Jonathan Gruber, ObamaCare, and “Stupid Voters”: It Couldn’t Happen to a Nicer Shill

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it! –Upton Sinclair

Schadenfreude is a dish best served, and MIT Professor and Larry Summers student Jonathan Gruber, who played a key (though conflicted) role in legislating both ObamaCare and ObamaCare’s precursor, RomneyCare, certainly had it coming. Here’s the YouTube where he calls the American voter stupid. I can’t even.

(There are other tapes[1], but this is the one that made the splash.) And here’s the transcript:

JONATHAN GRUBER, OBAMACARE ARCHITECT: This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure that the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies. Okay. So it was written to do that. In terms of risk-rated subsidies, if you had a law that said healthy people are going to pay in — if you made it explicit that healthy people pay in sick people get money it would not have passed. Okay.

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 in getting the thing to pass, and, you know, it’s the second best argument. And I wish Mark was right, we could make it all transparent, but I’d rather have this law than not.

Predictably, Republicans clutched their pearls and headed for the fainting couch. I think this is the best, or at least the most orortund, quote:

“The strategy was to hide the truth from the American people,” [Senator Jeff] Sessions said. “I’m not into this post-modern world where you can say whatever you want to in order to achieve your agenda [indeed not]. That is a threat to the American republic… This is far deeper and more significant than the fact that he just spoke.”

Chris Cilizza summarizes the flap and questions how smart Gruber was to say what he said while the camera was on. (We’ll have more to say about the CBO part of Gruber’s quote below.) But Sarah Kliff gets to the heart of why the Republicans might be seeking anger outlet for more than purely instrumental reasons:

The broader context of Gruber’s arguments is that they seem to confirm a lot of what conservatives already believe about Obamacare: that it was sloppily drafted by out-of-touch technocrats who view the American people with contempt. And so, if nothing else, this controversy is reenergizing their war against the law at a time when Democrats hoped it would finally be quieting down.

“Out-of-touch technocrats?” Check. But I think the real zinger is “stupid,” because Gruber’s words tap into something real about Democrats. If you go out onto Salon, or Kos, or Mother Jones, or any other Democratic tribalist site, you’ll see creative class types calling Republicans a million shades of stupid, all the time[2]. And from “the left” (granted, for some definition of “left”) you’ll hear terms like “sheeple.” So you can see why Gruber’s casual contempt might not be seen as aberrational, but quintessentially Democrat. After all, Gruber can only have thought his views so unexceptional that he could express them while the tape was running, right?

However, if we place Gruber’s gaffe in the context of the health care battles of the last few years, we can use his words as a lens to see how misdirective and disinformational this whole mini-controversy really is. I’d like to look at the issue of transparency from the standpoint of Gruber’s own practice, at the way “political advantage” played out in the thoroughly bipartisan policy-making process that culminated with ObamaCare, and finally at Gruber’s very real, and very interested, role in keeping single payer “off the table.”

(1) Jonathan Gruber, ObamaCare, and Transparency

What Gruber had going for him was software that he owned; a “micro-simulation model”:

As [HHS] put it, “Dr. Gruber developed a proprietary statistically sophisticated micro-simulation model that has the flexibility to ascertain the distribution of changes in health care spending and public and private sector health care costs due to a large variety of changes in health insurance benefit design, public program eligibility criteria, and tax policy.”

The CBO used a similar model, and so the administration could run Gruber’s model to predict how CBO would score its legislation (part of the “tortured way” in which ObamaCare legislation was written). HHS paid Gruber $392,600 for the use of the model.

[Gruber] was hired by at least eight states to provide advice or assist in creating the health-insurance exchanges that are at the heart of the Affordable Care Act: Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

We have the prices for four of the eight states:

  • Michigan: $481,050
  • Minnesota: $329,000
  • Vermont: $400,000
  • Wisconsin: $400,000

So, $392,600 + $481,050 + $329,000 + $400,000 + $400,000 = $2,002,650 and if you figure $400,000 a pop for the four remaining states (that we know of) that totals up to $3,602,650. Ka-ching! I know, not much by the standards of a bankster or a criminal CEO, but still, for an academic, a tidy sum.

Now, we all have to eat, and surely nobody would begrudge Professor Gruber his millions had he been “transparent” about what he was doing to earn them. He wasn’t. Glenn Greenwald:

[T]he indisputable fact is that Gruber was running around publicly and favorably commenting on the President’s health care plan — while the White House and its allies were centrally relying on him and characterizing him as an “objective” analyst — at exactly the same time that the administration, unbeknownst to virtually everyone, was paying Gruber many hundreds of thousands of dollars. The DNC alone sent out 71 emails touting Gruber’s analysis without even once mentioning the payments.

Gruber’s behavior was too much even for The Times. The Public Editor of that time, Clark Hoyt, wrote:

“[Gruber] did not tell Op-Ed editors, nor was the contract mentioned on at least 12 other occasions when he was quoted in The Times after he was consulting for the administration…. [R]eaders are entitled to disclosure so they can decide if there is a conflict that would affect the credibility of the information.

And emptywheel wrote:

MIT health economist Jonathan Gruber has been the go-to source that all the health care bill apologists point to to defend otherwise dubious arguments. But he has consistently failed to disclose that he has had a sole-source contract with the Department of Health and Human Services since June 19, 2009 to consult on the “President’s health reform proposal.”

Even assuming that Gruber is the only one in the world who can run these simulations, don’t you think it’s rather, um, dubious that the guy evaluating the heath care reform is also the package’s single biggest champion?

Gruber responded to Politico:

I asked Gruber about the reports, and he responded by stressing that the contract was not for public relations, but for analysis, and that he’s long advocated for a consistent set of policies.

Oh, puh-leeze. (And we’ll get to “long advocated” below.) All this came out during the legislative sausage-making that led to ObamaCare. (None of it stopped Vermont Governor Shumlin from hiring Gruber to run simulations for the Vermont single payer project, which Shumlin presumably regrets, unless he’s seeking national leadership and hence wanted to sink single payer.)

But we might look at Gruber’s attitude toward transparency — both as a political advantage and in his personal practice — as foreshadowing ObamaCare’s lack of transparency generally: The uncollected or late-arriving enrollment figures, the administration’s refusal to provide budgetary information on marketing spending, the lack of accountability for the executive figures who screwed the pooch on the website, lack of data gathering on quality of the plans, Covered California’s exemptions from freedom of access laws, not to mention the complexity and obfuscation of the product sold. In short, on transparency, ObamaCare and Gruber deserve each other.

(2) Jonathan Gruber, ObamaCare, and Political Advantage

I think one of the purposes of the Gruber flap, from the Republican perspective, is to separate themselves from it, as a preliminary step to altering or abolishing it, through the usual process of othering: They call us stupid; and they are the ones who passed ObamaCare. This narrative is completely at odds with the Democratic narrative, equally othered, which goes something like: They are the ones who oppose ObamaCare, and they are evil. In reality, neither narrative is correct; ObamaCare is completely bipartisan.

In fact, Gruber published a comic book — Health Care Reform: What It Is, Why It’s Necessary, How It Works — in 2011, which shows the bipartisan nature of RomneyCare -> ObamaCare in visual terms:


Here’s some Democratic oppo from 2012 on how Gruber helped get RomneyCare up and running:

Gruber confirms:

Make no doubt. Romneycare was the model for Obamacare.

And Brad DeLong writes in 2010:

The conservative DNA of ObamaCare is hardly a secret. “The Obama plan has a broad family resemblance to Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts plan,” Frum wrote. “It builds on ideas developed at the Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s that formed the basis for Republican counter-proposals to ClintonCare in 1993-1994.”

Now let’s consider those Heritage “ideas,” because they ended up setting the boundaries for acceptable discourse in the policy debates that followed. In a 1989 Heritage Foundation brief, Assuring Affordable Health Care for All Americans, Heritage Foundation’s director of domestic policy strategies, Stuart M. Butler, Peter J. Ferrara (George Mason), Edmund F. Haislmaier (Heritage), and Terree P. Wasley (U.S. Chamber of Commerce) proposed the essence of ObamaCare: “[E]very resident of the U.S. must, by law, be enrolled in an adequate health care plan to cover major health care costs.” However, from the “political advantage” standpoint, the key goal of the Heritage plan was to fend off single payer. From the conclusion:


Ezra Klein confirms:

The mandate made its political début in a 1989 Heritage Foundation brief titled “Assuring Affordable Health Care for All Americans,” as a counterpoint to the single-payer system and the employer mandate, which were favored in Democratic circles.

