Have you heard the joke about the crooked accountant? His client asks him what’s two plus two. He get’s up, draws the blinds, sits back down, and replies, “What do you want it to be?” The crooked accountant in Vermont’s story today is Jonathan Gruber. The client is Peter Shumlin.
Jonathan Gruber, for those who missed it, is the MIT healthcare consultant who has been caught half a dozen times on video shooting off his mouth about the “stupidity of the American voter, how “Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage” and, most importantly, how he helped mislead the American people about the true costs and impact Obamacare so that the bill could pass. “Basically that was really really critical for the thing to pass… Look, I wish… we could make it all transparent, but I’d rather have this law than not.” (Watch A Video Montage of Gruber’s Comments)
This flap is of particular concern to Vermonters because Jonathan Gruber is the person the Shumlin Administration hired (at $500/hr.) to vet their $2 billion plus funding plan for Green Mountain Care (single payer healthcare). The plan is supposed to be released to the public in less than two months. Vermonters need and deserve an honest, credible broker to do this job, and Gruber has disqualified himself.
However, Peter Shumlin refuses to fire Gruber.
In an interview with WCAX, Shumlin says, “We are going to continue to have him finish the job that he began, because he’s the one who is really digging into the numbers, he’s our calculator, he’s not doing policy for us, he’s not doing advice for us, he’s really our calculator.”
But this is precisely why Gruber can’t be trusted. He was the “calculator” for the Affordable Care Act. He abused that trust and misled the American people by massaging numbers so as to hide the true cost of the program and make passage politically palatable. Gruber: “This bill [the Affordable Care Act] was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO [Congressional Budget Office] did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies…” He also helped backload the costs so that the bulk of spending would fall outside the CBO’s 10 year horizon.
The president and Democrats were adamant that the Afordable Care Act cost less than $1 trillion. Gruber’s job, like the accountant in the joke, was to make sure it appeared to come in under that number, and he succeeded in gaming the CBO’s formula to get a cost estimate of $940 billion. The bill passed in 2010. Then in March 2012 when the CBO updated its Obamacare cost estimate and Gruber’s accounting tricks had done their job, the cost was revealed to be $1.76 trillion.
Peter Shumlin has promised that if we can’t do single payer for less than the cost of the current system, “we’ll take our marbles and go home.” Is Gruber going to give us an honest assessment of what single payer will cost, or will he cook the books to make sure Shumlin’s marbles don’t go anywhere?
When he said, “I wish… we could make it all transparent, but I’d rather have this law than not,” Jonathan Gruber obliterated his credibility as an impartial actor. We cannot trust him. He cannot be our “calculator.” And we cannot trust people who defend him.