates they agree with Gruber’s notion that lack of transparency is a good thing.
In the legislature, an interview by Vermont Watchdog captured Senate Healthcare Committee chair Claire Ayer’s reaction to the Gruber videos:
Ayer stopped short of calling for Gruber to be fired, saying his job is to provide important data to the Legislature. “We didn’t hire him to do public relations — we hired him to give us data. He’s a very highly nationally respected economist who specializes in the health care field. … I’m sure he knows by now we don’t expect him to ever say things like that again in a public setting.”
But in a private setting it would be okay? And, “highly respected”? Well, not so much anymore. Quite frankly, if all Senator Ayer is upset about is what Gruber said, she’s just as bad as he is. To quote former Vermont governor and physician Howard Dean, who weighed in on the topic, “The problem is not that [Gruber] said it, the problem is that he thinks it.” Either Ayer doesn’t get this, or she thinks it too.
In less than two months, Peter Shumlin will unveil a funding plan for single payer that he’s taken over three years to “get right.” If the person validating the notion that the plan we’re presented with is, in fact, “right” is Jonathan Gruber, nobody should believe it. The man has zero credibility.
Peter Shumlin came within a whisker of losing his election to Scott Milne, and Democrats in the legislature lost eleven seats to Republicans largely because they have governed with a lack of transparency, a lack of honesty, and a lack of competence. A good step toward regaining some credibility on these fronts would be to fire Jonathan Gruber, the poster child for all of these qualities, immediately.
- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute (www.ethanallen.org). He lives in Stowe.