So, reminding ourselves of Jeff Sessions’ strictures on “anything goes” post-modernism, we have Democrats (Obama + Gruber) adopting a Heritage-inspired plan pioneered by Republicans (Romney + Gruber), whereupon the Republicans turn around and fight their own plan tooth and nail, while the Democrats, fighting back furiously, never mention they adopted the Republican plan. However, we also find Democrats, Republicans, Heritage, and Gruber in simultaneous agreement that “single payer” is verboten, taboo, unmentionable, “off the table,” and not politically feasible. So all parties noisily and venomously seek “political advantage” at a level of mind-boggling illogic and contradiction, but the real policy conflict — the policy both parties and the political class seek to avoid — is buried, and never mentioned at all.

(3) Jonathan Gruber, ObamaCare, and Single Payer

And so we come to Jonathan Gruber and single payer. As it happens, Gruber did a reading from his comic book at a bookstore on Claremont in Berkeley, and Brad DeLong went to see him:

[T]hink of, among others, poor Jon Gruber — whose objections yesterday to demands for Single Payer Health Care or FEHBP [Federal Employees Health Benefits]-for-all were all ones of political practicality — standing there in Escapist Comics on Claremont giving the Heritage-Romney intellectual argument for the Affordable Care Act as optimal policy…

Well, now. One always does wonder why people who say single payer isn’t “politically practical” or “politically feasible” never lift a finger to make it practical. Gruber, of course — admittedly, this is pure speculation — has 3,602,650 reasons why. Upton Sinclair would be proud.

Because think for a minute about what Gruber’s magic box is really doing; far from being a “statistically sophisticated” “micro-simulation model,” it’s really got exactly one output, and it emits that output every single run when der Blinkenlights stop flashing: “Not single payer.” That’s by design; and Gruber’s software is quite performant. That’s why the the “long advocated” point that Krugman makes defending Gruber against Greenwald is irrelevant:

And one more thing: what Gruber has had to say about health reform in the current debate is entirely consistent with his previous academic work. There’s not a hint that he has changed views, or altered his model, to accommodate the Obama administration.

That’s at best silly and at worse disingenous; the single output of Gruber’s model (“not single payer”) never changes by design, and the basic parameters of the model were set by the Heritage Foundation in 1989, and all Gruber’s clients accept them; indeed, they hire them to validate their assumptions, not for simulation. Krugman is treating Gruber as if he were a scholar, when in fact Gruber is a consultant doing work-for-hire; his clients’ requirements have not changed, so naturally his deliverables have not changed. I wrote:

Worse, Krugman’s ignoring the intellectual corruption that’s at the heart of the matter. Gruber is in the business of modeling a complex system that should not exist in the first place. Given the death toll [see here] from our health insurance system, it’s as if Krugman was lauding Gruber for not having “changed his model” of how some tobacco carcinogens are more or less lethal than others.

Gruber’s role was, in the final analysis, public relations, exactly as he denied it was:

His role, however, was not to set policy. It was to explain the effect that a policy choice would have and to add credibility to the entire endeavor. That [is] why he is on the hot seat now.

I’m not certain what combination of Republican oppo and hubris took Gruber down; what is certain is that he’s damaged goods. It’s hard to see how he could add “credibility” to any venture now. No more $400K walking around money for Professor Gruber!


I said “intellectual corruption” and I meant it. Think back to Gruber’s statement at the beginning:

This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure that the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) did not score the mandate as taxes.

Never mind that the Supreme Court added to the torture by deciding that the mandate was a tax. Here’s the deal: HHS paid Gruber $392,600 to simulate CBO scoring, so they could reverse engineer the legislation. But why is CBO scoring even the metric? Single payer, by removing the tapeworm of health insurance from the body politic, saves society and the economy $400 billion a year in administrative costs and rent, but those figures can only be partially reflected in the government’s budget and hence CBO scoring, and so Gruber’s magic box rules out single payer a priori; it can’t measure the total effect.[3] So Gruber isn’t about “micro-simulation” at all, but “macro-constraint.” What kind of logic is it that makes public policy without taking account of benefits to the public as a whole? And what kind of scholar accepts work-for-hire under those conditions?

Gruber’s fall is banal; his work leaves a legacy of bad policy, missed opportunity, and human suffering. So, please permit me my schadenfreude.


[1] Another tape, where Gruber seems to undercut the central argument in King v. Burwell, that Congress intended for all state exchanges to be subsidized, may ultimately prove more serious, if less conducive to pearl-clutching. See the level-headed Sarah Kliff.

[2] I could be wrong on this, but I think that, aggregated, Blue States subsidize Red States. So who’s stupid?

[3] To be fair, I’m working from everything I’ve ever read about Gruber’s software has been used; of course, since his software is proprietary, there’s really no way to be sure what it does or does not do.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


    1. Ned Ludd

      Democrats are also contemptuous of people who do not vote, indifferent to the difficult and time-constrained circumstances that poor and working class people live under.

      • Do you take time out to read through the ballot, trying to divine which candidates won’t sell you out; or do you read over your kid’s homework and spend time helping them with their spelling?
      • Do you get a “full” six hours of sleep, after working multiple part-time jobs; or do you navigate bus routes (which often change in the evening) to try to find the right polling place (which changes as you move from apartment to apartment)?
      • Do you spend your time looking for a cheaper insurance policy or a less corrupt candidate?

      When people act collectively, they can support one another. Voting reduces politics to individual, atomized actions which take time out from other actions. Someone who lacks time and money may find more important ways to spend their time than trying to divine if a politician full of empty promises is just waiting for the big pay-day, when they can pocket all of the pay-offs that come from serving their real constituents.

      1. PNW_WarriorWoman

        I live in a vote by mail state, Washington State. Our country sent out 441,987 ballots three weeks prior to election day. There are 29 drop boxes in my county so the ballot did not even require a 49 cent stamp. Cumulative total returns in my county to date: 221,876 representing 50.2% of the electorate. 2012 returns were 79.58%. I would not say I’m contemptuous of those who did not vote but the disappointment feeling is real. I would say our state and county elections process was designed especially for those whose lives are difficult and time constrained.

        1. Ned Ludd

          In the past, when I spent time attending caucuses, reading the candidates’ platforms, listening to debates, and investigating the candidates’ political history, I (unintentionally) helped elect Democrats who gutted environmental regulations, built infrastructure to promote fracking, and devoted hundreds of millions of dollars for a sports stadium that the voters overwhelmingly opposed.

          Why waste time being a mark?

          I volunteered and supported the Green Party for many years, only to watch craven vanity candidates take over the state party once it began to win elections. The electoral system is not democratic (Aristotle described elections as a feature of oligarchy†), and elections, by design, tilt power towards the powerful.

          † “For example, the appointment of magistrates by lot is thought to be democratical, and the election of them oligarchical… In the aristocratical or constitutional state, one element will be taken from each – from oligarchy the principle of electing to offices, from democracy the disregard of qualification.” – Politics, Book 4, Part 9

        2. Ned Ludd

          My previous comment (currently in moderation) may contain a bad link in the Aristotle quote. Here is the quote with the correct link:

          “For example, the appointment of magistrates by lot is thought to be democratical, and the election of them oligarchical… In the aristocratical or constitutional state, one element will be taken from each – from oligarchy the principle of electing to offices, from democracy the disregard of qualification.” – Politics, Book 4, Part 9

    2. sleepy

      Always lots of posts at Kos slamming white southerners for being racists and stupid. Why are they always singled out for blame for the demise of the dem party? Well, that question is rhetorical.

        1. Murgatroy

          My own ‘dame’ fault? Literary genius- because a ‘dame’ is Southern belle.

          The best of Shadenfreude

        2. James

          If the Dems lost the stupid racist vote it’s their own dame fault.

          Trouble is, that “stupid racist vote” is the Ds *TRUE* core constituency. And by the way, they’re neither stupid, nor racist for the most part, although their rhetoric would surely lead you to conclude as much. What they ARE is tired of hearing rich, self-affected, northeastern liberals tell them what they should be doing to make the world better, while receiving absolutely NONE of the benefits for voting for such congenital liars.

          America has become a breeder reactor for the very things it professes to loathe: provincial, racist, homophobic, gun toting, homicidal maniacs of every stripe imaginable, many of them current or former employees of the state itself in that capacity; all to support a back-slapping east coast educated neo-liberal elite that takes utter delight in wallowing their supposed “stupidity.”

          The US elite (and that’s probably the top 25% of us at least by world standards) is currently residing in an economic bubble of absolutely epic proportions, so if I was inclined to be taking pleasure in their misery about now, I’d think again. The US working class is all that stands between the nouveau riche US professional and/or investor class and the seething masses below, and guess what, the goddamned oligarchs want their share too!

          1. Min

            “Iggerant and proud of it” racists were indeed the core of the Democratic Party back when there were radical Republicans. They are still around and now form the core of the Republican Party.

  1. Carla

    Re Sarah Kliff’s statement: “The broader context of Gruber’s arguments is that they seem to confirm a lot of what conservatives already believe about Obamacare: that it was sloppily drafted by out-of-touch technocrats who view the American people with contempt.”

