Jonathan Gruber apologized for his "insulting and mean comments" about the intelligence of voters during his opening statement before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The manner in which he conducted himself throughout the hearing, however, brings into question his sincerity. Even his apology came across with a strong degree of arrogance and contempt for the general public.
"After the passage of the ACA, I made a series of speeches around the nation endeavoring to explain the law’s implications for the U.S. healthcare system from the perspective of a trained economist," Gruber told members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Tuesday morning. "Many of these speeches were to technical audiences at economic and academic conferences."
Those speeches, according to Gruber, were meant for technical and trained audiences, so naturally they were misunderstood by the common man. Or something. Still, though, the Massachusetts Institute of Techology economist who, by his own admission, was "involved in writing" ObamaCare, continued on with his "apology," if one can truly call it that.
"I would like to begin by apologizing sincerely for the offending comments that I made. In some cases I made uninformed and glib comments about the political process behind health care reform. I am not an expert on politics and my tone implied that I was, which is wrong," said Gruber. "In other cases I simply made insulting and mean comments that are totally uncalled for in any situation. I sincerely apologize both for conjecturing with a tone of expertise and for doing so in such a disparaging fashion."
Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) kicked off the questioning with a series of rather pointed inquiries to Gruber. "Are you stupid?" Issa asked, to which Gruber replied, "I don’t think so, no."
Issa followed up, asking, "Does MIT employ stupid people?"
"Not to my knowledge," Gruber sheepishly replied.
Gruber repeatedly told the committee that he isn’t a politician and denied that he is the "architect" of ObamaCare, despite the fact that he was frequently described as such by the media during the debate over the legislation and after. Instead, the MIT economist said, he "ran microsimulation models to help those in the state and federal executive and legislative branches better assess the likely outcomes of various possible policy choices." Gruber said that the heightened role in the process — a role that the White House and congressional Democrats frequently promoted — that he has previously claimed was to inflate his own ego.
Gruber, whose economic modeling on the effects of law was rightly mocked by Issa and other Republicans, spent some time walking back his October 2013 brag that ObamaCare "was written in a tortured way" to lack transparency, which, he said at the time, "is a huge political advantage."
Unsurprisingly, he enjoyed friendly questioning from Democrats on the committee, though some did harshly criticize his characterization of voters. Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD), for example, called Gruber’s comments "stupid — I mean, absolutely stupid." Still, Cummings and other Democrats, however, used their time to shill for ObamaCare.
Throughout the rest of the hearing, Gruber was arrogant, disrespectful, dismissive, and sarcastic in his responses to Republicans on the committee. "I do not recall" was frequent line Gruber used deflect members’ questions, including inquiries into how many times he visited the White House and how much money he made through consulting contracts with the Department of Health and Human Services and several states.
Several Republican members asked Gruber how much money he was paid by the administration and states for consulting services. The MIT economist disclosed nearly $135,000 worth of grants to the committee from the previous two fiscal years, which, he claimed, was consistent with the committee’s rules. Each time he was asked how much money he made on ObamaCare, Gruber obstructed, saying, "The committee can take that up with my attorney."
This obstruction was noted by the committee, particularly by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who will chair the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in the next Congress. After blasting Gruber for referring to the committee to his counsel, Chaffetz asked Gruber whether he had the documents related to his consulting work on ObamaCare with Obama administration and state governments.
"I’m not interested in talking to your counsel. I’m interested in talking to you, right now under oath, having been paid by the American taxpayers," Chaffetz told Gruber. "Will you or will you not provide that information?"
"You can take that up with my counsel," Gruber replied.
After a brief back and forth, during which the MIT economist claimed ignorance about the rules of producing the documents Republicans on the committee want, Chaffetz asked, "Do you have documents?"
"Yeah, I have documents," Gruber sarcastically replied with a smirk on his face, a reminder of the arrogance and contempt that he’s displayed for voters. "I have all sorts of documents. I have a piece of paper in front of me. I don’t understand the question."
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) urged the committee to subpoena Gruber’s ObamaCare-related consulting contracts and communications with the administration and state governments, a sentiment that was shared by other Republican members. Though not all related to his work on ObamaCare, Gruber has earned millions of dollars off of federal and state taxpayers over the last several years.
The arrogance that Gruber displayed on Tuesday guaranteed that he’ll be asked, once again, to appear before the committee in the coming months. His apology is as meaningless as his economic models are worthless. The deception that he has hailed as the key to the passage of ObamaCare is among the most truthful statements made about the law. More than anything else, Gruber is just sorry that he got caught and brought before a congressional committee to answer for trying deceive the American public.