Jonathan Gruber In 2010: ‘I’m An Ivory Tower Guy’

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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A snippet of MIT economist Jonathan Gruber speaking candidly has resurfaced, but this time it’s about himself rather than American voters.

“I’m an ivory tower guy at heart and do my thing and figure I’m an honest guy and people will trust it,” Gruber told Politico in Jan. 2010.

The self-description is likely to resonate with the public after several videotaped recordings surfaced this week of Gruber calling Americans “stupid” and bragging about how “a lack of transparency” was necessary to pass Obamacare.

Gruber called himself “an ivory tower guy” after it came to light that he had been paid $392,600 by the Obama administration to help create Obamacare. Some media outlets that used Gruber as a source – such as Politico and Ezra Klein, then of the Washington Post – were unaware of the arrangement. (RELATED: Gruber Has Made At Least $5.9 Million For Government Work)

After the revelation, Politico and Klein said they would disclose Gruber’s financial ties in the future. The New York Times went as far as attaching an editor’s note to a Gruber op-ed from the previous year.

“On Friday, Professor Gruber confirmed reports that he is a paid consultant to the Department of Health and Human Services, and that his contract was in effect when he published his article. The article did not disclose this relationship to readers,” the note reads.

“Like other writers for the Op-Ed page, Professor Gruber signed a contract that obligated him to tell editors of such a relationship. Had editors been aware of Professor Gruber’s government ties, the Op-Ed page would have insisted on disclosure or not published his article.”

But Gruber dismissed claims that he had a conflict of interest, saying his public writing was kept separate from his work for the administration.

“None of my public writing was based on the modeling I was doing for the administration,” Gruber told Politico. “What I say in public is just what I believe, regardless of what the administration thinks.”

Gruber did disclose his contract with the administration to one outlet, The New England Journal of Medicine.

“The [New England Journal of Medicine] asked me, so I disclosed it. Nobody else really asked,” Gruber told Politico, adding that that particular article also focused specifically on his work on Obamacare.

It has been debated whether Gruber was an Obamcare “architect,” which is the term Republicans and conservatives have used to describe him. Democrats, on the other hand, have sought to downplay Gruber’s role in crafting the law.

“I’m the numbers guy,” Gruber told Politico. Gruber, who had spent years developing economic models of health care plans, was thought to be one of the top economists in the world equipped to tackle the massive overhaul of the health care system.

Those models would be used to simulate budget scoring conducted by the Congressional Budget Office. As Gruber noted candidly in one of the videos that resurfaced this week, Obamacare was “written in a tortured way to make sure the CBO did not score the mandate as taxes.”

Gruber is also anchored to Obamacare through Romneycare. The Massachusetts health care law served as the model for the federal law. Gruber’s work, and his economic models, was instrumental in creating it. (RELATED: Pelosi Said She Doesn’t Know Who Jonathan Gruber Is Despite Previously Citing Him By Name)

While the White House has said Gruber’s views do not represent the administration’s and while House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said earlier this week that she did not know who Gruber was (though video from 2009 resurfaced in which she mentioned him by name in a speech), at least one prominent Democrat was critical of Gruber and even described him in the same way the economist described himself in 2010. (RELATED: Jay Carney: Gruber Speaking With ‘Remarkable Hubris’ From The ‘Ivory Tower’)

“It doesn’t help when someone who helped write not only Obamacare, the president’s Affordable Care Act, but also the precursor to it, which was Gov. Romney’s healthcare reform initiative in Massachusetts, speaks from the ivory tower with remarkable hubris about the American voter and by extension the American Congress,” former White House press secretary Jay Carney told CNN’s Jake Tapper earlier this week.

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