    I am decidedly not a conservative, and I not only believe this about Obamacare, but we certainly had all the evidence to confirm it long before Jon Gruber opened his mouth on tape.

    1. jrs

      Was it drafted by out of touch technocrats or the insurance industry?

      I’m not much a fan of technocrats either, but I don’t think profit motivated industries really fit in that category.

      1. Phil Perspective

        Was it drafted by out of touch technocrats or the insurance industry?

        Both!! Do people really forget how industry was brought aboard, only later to stab the Administration in the back? Also, too, look up Liz Fowler. How she moved from lobbying, to “Mad” Max Baucus’s office, and back to lobbying again soon after the ACA was passed.

        1. Strangely Enough

          From the Administration’s standpoint, that “stab… in the back,” seemed to have a “don’t throw me in the briar patch,” ring to it…

      2. GuyFawkesLives

        I’m pretty sure your question can be answered by the lobby group that Obama called in first thing after the first election:

  2. Demeter

    The Obama Administration will live in infamy right after Nixon’s.
    I don’t see any way this charade can continue.
    The Democratic Party will either cast off the Corporatist Elite, or it will die in the foreseeable future.
    We Boomers, parents of the Millennials, are not raising stupid children.

    1. ambrit

      I beg to differ. We most certainly can raise misinformed children. I assert that the quality of the information available will determine the quality of the decisions made using that information. You can fool smart people.

        1. ambrit

          That’s an interesting quibble. Mal-informed perhaps? (The shaping of language, as you say, is fundamental.)

          1. juliania

            Our children are savvy on the internet like we wish we could be. They stayed away from the polls in droves twice since Obama burned them. I’m proud of our children. I’m proud of the nonvoters. I’m one of them.

            1. ambrit

              My quibble with that trope, Internet Generation, lies in the sources and biases of the information the “Internet” gives them. The kids are alright resonates. What’s needed next is for the kids in question to use that internet resource for their own ends, not the ends of advertisers and other rent extractors.
              I’m emotionally with you on the voting issue, at least on a state and national level. However, we all live somewhere. Organizing local movements can gain traction for change at the granular level. Just look at what a comparatively small group of very motivated Religious Fundamentalists has accomplished at local, and in some cases, state levels. I direct your attention to the Texas State Board of Education and its’ rightward lurch. This board determines the standards used for state school texts. Texas being so big, national textbook publishers formulate school books to Texas standards, which by default also become the standards for other smaller states. (An example of the power of markets.)
              Start subverting! It’s way more fun than despairing.

              1. Brooklin Bridge

                Small change or big change, both are like ski wax – work better in one direction. If you subvert in favor of the oligarchs such as creationist text books, it seems to just glide along. If you subvert in favor of the vulnerable, the poor, as in information about how much good SS does for the economy, not so much glide – in fact, un petit peu de rien de tout.

                But still, better than despair, agreed on that.

                1. Carla

                  Actually, I’m not so sure it’s better than despair…if and when the fruits of local organizing only serve to exacerbate our problems by further enabling the powerful to smite the 99 percent, perhaps we need to re-think. Obviously, at the very least, we need lots more people organizing at the local level for things that do NOT “foam the runway” for 1 percent. Here’s one, and it’s actually non-partisan:


                  We’ve gotten citizen’s initiatives in support of the We The People Amendment passed (easily) in 6 Ohio cities, and will have several more on the ballot in 2015.

              2. jrs

                Does it even make any sense that textbook publishers formulate to Texas standards as opposed to California standards? If we’re talking big in terms of population …

        2. Doug Terpstra

          “Disinformed” is correct. “Misinformed” implies self-inflicted ignorance, when in fact the American people are actively propagandized in concerted disinformation campaigns. I suspect we are the most propagandized population on Earth.

      1. jgordon

        Then, we can start by not letting our kids anywhere near TV, radio, or newspapers–since it’s all nothing but lies, distortions, and propaganda created by and for the benefit of the oligarchs. Anyone who hasn’t been diligent in keeping this stuff away from the kids will have delusional kids who support the oligarch’s basic conception of the world, if not the precise oligarchs themselves.

    2. Cynthia

      It would be funny to see these arrogant, inept, neoliberal idiots back peddling so darn fast it gives you whiplash, if it were not for the fact that the statements they back peddle so fast away from didn’t show the world who they are and what they really think of the American people. It looks to me that this idiot talks precisely as Obama would if he were not being taped. Obama’s arrogance and how he feels toward the American people comes through all the people he surrounds himself with. They could all be clones.

    3. Phil

      Really, every illegal and legal immigrant is a deminishment, degradation, debasement and decrease in their standard of living. Yet these Millienial chumps are heavily in favor of more Diversity! The propaganda reguarding the diversity meme is so heavy, that they have lost the ability to do a simple time-analysis benefits chart going back say 50 years, when workers received, medical care, pensions, profit sharing, and full time jobs, none of which are reaily availble now in the private sector. My aunt retired from a railroad as a clerk in 1978, her net assets in 1978 were $815,000 dollars, primarily from stock( in her company) pension assets, profit sharing, and her bank account. Her bestfreind worked at a detergent plant for a major soap maker as a line worker, his assets upon retirement in 1981was $705,000 dollars. Again from the same type of benefits from his company, oh, and don’t forget they both owned their modest, homes and had social security coming. So, if a group of people is so dumbed down, and cannot put two and two together, they get a job at Starbucks! Yes, these millenials, their soooo smart! Whenever I talk to one of them about immigration, I am immediately called a racist, I think that action on their part is called a conditioned response! Phil

      1. Yves Smith

        Sources tell us that illegal immigrants pay over $30 billion a year in Social Security taxes on which they will never get any Social Security payments because the IRS can tell the same SSN is being widely shared.

        Immigrants also pay sales and property taxes, through the property taxes in the houses they rent. Their landlords use the rental proceeds to pay property taxes and so the lease price reflects the need to cover those taxes.

        So you aren’t only venomous, you are also flat out wrong.

        1. cripes

          Yes, his tone and approach leave much to be desired, but he didn’t exactly say the “illegals” are taking more than they are contributing; i.e. taxes vs welfare, benefits etc.

          When I encounter people directing their anger towards the most exploited workers, immigrants, I always point out that it is no accident that low-paid immigrants have been recruited, literally, by agro-business, meat-packing and construction industries by opening recruiting offices in Mexico and Central America and eviscerating the stable middle-class jobs native-born workers once held.

          I suspect his point, inarticulate as it may be, is that corporations have used labor arbitrage, in Asia and by importing low-wage workers esp. Mexicans to reduce American labor standards to the pitiful state we see today. And this trend is expanding to include radiologists, paralegals, programmers via internet in Dominican Republic, India etc.

          Destroying their local and agricultural economies also drives “illegal” immigration in the form of economic refugees, just ask Bill Clinton, who said as much in an unguarded moment about the hatchet job he did on Haiti via NAFTA.

          If he means that democratic party diversity blather provides cover for that activity, he may have a point.

        2. Bullwinkle

          Do correct me if I’m wrong but don’t you need a social security number in order to pay social security taxes? If so, how are illegal immigrants getting a SSN?

      2. James

        Phil, oh Phil! The government and the economy has expanded exponentially over these past many years to cover for every manner of bank and corporate fraud and you’re going to belabor the hard work of a class of immigrants who do the work that you and yours wouldn’t do in the first place at any price, almost all of whom come from third world countries that we’ve likewise fucked over to keep YOUR capitalist oligarchs rolling in cash? Phil!!! When the fuck are you going to grow up and get a clue man? You’re entitled to your rage man, but taking it out on people who are even MORE fucked over by the very system you’re decrying is just plain stupidity man!

      3. OIFVet

        I am a legal a legal immigrant, so sue me. Now, if I could only grow a pair of horns and a tail I will truly be the devil incarnate.

        1. Phil

          Like I said, thanks for proving my point chump, Same old meme, worn and tired out. You could work, for the media, or a PR firm for La Raza! Obviously another out of work Mortgage Banker. Obvious another Trustfunder who is projecting. Are you telling me we had no restaurants before the Pedros showed up? We were starving? ahhahahah Because I bussed tables in the 1970’s no Pedros! The country was founded on indentured servants and slaves. The oligarchs were only forced to wean themselves of their servants during the two World Wars and the “Red Scare” inbetween. No other Western country is going Pedro like DA GOOD OLE USA, except Britain, and look how well it working for Them. All their Muslims want to be Jihadii’s in Syria! But, hey, you had to sell those subprime loans to someone! hahahahhaha. Just look at how well the country has done since the opened the Dumper in 1965.

          1. OIFVet

            Actually Philip, before there were the Pedros there were the Johns and Marys of the Mayflower. And now their half-witted progeny is blaming the Pedros for coming here? Look at it on the bright side Philip, at least I did not give away smallpox blankets to your people. I didn’t destroy their traditional sustenance and force them in a reservation at the point of a gun either.

