The stupidity of Gruberism and executive amnesty
December 6, 2014
In an ironic twist, the long-awaited sequel to the cult classic "Dumb and Dumber" opened as Americans discovered that in the eyes of our political class, we're like the film's low-IQ duo — "stupid voters."
Caught dropping truth bombs in a series of videos, MIT professor and Obamacare co-architect Jonathan Gruber describes how policymakers hid the Affordable Care Act's true nature.
"Call it the stupidity of the American voter," Gruber chortled, since "that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass."
But who's the dunce, considering Gruber is now persona non grata in capitals where he's earned millions of taxpayer dollars for his wizardry?
Prior to Obamacare's enactment, Americans overwhelmingly approved their health-insurance plans — 86 percent, according to Time magazine's July 2009 poll. Fearing their health-system-upending plan wouldn't survive public scrutiny, Gruberites launched an operation to obfuscate and deceive.
Without a vote to spare, there wasn't time to Think Again about Obamacare's numerous taxes, employment disincentives and cross-subsidies from healthy to sick (including those with unhealthy behaviors) and young to old.
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"We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what's in it," Nancy Pelosi insisted, demonstrating how raw political ambition trumped the consent of the governed in passing modern history's most consequential law.
In our era of secretly negotiated lawmaking, "comprehensive" legislation (Obamacare, Dodd-Frank's "Wall Street reform" and the Senate's immigration bill) means it is complex enough to hide the special-interest-laden truth.
"Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage," Gruber explained, which is why the 2,409-page "bill was written in a tortured way" to game the arcane Congressional Budget Office's system for measuring legislation impacts. "If CBO scored the (insurance) mandate as taxes, the bill dies."
Armed with CBO's contorted conclusions, politicians and their media minions wielded them like weapons, including at the Supreme Court, which upheld Obamacare's constitutionality by deeming the mandate a tax.
To achieve other politically treacherous measures, such as limiting tax deductions on employer-provided health benefits, Gruberites designed the "Cadillac tax" on expensive plans.
"Mislabeling it, calling it a tax on insurance plans rather than a tax on people," was possible, Gruber contends, because "the American people are too stupid to understand the difference."
In revealing Obamacare's deceptions, Grubergate upsets Thomas Jefferson's self-government truism — "Whenever the people are well-informed they can be trusted with their own government." By conspiring to misinform and manipulate, Gruberites have engendered distrust of the institutions they're empowered to run.
More interested in advancing partisan agendas than assuring government's legitimacy and durability, Gruberites endanger the constitutional stability that's enabled America to become the freest and most productive society on earth, deviating from history's norm — tyranny, instability and stifled human potential.
Unfortunately, by circumventing the debate and consensus on which pluralistic democracies depend, Gruberites prove Jefferson's observation that "even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny."
As America's constitutional framers understood, process matters to orderly self-government. To constrain Gruberites, the founders designed a liberty-preserving system founded on popular consent, limited government and equality under the law. To check abuse, they separated political powers among co-equal branches, pitting "ambition against ambition."
That's why President Nixon was wrong to tell interviewer David Frost, "When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal." Similarly, President Obama is wrong to claim authority for sweeping legal changes — such as amnesty by fiat for 5 million illegals — if Congress doesn't pass laws he likes. Presidents are entitled to discretion in executing, not vacating, the law.
According to Jonathan Turley, a constitutional scholar and Obama policy-supporter, the president's unprecedented separation-of-powers violations render him "the very danger the Constitution was designed to avoid — the concentration of power in any single branch." If presidents can enact consequential changes in defiance of Congress, the law and public will, what can't they do?
Unilaterally legalizing millions of low-wage workers — a magnet for millions more — to compete with America's economically distressed working class mirrors the imperial and unfair rule we overthrew in 1776. Absent rapid job growth, it's also a recipe for poverty and dependency, straining the society to which immigrants are drawn. Americans aren't stupid or heartless to insist on the right to control whom we admit and in what numbers, no matter what Gruberites say.
"Saturday Night Live" mocked Obama's King George-like views and his "go big or go home" immigration overhaul in its "Schoolhouse Rock" parody "How a Bill Becomes Law." First it passes Congress, and then the president signs it. Even lame-duck presidents must operate within constitutional bounds, using the bully pulpit and the legislative process — not imperial edicts — to advance policy goals.
Think Again — ambitious Gruberites are an enduring threat to government of, by and for the people. Wouldn't it be dumb not to deploy all available checks and balances to curtail them?
Melanie Sturm lives in Aspen. She reminds readers to Think Again. You might change your mind. She welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.