As Democrats seek to distance themselves from MIT economist Jonathan Gruber by demoting him from an Obamacare “architect” to a mere adviser, The Daily Caller dug and found video from 2009 showing one prominent Democrat ascribing a different job title to the embattled professor.
“According to Gruber, who has been our guide on a lot of this, it’s somewhere in the vicinity of an $8 billion cost,” said then-Massachusetts U.S. Sen. John Kerry during an Oct. 1, 2009 Senate Finance Committee hearing to markup the health care bill.
Gruber was paid $392,600 by the Obama administration to serve as an Obamacare “guide.”
Kerry was discussing what has been dubbed the Cadillac tax which is a 40 percent excise tax on health insurance plans that cost more than $10,200 per individual and $27,000 for families.
The purpose of the tax, which goes into effect in 2018, is to stop the “overinsured” from consuming too much health care. According to Gruber and other economists, individuals with expensive health insurance plans consume too much in health care services, putting upward pressure on overall health care prices.
Gruber first came under fire last week when a video from last year surfaced showing the economist stating that a “lack of transparency” was necessary for Obamacare to pass. He also said that “the stupidity of the American public” was a necessary ingredient for the law’s passage.
The Cadillac tax was pushed through in a similar manner, Gruber told a university audience in 2012.
“It’s a very clever, you know, basic exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter,” Gruber said at a University of Rhode Island event. (RELATED: In Third Video, Obamacare Architect Talks About ‘Basic Exploitation’ Of American Voters)
Gruber told the crowd that when he would explain his plan to cap the amount of subsidies employers could give to employees for their health insurance plans, audiences believed he was proposing a tax hike.
“You just can’t get through, and it’s politically impossible,” Gruber said.
But then “a second Massachusetts hero arose,” Gruber said of Kerry, who is now the Secretary of State.
“John Kerry said ‘no, no, no,’ we’re not going to tax your health insurance. We’re going to tax those evil insurance companies. We’re going to impose a tax that if they sell insurance that’s too expensive, we’re going to tax them, and conveniently the tax rate will happen to be the marginal tax rate under the income tax code. So basically it’s the same thing, we just tax the insurance companies, they pass on the higher prices, that offsets the tax break we get, it ends up being the same thing.”
According to an article from the Huffington Post in 2010 after Gruber’s Obamacare contract came to light, it was unclear how involved Gruber was in helping Kerry with the Cadillac tax piece of the bill. Kerry wrote an op-ed for The Hill citing Gruber’s expertise, but did not indicate that Gruber served as a “guide” of any sort.
In a 2012 interview with PBS, Gruber shed light on his role with the Senate Finance Committee.
“I worked with the [Obama election] transition team to help put the numbers together for the administration,” Gruber said. “And then, essentially, most of 2009 I was really on loan from the administration to Congress, particularly the Senate Finance Committee, to help them put the numbers together on what became the finance committee bill, which really became Obamacare.”
The White House, and a number of Democrats, have sought to downplay Gruber’s work on Obamacare.
At a press conference on Sunday, President Barack Obama was asked about the Gruber videos, telling Fox News’ Ed Henry “I just heard about this.” He also called Gruber “some adviser who never worked on our staff.” Earlier this week House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters “I don’t know who he is. He didn’t help write our bill.”
It turned out that Pelosi did know who Gruber was. She cited him and his analysis by name in 2009.
Besides earning approximately double the salary of an average White House cabinet member for his work on Obamacare, Gruber also attended White House meetings held to hammer out the health care law.
Describing himself as “the numbers guy,” Gruber used economic models he had developed to help project the law’s long-term costs and to help tailor the bill to the Congressional Budget Office’s budget scoring.
Gruber was also an integral part in helping create Romneycare, the Massachusetts health care bill which served as the model for Obamacare. (RELATED: Think Tank President Distances Herself From Gruber But Previously Praised His ‘Expertise’)
Besides his push for the Cadillac tax, Gruber was also a strong proponent of the individual mandate, another essential component of Obamacare. Paul Starr, a Princeton sociologist, told The New York Times in 2012 of Gruber’s relationship to the individual mandate: “it’s his baby.”
Updated to include comments Gruber made in an interview in 2012.