        2. Phil

          Just keep my grass cut, and my toilets clean, other than that, no one cares, Horns or no horns! hahahhahaahha

      4. Jim in SC

        According to this article in National Review, all of the jobs generated in the US since 2000 went to immigrants. I’m generally pro-immigration, but I’d like to keep the facts straight.

        Phil’s other point, that his aunt and her best friend were able to accumulate very significant assets working ordinary jobs is well taken. Those would be significant sums to accumulate today, much less in 1978. And I’m sure it speaks to the character of his aunt and her friend, because it was unusual then as now to accumulate so much. But I believe that working class people often owned their own homes back then, and had a much better chance for their kids to get an education without bankrupting either parent or child. There was simply more interaction between classes, and more class mobility, then.

        1. zapster

          And astoundingly, neither of you guys seem to know history. Such as NAFTA, which dumped subsidized corn in Mexico and drove millions off their farms so they could work in the maquiladoras that sprang up just over the border–and then decamped and left those millions jobless right *on* the border–where they were scooped up by the factories still left in the US! Instant near-slave labor force. So, right. Blame the immigrants–instead of the elitists that you consider yourself part of. You’re simply delusional. The Fox News/National Review hate machine is well-designed to deflect the ire of the proletariat away from the real perps and toward it’s natural allies. It works very well.

          Trying to shove the immigrants back out is idiotic. They have nothing to go back to, for starters, because your heroes destroyed their homes. The most reasonable and cheapest approach is to make them legal, ending the slavery-wage “advantage”–and increasing prosperity for everyone at the same time.

          Unfortunately, the same idiots that worship elitism are more interested in nursing their hatreds than they are in actually solving the problem.

    4. Milquetoast Honey

      Gen Xer here, raised by a Boomer parent. Your generation is a huge part of problem. Your anti-war Left lost the moral and cultural high ground, as well as the fight to actually stop the war, even as it was mythologized by Hollywood (read Debord’s “Society of the Spectacle” to understand how capitalism sells revolution back to you). The lesson learned by your generation (that’s middle class white people) was taught at Kent State and it was a lesson reinforced, and harkened back to, for your “Millenials” with the coordinated reaction to Occupy Wall Street.

      And now the “Boomers” are eating the seed and the corn. Frankly, I can’t wait until your generation dies out, as it has been one of the worst for this country, and arguably, for humanity. Your “Millenial” children are inheriting a world where their parents and grandparents gave up the fight and weren’t/aren’t willing to make the necessary sacrifices to make a better world.

      Of course, when speaking of generations, one speaks of generalities, which is useless in explaining history, which any sot knows is a spiral, the “ever-widening gyre” (that’s Yeats, someone not venerated by the culture of the lowest common denominator, perfected in that post-war period), where ideas about humanity play out, which would be much like commedia dell’arte or Hetalia (a show popular amongst Millenials), if it weren’t drenched in blood and suffering.

      And I speak as someone who works as a community organizer while working a regular job blue collar job. Teaching the children well means showing them through your actions as well as teaching them to think critically. The problem with the Democrats is capitalism, as it is for the US.

      Of course, I’m ignoring nukes and the existential threat they provide, as well as their limnal effect on the history of ideas and theories of power, but this was mostly meant as a diatribe against investing hope in your children to regain or claim the power you’ve lost, given up, or turned away from. Of course Demeter’s child was Proserpina, so maybe you already understand that, sub-consciously at least.

        1. cripes


          Ha Ha. Indeed, another hipturd liberturdian laid low by Pete (the Greatest Generation) Peterson, who told him to blame his parents generation.for a corporatocracy run by oligarchs–of all ages!

          Hey genius, I’m born between the Boomers and the Millenials; what generation do I blame?

          And yeah, the youth of the 60’s-70’s put up a much bigger fight than the current crop has, although I’m still hoping. Of course, they mostly fell for the Obama brand, so that doesn’t bode well…


      1. GuyFawkesLives

        Gave up the fight???

        What I continue to see: many middle-aged people fighting for their homes against foreclosure and student debt.
        What I DON’T SEE: many youths fighting against student debt and foreclosure.

        It appears to me that youths (and if you want to talk about OWS, I saw MANY OWSers who were middle-aged people carrying signs) were sent out of the public domain when OWS was violently disbanded and simply stopped fighting. And since then they have quit fighting.

        So, if you want my opinion, pointing fingers at one group of people doesn’t do anyone any good because two can play that game. Instead, we should be FIGHTING TOGETHER. But, it is more fun to point fingers and do nothing, isn’t it?

        1. Milquetoast Honey

          I point my finger because I can. When does wage suppression begin. The 70s. The Carter Doctorine has been the basis for our ME adventures for the past 35 years. The police have only gotten more lethal and violent. Unions weaker and weaker. Many of the neo-lib/com/fascist scumbags and their ideas began to get traction in the 70s. Where was the oppostion? The organized masses?

          I personally have fought against foreclosures and payday loans. The majority of people supporting the predation are Baby Boomers. There’s a meme called Scumbag Boomers on Reddit.

          The fact that I’ve raised your hackles should be evidence enough of the truth animating my and many others disgust with the Baby Boomers. The only way to effectively fight for change is through organizing (see the Tea Party as an example). The only Baby Boomer organizers I’ve ever met (in the US and Canada) are people of color. White, middle-class types have moved on to institutional/political jobs and are part of the reason why the Democratic party is so sclerotic.

          No one ever talks about organizing locally and taking over the Democratic machine. No one has any interest in being a block captain or a precinct captain. We don’t have money, only numbers. But the meme that money is all that matters, a meme that got legs in the 70s in the US and its politics, has been internalized. And I lay that at the Boomers and their willingness to lap up propaganda (Reagan, Reagan, Reagan).

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            Thank you for sharing your intergenerational hate. I feel sorry for the people you’re organizing, first because you’re teaching them delusion, and second because you’re setting them up for failure.

            Do you really think “because you can” is a reason? There’s a joke that’s the punchline for, and curiously, or not, I’m reminded of it by your commment.

            1. GuyFawkesLives

              His attitude is PRECISELY what I witnessed in OWS. The students laden down with debt refused to pick up the fight for the homeowner because they claimed, “The TRUE proletariat is property-less.” OK, so folks, why am I fighting against YOUR student debt if you will not fight for me in my fight against the corrupt banks? We are fighting the same evil. These same lobbyists who won government de-regulation of the housing industry also won de-regulation of college tuition hikes/no bankruptcy for student debt issues. But, hey, it’s easier to hold a grudge and place blame rather than making real alliances and working together against “the Man.”

            2. Faye Carr

              Meanwhile, as the millenials battle the boomers and the anti-immigrants argue their point to death, and people cash out their sickly 401k’s to pay their rent and buy groceries…
              Big Ag, the insurance industry, MIC, BOA, and the 1%, rub their greedy hands in satisfaction whispering as they watch….
              “Exceeeelent- all is going according to plan”

          2. Ben Johannson

            Something about your words sounds very familiar. I wonder what it could be?

            The majority of people supporting the [theft] are ]blacks]. There’s a meme called Scumbag [blacks] on Reddit.

            The fact that I’ve raised your hackles should be evidence enough of the truth animating my and many others disgust with the [Jews].

            [Blacks] have moved on to institutional/political jobs and are part of the reason why [America] is so sclerotic.

            But the meme that money is all that matters, a meme that got legs in the 70s in the US and its politics, has been internalized. And I lay that at the [Jews] and their willingness to lap up propaganda [(socialism, socialism, socialism)].

            Huh. A “lefty” Pat Buchanan.

          3. Yves Smith

            You are remarkably ignorant and it shows.

            Who was in charge in the 1970s? Societal structures were more hierarchical than now and promotions were much more time in grade.

            Answer: people at least 50. That means born 1920 to 1930. Not Boomers.

            Similarly, the pro Reagan voter were much more skewed by income than age, and Boomer age groups voted LESS for Reagan than retirees. And the Reagan value shift took hold strongly with young people who never grew up knowing anything else. Reagan himself was born well before WWII, or did you manage to forget that in your general inability to deal with math too?

            And people as stupid as you dare to be loud about it too.

      2. Banger

        This is pretty silly. The left is pretty small and you wish to make it smaller. Those of us who risked our butts back in the day salute you. Hey, many be learning a little bit about history would make you more believable. Those, like me who marched for civil rights and then the anti-war movement were a small minority of the boomer generation and our movement was smashed by the police state of that day. Most people in this culture are on the right now and they were on the right then. Making insulting comments about a generation as if it were a single entity is, frankly, stupid and has no place in any civilized discussion.

      3. ian

        ” Your “Millenial” children are inheriting a world where their parents and grandparents gave up the fight and weren’t/aren’t willing to make the necessary sacrifices to make a better world.”

        Gave up the fight? I mean, are you kidding??

        I’ll be working until I drop dead. There’s not going to be any cushy retirement here.
        Please tell me what “necessary sacrifices” I’m supposed to be making.

  3. Tyler

    The American people are misinformed, not stupid. I wish the destructive effect of Fox News could be quantified.

    1. Jess

      The destructive force of Fox news?

      Jeez, Louise! How about the destructive force of MSNBC, Daily Kos, Salon, 60 Minutes (with its hagiography of the NSA and the F-35), etc?

      Hint, Fox and the right wing are not the problem. We know they are the enemy, and so do most people. The problem is the phony pretend progressives and their mouth pieces and house organs. Sean Hannity’s audience doesn’t scare me; the audiences for Bill Press, Lawrence O’Donnell, Ezra Klein, and the deplorable Rachel Maddow, do.

      1. Kurt Sperry

        Amen. The Republicans are what they purport to be, a unashamedly corporatist, right wing party. The problem actually exists in the place where an opposition should be, and where instead there is another corporatist right wing party marketed as not being one. The stupid ones aren’t the conservatives that vote GOP, they are the self-identifying lefties who support a party that lies to them about–I want to make a list, but,essentially about everything. Stupid is being a willing partner in that deception. The Tea Partier with the “moran” sign is Einstein comparatively.

  4. McMike

    The voters are of course heavily manipulated, using sophisticated psychological and sociological techniques, and a lot of money. A tactic the GOP excels at, and seemingly relies on almost exclusively of late. I don’t know if the voters are stupid per se, but the GOP sure works hard to MAKE them stupid. The Dems, being the Dems, are the ones who get caught calling the voters stupid on tape, while it is the GOP whose mechanisms for making them stupid are in front of us continuously on the tube.

    The practice of finessing legislation to score better is not exactly new either. I can think of some major Bush spending bills that front loaded the revenue while pushing the spending out of the forecast window.

    Neither of these defenses are available to the Dems though, due to what Jesse calls the credibility trap.

    Meanwhile, the Big Question is where does this game go? Once the GOP is done making political hay out of this (and the Dems done helping them), where do they go? They surely won’t put a total re-work back on the table: this is too juicy for the insurers, baked in now, and presumably the GOP is too smart to hang their names on an alternative version of fleecing when they have a perfectly lucrative one in place already. They don’t want the left to bring single payer up again, or contrast our system to other nations again. We can’t go back to before….

    So where do they go?

    Presumably they can (and will) find to make this bill worse. But I suspect behind a lot of sound and fury, smoke and mirrors of their own, ACA in its essence is safe and sound.

    1. ambrit

      I’d assert that the ACA depends on a revenue stream dependent on a functioning economy. As this national economy degrades, resources available for extraction comparatively shrink. Then you will see an enormous dog fight between elites for rent extraction ‘rights.’ This is when real progress in the fight against rentiers will be made. Divide and conquer is an equal opportunity strategy.

      1. juliania

        Well said, ambrit. In the words of a fine lady Texan politician, (in that order):

        “That dog won’t hunt.”

        And this dog’s a chihuahua.

      2. Auburn Parks`

        The ACA is a federal Govt program, and as such, just like the military, its not dependent on any revenue stream. Congress issues dollars, your taxes have nothing to do with this ability. You must be wary to avoid the household budget fallacy, as the Federal Govt is not dependent on income for its spending.

        1. proximity1

          RE: “It’s not that the Dems are above manipulation, it’s that they are bad at it.”

          Maybe we can kill two birds with one stone here. Considering both “Dems” (Democrats, the political party) and “manipulation” we have only to look at Bill Clinton’s “successes”–I’m obliged to put “successes” between quotation marks since, if I don’t, the reader may interpret me as taking that term at its face value. But I don’t. I despise Clinton for what he was and what he did.

          That said, Clinton was a consumate manipulator and politician. He was only too glad to leave those who misunderstood him to have their true interests at heart in the predicament of their mistaken trust and faith. So it isn’t that “Dems” are “bad” at “manipulation. It’s that Bill Clinton (and Hillary and Kerry and Obama, et al) are what “we get” when “Dems” are “good” at it–i.e. manipulation.

          If you want to take the measure of our pathetic state of political affairs, consider carefully how much Obama remains admired and respected as the authentic standard-bearer of what passes for leftist politics in the United States. Consider, too, just how and where we here, who must be thought of as a good deal more politically astute and attentiive than most others in the general population, also divide and disagree over how to interpret various important but highly charged issues. I have in mind mainly issues in international affairs–which insurgencies we should approve and which we shouldn’t, their leadership and its real or disguised aims, etc. Many such things divide opinion here because smart, attentive people can disagree about how to read actors’ moves and their import.

          Eventhough wealthy people can and do fall into divisive factions and fight over spoils, their unifying interests in immense wealth is a marvelous meta-unifier. At some point, their narrow “top” level disagreements resolve at a lower level where, without great difficulty, they can and do find it relatively easy to make common cause against all the rest of us.

          Our only alternative to remaining their helpless victims is to find and keep a better understanding of these circumstances and use every opportunity for a genuine advance while keeping wise distance from falling into all manner of easy traps which superficially look like genuine progress but which are in fact simply another clever lure.

          Part of the key to achieving that is the work and the efforts found here in discussion, debate and occasional clarification of difficult issues. That is indispensable education, the sort that is never offered in more than a few small and scattered classrooms and in too little-read books or journal articles.

  5. jrs

    Yea I started wondering what level plans people had who claimed to get good care out of Obamacare? A silver PPO? Or better? If so are they sure the bronze HMO, with the cheapest carrier in the state, with the narrowest network would have worked? Because can anyone really say “Obamacare works” just based on their plan working (ha they probably can’t even say their particular plan works because of hidden gotchas, but at least they are closer there).

    And if the cheapest bronze plan with the smallest network wouldn’t’ have worked how would they prevent people from choosing it? I mean it’s one thing to pick a plan with a 6k deductible (lets say the max out of pocket is the same) if you easily have 6k saved up. Then could honestly be said to be rational (although even then years of healthcare problems could add up if you had really bad health luck, but still it’s mostly a safe bet if you easily have the deductible for a couple of years probably, or as safe is one is going to get in this system). But while people like that may choose such plans are most people who choose such plans people like that? Or do people who couldn’t get 6k if their life depended on it choose such plans just because they are the only ones for which they can afford the premiums? Because remember high deductible plans have smaller premiums and premiums aren’t particularly affordable as is.

  6. Auburn Parks

    As if Con politicians and pundits aren’t constantly denigrating voters and democrats.

    democrats buying votes
    women are too stupid to be trusted with their own pregnancy choices
    welfare queens
    We’ve had two Con presidents literally commit treason during their campaigns (Nixon and the vietnam peace talks and Reagan undermining the hostage negotiations with promises of weapons after the election)
    and on and on and on.

    Why is it an uproar because Dems rightly call the American electorate stupid and misinformed, when by every objective measure (polling) demonstrates that they are, whereas Con criticisms about the public and voters almost exclusively lies?

    I am by no means a Democrat, and I would be just fine watching the Dem party disappear down the hole of history and something else take its place. But lets at least have our discourse reflect reality if nowhere else but on these hallowed pages.

    1. jrs

      Many have argued the American voters are mostly stupid because they actually have very little power. Ok sometimes they act stupid when they could have real power (state referendums for instance – no excuse for stupid there).

      But otherwise why know about a bunch of stuff you can’t do much about anyway? I don’t know about you but that’s how I feel about most of it anyway. That yea more evil stuff happening, and I hate it, I hate that my taxes even fund much of it (like wars), but what can I do? Not much! Most people are not members of any groups that could have an impact anyway. Enter the decline of unions etc. So what can they as lone individuals do anyway? Yea maybe they live decent ethical lives as individuals but ….

      1. fresno dan

        good point
        What is the point of reading tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of pages of health insurance policies? They are all well designed and well crafted to screw you. Some of very fancily worded to make like they will cover you, when in fact that can be used to deny coverage.
        Where is your alternative? Its just galling to have to listen to someone asset that you have a REAL choice when you don’t

    2. ian

      “Why is it an uproar because Dems rightly call the American electorate stupid and misinformed, when by every objective measure (polling) demonstrates that they are, whereas Con criticisms about the public and voters almost exclusively lies?”

      I can only speak for myself. There have been many times when I thought somebody was doing something stupid or ill-advised and it turned out that they had their reasons, of which I wasn’t aware.
      A little humility is called for.

  7. Chauncey Gardiner

    Gruber and this particular set of events related to the ACA are illustrative of a much broader and deeper issue among those who control and influence the two legacy political parties, their richly paid consultants, major corporate media and various government agencies.

    Going forward, we can and should use the word “Gruber” as a verb in popular usage for corporate-government-media programs of propaganda and persuasion. Examples might include the following:

    — They are “Grubering” us into cutting Social Security.

    — They are again “Grubering” us into another war.

    — They are “Grubering” us into the TPP and TTIP agreements that will result in a substantial hidden surrender of our national sovereignty to large transnational corporations.

    1. nycTerrierist

      Wonderful idea. Let’s extend Prof. Gruber’s 15 minutes of infamy forever as a ‘teachable moment’.

      Couldn’t happen to a nicer shill, indeed.

      1. Katniss Everdeen

        Hopefully Gruber’s reputation and career will be “Judith Miller-ed” or “Jayson Blair-ed.”

        Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me countless times, shame on the NYT.

        1. DanB

          You raise an interesting point. Most health care policy academics and consultants have been for years willing to carry on the pretense that single payer is a bad idea or not consistent with our values, or whatever to keep it off the policy agenda. How will they react to Gruber? I’d be very surprised if there is anything like to censure, ostracism, reproach, shunning, criticism and so forth.

      1. jrs

        1. the thick-bodied, sluggish larva of several insects, as of a scarab beetle.

        Sounds about right …

    2. JL

      I think this isn’t very fair to Gruber (also I get the sense that he’s a convenient fall guy). The sort of political/budgetary chicanery he was talking about with the ACA has been going on for years, and it certainly predates Obama’s presidency. He’s just calling it like he sees it. Worse than not being fair to Gruber, though, is that it lets the real criminals off the hook.

      1. Yves Smith

        You airbrush out the fact that Gruber was a prime spokesman for the deal while hiding his handsome consulting fees to promote it (as in he pretended to be an objective academic when his role was to be a salesman), he deliberately designed the model to fool the CBO, and was a critically important actor in making sure single payer was never on the table.

        Gruber’s not a “convenient fall guy.” He is a major, highly paid perp. Your attitude amounts to a refusal to hold people responsible for their bad actions, and Gruber was not just a bad actor, but one of the most important ones in the key policy/technocratic fights.

        1. JL

          I’m not saying Gruber is innocent. What I am saying is that I’m much more interested in going after the people who paid him (as usual, follow the money). Yes he was a major architect of the ACA, but I think it’s extremely likely that he was given boundaries to work within (and then to sell the outcome of course). I’m not “airbrushing out” that he’s a major actor, I simply don’t think he’s particularly powerful; if it hadn’t been Gruber somebody else would have fronted the law. There’s no shortage of academic shills after all.

          Now it feels like the Dems are throwing Gruber to the wolves, hoping it’ll sate the appetite for ACA outrage until the next distraction comes along. It would be pretty unfortunate if that worked, since he’s not the sole bad actor. Punishing him now (even though he does deserve it) won’t do a thing to deter his paymasters.

      2. ian

        What Gruber vividly illustrates is the idea that you can be well educated and have absolutely no common sense.

    3. different clue

      Good word, along with Luntzed for cases of conversion to deceptive language. Luntzed and Grubered.

  8. Linda Amick

    ACA is a total win for Republicans. They feigned objection to a “government sponsored program” when in fact it is a Republican dream of privatization enriching Insurance Companies.
    Republican leadership will never revoke the ACA. They may enact a few changes that will eliminate the few benefits to the American citizenry such as Medicaid expansion and allowing children up to age 26 to remain on parents’ insurance. And they may rename/rebrand it.

    1. James

      Try telling that to the Conservative base. I have this discussion with my aging mother regularly. She’s still convinced this is all pure commie socialism. The cold war hysteria lives on.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Who cares about the views of the conservative base? In 2008, the nominally anti-war black guy promising to raise taxes on the rich beat the crap out of the sainted moderate war hero who enjoyed more votes than Bush/Cheney ’04. The Democrats didn’t lose in 2010 and 2014 because of the conservative base. They lost because liberal-type voters recognize that Democrats are too out of touch or too alined with the GOP. After all, it was Saint Obama who noted he and Romney pretty much agreed on everything. Young people didn’t show up, and without a GOP effort to suppress the vote in 2012 which led to a backlash, Team Blue might have had problems them too. Interestingly enough, Obama’s numbers rose in 2012 after AFTER he found his “progressive” voice. Telling poor people how great the economy is doesn’t really work as a messaging strategy which is what Obama has been pushing while he and Team Blue’s numbers have declined.

        There are two reasons Democrats might worry about the views of the conservative base: they are idiots or they need cover for malfeasance.

  9. Bob Morris

    Joe Bageant explained why Democrats now lose elections they should win. Gruber is just the latest manifestation of this. As I noted in a recent blog post.

    “Working class whites, especially in the South, used to vote solidly Democratic. They probably still would except the Democratic Party for years now has basically pissed in their faces, insulted their culture – then is shocked, just shocked when that once-reliable voting bloc turned Republican. Who could have ever imagined if you insult rural whites, allege their family trees don’t fork, that they might ditch you and find new friends. Clearly, this thought never even dented the skulls of urban liberals.”

    1. fresno dan

      I think you have a good point.
      I think a good portion is race as well

      But finally, I think one has to look at Obamacare, and ask, is it a good value for the 99%. Who knows? But when you see Gruber, if you have any grey cells in your head, your left with the thought that the point wasn’t to provide a good deal to lower income people, as it was to pass a law because it advantages the medical and insurance establishments.

      They never name the law “pay more, get less, have more of your money go to the 0.1%, and you get poorer” law – they always call if “reform”

    2. Left in Wisconsin

      I guess to get the Southern vote back, the D’s should run another Clinton then. Luckily, there is one lined up.

      1. Jim Haygood

        Trouble is, the ‘other Clinton’ is an Ivy League lawyer from Chicago. Just like the president she aims to replace. Four more years! ;-)

            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              Now, there’s a happy thought!

              I don’t think so, though. The progression needs to be Black, Female, Hispanic. So, from Obama to Hillary to somebody we don’t know yet.

      2. NotTimothyGeithner

        It should be pointed out the South isn’t Southern. Half the population wasn’t born there or had non-Southern parents. The Southern stick isn’t important. After all, Mark Warner grew up in Connecticut. Mark Warner who is the Chamber of Commerce prick who sponsors nascar cars and is best friends with Bruce Smith saw his support collapse despite his embrace of oil companies, aggressive foreign policy, support for the Bush tax cuts, and running on a campaign about the national debt which really gets voters excited. The Bill Clinton strategy worked when the Democratic field was cleared early in the 92 cycle and Ross Perot ran. In 2000 and 2008, the Clinton candidates lost to people who really werent that impressive.

        The issue in the South is the Republicans aren’t going to vote for Republican-lites, and Democratic potential voters no longer see a need to vote for Republican-lites if the Democrats in the Senate continue with the farce that was the filibuster or fail to do their regulatory job. Given that in 2008 Obama won Virginia, Florida, and North Carolina on the backs of young voters while moving the needles in Missouri, Georgia, parts of Texas, voters who would tolerate Clinton types in the past can’t build coalitions anymore because the voters don’t feel trapped anymore. The triangulation strategy is dependent on being trapped or one group being a much, much lesser evil. This is no longer the case.

  10. Eureka Springs

    Excellent post, Lambert.

    Lack of transparency = Lies. They all lie, all of the time. It’s inherent in our system… certainly SOP for both D’s and R’s.

    We see it all of the time. It continues to this day on matters of health. It’s a constant on all areas of MIC. The only debate is not if we should continue our madness in the middle east, but how we should continue. And we see it with the pending USA Freedom Act, like everything else before it, it will only makes things worse.

    I see the lack of transparency – government secrecy – lies – as the greatest problem in our system, second only to the bribes.

    What I don’t understand at all is how so many Progs/Dems and other voters who knew much if not all of what Lambert writes about today, how they could still doggedly support ACA then or now. Much more how they still support Dems as an ongoing criminal enterprise to this very day. Lots of people were not stupid in the uninformed sense… yet they supported mean-spirited, costly, self-defeating law and their party which forced it upon the nation..

  11. fresno dan

    “we have Democrats (Obama + Gruber) adopting a Heritage-inspired plan pioneered by Republicans (Romney + Gruber), whereupon the Republicans turn around and fight their own plan tooth and nail, while the Democrats, fighting back furiously, never mention they adopted the Republican plan.”

    its been said about a zillion times that Obama isn’t liberal

    Its only been said about a million times that Bush wasn’t conservative

    Yet both parties like to pass legislation (And DO) – Bush had no problem with deficit spending to increase the Medicare entitlement, or increase Federal power over local schools. And what of that “conservative” free enterprise principal of “profit and LOSS”??????? What parties espouse has nothing to do with how they will behave….
    The last thing Obama or the republicans want is in any way, shape, or form, less money flowing to the powerful, and neither one sees any advantage in aiding the less powerful.
    There’s a line in the “Wolf of Wall Street” where in the very beginning of his career, the “wolf” says to the old experienced stockbroker about selling equities, “well, if its advantageous to both the buyer and the broker, that’s to everyone’s benefit” And the sage, old, wall street guy says, “……NO”

    I don’t really know if Obama care helps those a little bit or not. But I suspect not, as we have had 40 years of the bottom quintiles losing ground. Its all about looking like you believe something….

  12. blucollarAl

    On the dumbing down of the American citizen:

    There has been a gradual transformation of Americans’ self-identity, accelerated since approximately the end of WW II, from “citizen” to “consumer”. With this corresponds a change of consciousness, including habits of thinking about things, making decisions, and formulating ends and goals of action, a process explored in great detail by the political-social philopsphers of the Frankfurt School, e.g., Marcuse, Adorno, Hockheimer, and especially the Italian social theorist, Antonio Gramsci.

    To make a very long story very short, increasingly “politics” and political activity, from the voting process (listening to candidates, analyzing their opinions, discussing among friends and peers, making a prudential decision about whom to entrust political power, and finally going out and casting a ballot) to engaging in political action oneself, has all but ended. Instead the average American now thinks of “government” and the political as a business whose only purpose is to promote material personal well-being and mass-consumption of whatever we have been conditioned to desire to feed our anxieties and self-esteem. The end of political life is seen as ever-increasing consumption of material goods and services, the growth of wealth in the world of commodities, and the creation of space for individually chosen “lifestyles”.

    With this we have the rise of the “expert” who replaces the cultivation in the democratic citizenry of critical thinking and the development of the thinking habits of prudence, practical wisdom in the older sense of being able to think about ends, what is genuinely good for me as an individual and as someone embedded in social community (the “common good”). “Opinion”, judgments about what should be done and capable of being argued for, criticized, reformulated, compromised for a greater good, are replaced by “feelings” and “sentiments”, emotional, quasi-rational tendencies manipulated by sound bites, propaganda, advertising, and all of the other appeals to the “darker” Freudian forces that can overwhelm genuine thought and action.

    The “experts” then are left to decide the “means” to the no longer debated and discussed “ends” which are reduced to ultimately either to the end of possessive individualism (acquiring and consuming the most “stuff” and the capital-money that is its foundation) or expressive individualism (the absolute freedom to pursue “lifestyle choices” without any real concern for the duties and responsibilities that arise from human life lived in a community of others). In either case, as Robert Bellah and his colleagues argued 20 years ago in the landmark “Habits of the Heart”, Americans find it exceedingly difficult to understand any political-social reality other than the goods of individual or “self”. The older concept of civic virtue, that underlies for instance, the many of the great speeches of Lincoln, and that requires the willingness to set aside individual interests for the sake of a larger public good, is something no longer viable in contemporary political and social thought and action.

    The “experts”, the political and chatting class and the intellectual prostitutes who serve them, are thus free to formulate plans and schemes to service themselves and their class and to present their work as “the only options available/practical/able to work” to a public that has conceded its capacity to think, to judge, to make decisions, to these others, i.e., that has lost confidence its own ability to be political.

    1. Jim in SC

      I think you’re onto something about the rise of the ‘expert.’ The Great Books movement once counterbalanced this, with its seemingly naive idea that ordinary person could benefit, and benefit society, from attempting to draw conclusions from the Great Books of the Western world. Sometimes this meant re-inventing the wheel, but it was also respectful to the idea of Democracy in a way that would be quite foreign in the Ivy League today.

  13. Jill

    I did not take Gruber to mean that only Republican voters are stupid. He said American voters, (which presumably includes Democrats). In the case of Obamacare, I would say that the greatest amount of propaganda had to be aimed at ordinary Democrats. How else would you put in place a Heritage/Romney/Wellpoint plan as the savior of the people? Democrats cheer this plan. They cheer the Democratic president who told Congress to take single payer off the table and had members of Physicians for Single Payer arrested at the WH for daring to present their plan. Obamacare is the plan and Obama the president the intelligentsia and partisan Democrats love to praise. I’m glad this information is in the public domain.

    This revelation should be a wake up call to ordinary Democrats and Republicans. Gruber’s telling us exactly what the major party elites think of us and exactly what they are willing to do to us. It is a call to withdraw support from the major parties, to see them for who they are. They are harming ordinary Americans and they use propaganda, including lack of transparency and false “experts” to get people on board with their destructive ideas. I also do not buy the NYTimes complaint about Gruber. They are supposed to be a freaking newspaper. That means they should have exposed Gruber a long time ago. The fact that they didn’t, tells me they are just one more of the mechanisms of propaganda used against people. Krugman is another propagandist for the elites.

    It’s time for citizens to take this information and understand that these are not people who represent our best interests. They will lie to us, they will do anything to us, so why are we giving them credence let alone support? Why are we cheering them along? Let’s stop that and work together for the common good. These people don’t care about us, the common welfare, the planet’s well being. Repudiate them and turn towards each other.

    1. Left in Wisconsin

      The only D’s I know who cheer the ACA feel like they have to on orders from above. Except the no-pre-existing conditions and the keep-your-kid-on-your-insurance-til-26 parts, and they recognize that those parts would not be needed with single payer.

  14. barutanseijin

    “Sheeple” is pretty common with the market totalitarians, too — especially the Silicon Valley/techbro types. Of course, they’re more or less open about their contempt for democracy. And thanks to a little old Teepartei lady in Florida with whom i share a surname and first initial, i receive all sorts of right-wing email. Teepartei types are no less contemptuous of voters, “lib-tards” etc.

    I think the expressions of contempt for voters indicate a divided consciousness. On one hand everyone knows the dice are loaded. And yet no one has an alternative. Very few believe in the system, but they all play — especially the sneering ones.

  15. washunate

    Awesome title Lambert. One tidbit of the story of the rot in our nation’s institutions, and the importance of challenging people, especially when they claim to be experts or authority figures.

    Gruber’s tale is especially fun because we knew in real-time he was in on the fraud.

  16. petal

    A follow up on the Gruber/Shumlin/VT single payer drama. “Some Republican lawmakers are calling on Governor Shumlin to fire a health care consultant for what they call his “arrogant and disrespectful attitude toward the American people.””

  17. flora

    re: “I said “intellectual corruption” and I meant it.”

    One of the greatest (or worst) successes of neoliberalism is intellectually corrupting the meaning of “corruption”.

  18. Tiercelet


    Escapist Comics is in Berkeley (where Brad DeL lives). Claremont is the street, not the town or neighborhood.

  19. Min

    Gruber: “if you made it explicit that healthy people pay {and} sick people get money it would not have passed”

    (Corrected likely ungrammatical error in transcript. “in” for “and”.)

    Healthy people pay and sick people get money. Sounds like health insurance to me. People whose houses burn get money and people whose houses do not burn pay. Sounds like fire insurance. Tell people that an insurance bill works like insurance? We can’t do that, can we?

    1. washunate

      Yeah, that was one of the most hilarious tells of the health care, er, health insurance reform debate.

      The Democrats sounded like absolute idiots in describing health insurance. Either younger, healthier, and/or wealthier people have to pay more than they otherwise would, or you can’t subsidize older, sicker, and/or poorer people. It’s just math and biology.

  20. NOTaREALmerican

    Well, let’s see… people are mad that somebody said Americans are stupid?

    Huh, and these Americans have been voting for the Red and Blue Team for how long now? And expecting that “things would be different” each time they vote? Have these Americans thought about what “things would be different” when they vote for the Red Team to replace the Blue Teams (or vice-versa) ? Do these Americans really want “things to be different”? If they do, why do they keep voting for the Red and Blue team? (Are they stupid?). If they don’t want “things to be different”, why not? (Are they stupid?).

    Naaa, American voters aren’t stupid. They’re easily manipulated dumbasses being played by the smarter-n-savvier members of society. Huge difference. We’ve got the only society possible (and, it might be nearly evolutionary perfect, in fact.)

    1. jrs

      Well it might very well be the only voting results possible within the given constraints/rules (two parties, non-parliamentary electoral college elected president, gerrymandered House, non-population based Senate, winner take all voting system, non-proportional representation – I mean a full analysis of even just the voting system alone. This is without throwing in external factors (are the black box votes rigged? what impact would publically funded elections have? are people being prevented from voting? etc.) but even just focusing on the most basic rules.

      But that doesn’t mean it’s the best society possible, but the basic setup of the electoral system is not voted on (much less the economic system, ha!). And stuff can just follow from the setup of the electoral system on game theory alone right, without people even needing to be stupid? If the same system would produce the same results in different societies (even those less dumb than Americans) then … I often wonder if the same system would produce the same results on simulated fictional societies (virtual reality).

      I get the frustration with tribalists, they drive me up the wall. So I definitely form psychological theories about the mental (intelligence and being informed) and emotional (biases and ingrained and propagandized prejudices and ways of seeing things) of people in this society all the time, whether or not it’s considered particularly valid to do so. But as always one has to be careful with such a broad brush …

    2. Jim

      “…these American have been voting for the Red and Blue Team for how long now? And expecting that things would be different each time they vote? Have these Americans thought about what “things would be different” when they vote for the Red Team to replace the Blue Teams (or vice-versa).

      Have you thought about how to change this profoundly depressing cultural/political condition of only either red team or blue team?

      Would love to hear some potential solutions.

  21. optimader

    RE: American Public
    I’ll go with ignorant not stupid
    stu·pid adjective \ˈstü-pəd, ˈstyü-\

    : not intelligent : having or showing a lack of ability to learn and understand things
    : not sensible or logical
    : not able to think normally because you are drunk, tired, etc.

    Full Definition of STUPID
    1 a : slow of mind : obtuse
    b : given to unintelligent decisions or acts : acting in an unintelligent or careless manner
    c : lacking intelligence or reason : brutish

    2: dulled in feeling or sensation : torpid

    3: marked by or resulting from unreasoned thinking or acting : senseless

    4 a : lacking interest or point
    b : vexatious, exasperating


    ig·no·rant adjective \ˈig-n(ə-)rənt\
    : lacking knowledge or information
    : resulting from or showing a lack of knowledge

    Full Definition of IGNORANT
    1 a : destitute of knowledge or education ; also : lacking knowledge or comprehension of the thing specified
    b : resulting from or showing lack of knowledge or intelligence

    2: unaware, uninformed

      1. optimader

        It is actually, you may think the clarification trivial but the incorrect assignment of the label “Stupid” is the equivalent of cultural racism, and is a demonstration of, well, — ignorance.

        Ignorance can be fixed, stupidity for the most part can’t.

  22. JTMcPhee

    Speaking of speaking to the stupid, Lambert, why do you not use the Convention for Manipulation of Apparentcy of Large Numbers that all the Really Plugged In People use to influence the real and/or apparent and/or totally fudged impact of claims for costs and savings of this, that, or the other program or policy. Speaking now about the BS disingenuity by which costs and savings are tossed off as being Very Big or Less So, by the addition, in an undertone or smaller type face or other obfuscating footnotery of the Policy Chatterers: Referring, of course, to the phrase, “OVER TEN YEARS.”

    By applying that bit of math to the likely $400 billion savings you state, for going to a single payer nationwide system, the savings become, after cauterizing the UNsurance corporation parasite infestation, $4 TRILLION– conveniently, just enough to fund another round of our Imperial Forever War.

    As a nurse and VA medical care recipient, it’s patent to me that “the medical billing system” is broke, full of perverse incentives, and only fortuitously about “care” — mostly because there are a few professionals at all levels that actually do feel a bit of a calling, and have not been crushed and embittered by the application of the American Business Model lash — more and more work, from fewer and fewer people, for less and less pay.

  23. MRW

    Lambert wrote:

    Never mind that the Supreme Court added to the torture by deciding that the mandate was a tax.

    Exactly! They embedded the same Supreme Court-proof ‘tax’ that they did in the Social Security Act (or whatever it was called) in order to make it stick. [Congress has the right to create taxes.] On approximately page 331 (I’m doing this from memory) of the final Affordable Care Act, there is a provision addressed specifically to the Secretary of the Treasury that the IRS cannot legally place liens against anyone who fails to pay the mandate fine, nor can the IRS take any action against people who ignore the penalty.

  24. MRW

    Just to clarify, Britain has nationalized medicine. Their doctors work for the government.

    Canada has nationalized health insurance. The single payer system. Their doctors, however, work for themselves. Private health insurers in Canada like Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) offer insurance products to private citizens that go above and beyond the provincial insurance benefits. For example, for $99/month, a private citizen can get super-super BCBS platinum care that includes eye and dental that covers anything you would want done to them, and nursing care in the home for months, re-doing bathroom fixtures, and all manner of medical assistance tools and staff, ambulances, medivac.

    So that’s roughly $1200/year up there for something that BCBS charges at least that here for one month.

    So am I reading your article properly, Lambert? It was Gruber who actively campaigned against the single payer program?

    1. Carla

      Gruber was the least of it. Here’s a press release about the U.S. Senate Finance Committee meeting in 2009 at which 9 activists, including doctors, protested the exclusion of single payer from the health care “reform” hearing and were subsequently removed and arrested. Full video links are included in the release:

      MRW, there was a cabal of powerful health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, hospital executive associations and some physicians who made sure that facts about single payer never reached the American public. The same people have told lies about the Canadian system for decades, and they bought the American Congress and the President.

      On a brighter note, just today I saw my regular doctor for an every-five-years or so visit. Somehow it came up that he had supported the U.S. House Bill 676 (Expanded and Improved Medicare for All) and worked for years with the co-sponsors John Conyers and Dennis Kucinich to try to help it see the light of day. I had no idea my own doctor so strongly supported single payer, even while I was going to Washington D.C. and demonstrating in favor of it!

      The American public has no idea how many of our doctors and nurses support single payer, because corporate media.

      1. MRW

        “The American public has no idea how many of our doctors and nurses support single payer, because [of] corporate media.”

        I know.

    2. proximity1

      “Just to clarify, Britain has nationalized medicine. Their doctors work for the government.”

      Not my ideal of nationalized medicine.

      As I see it, NHS Doctors “work for” (i.e. are under the control of) managerial trust-organisations which are glorified boards of financial accounting manangers.

      See :

      Read about the pay packets enjoyed by managerial executives of these Trusts as described in the linked article

      — and please note, the sample example here is chosen entirely at random, without the slightest foreknowledge of its partiuculars. You are welcome to seek and find your own randomly-chosen example. And, reflect upon how many such “trusts” exist and, in light of that, the vast amount being spent on such salaries. It ought to be a national scandal. In my opinion, the NHS Trusts are a national scandal.

  25. Jay M

    But isn’t the stupidity of the legislature being imputed to the electorate? Faced with stupid individuals, stupidity wins out for the solons. Hence sub 10% approval rate.

    1. Jay M

      Just to elucidate, faced with stupid politicians already in the majority, the electorate can’t help but to augment the crew. Approval has be sub 10% for a while.

  26. cripes

    The people are not so stupid that they vote for either party thinking there’s going to be a big change this time (Obamabots the exception that proves this rule) no, they vote from fear of the other party winning, and mostly the smarter ones don’t vote.
    What they don’t have is viable civic organizations that can wield force against the political apparatus which is entirely controlled by the oligarchs and their media servants.

    1. ian

      Thought experiment: what if they aren’t really stupid?
      What if they simply come to the conclusion (usually correct) that it doesn’t matter.

  27. LAS

    The “affordable care” in ACA was not about your personal out of pocket; it was largely about Medicare and public obligations to care for the population. These costs were out of control and growing at twice the rate of GDP – without extending the life span or lessening the growth of chronic morbidity/disability within the population. You still think Medicare is the answer for all and maybe one day it could be, but Medicare costs have been out of control and we’re going to pay for that collectively one way or another. It’s what you call a low productivity industry in need of a fix and ACA is written more toward that and total population costs. You’ll never understand it if you think of it as individual cost/benefits.

    Medicare was in the grip of the worst kind of capitalism and still is. The medical industry has gotten so used to sucking the tit of Medicare that they’ve become an industry that tolerates massive amounts of predictable manslaughter just to keep the revenues coming it, selling dangerous procedures to fragile old people who could have a longer life by simply staying out of hospitals and away from medical procedures that leave them sicker than before, with new hospital acquired conditions.

    Our entire culture is founded on capitalism, the making of commodities to be bought. What we buy in our 20’s, 30’s, 40’s makes us sick with diabetes, heart disease and cancer in our 50’s and 60’s. Those are the diseases most people are going to die from in this country. We’d consume a lot less expensive healthcare services (which will do little/nothing for our longevity) if we first stopped buying the stuff that induces expensive chronic illness. But we cannot even control that structural proliferation; somehow the stores are in our face with 40 foot aisles of bad stuff.

    What ails this country is so deeply ingrained in our culture. The best thing is not more high tech hospital machinery that’s going to injure and kill patients because it’s too complicated for volume use, but nudging the entire culture a few degrees toward slightly better preventive health lifestyles. But do we do that? Ha! No, we teach 9 year girls to shoot automatic weapons at family fun rifle ranges because it’s our individual liberty to so do. We do so many things that the rest of us have to pay for one way or another sooner or later. In this culture we have practically no capacity left to think collectively about overall social costs.

  28. NOMAS

    “Worse, Krugman’s ignoring the intellectual corruption that’s at the heart of the matter.”

    Krugman himself , IS AT THE VERY CORE of “the intellectual corruption that’s at the heart of the matter”… Krugman is that nice, humane, Jewish Professor who’s job it is to explain to mom and dad America that all these hideous outcomes are not only sensible but that they are UNAVOIDABLE.

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