Jonathan Gruber

James P. Freeman: Obama, Patrick: Unrepentant progressives


“It’s one for all and all for one

We work together, common sons”

                                               --Rush, “2112”


Like progressive rock of the 1970s, progressive politics of the 2010s, also overwrought and overvalued, may be fading into the collective memory. As evident from the recent election, sensible candidates fled from proximity to its platitudes.


President Obama and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, individually heralded as the new voices of progressivism,  may come to collectively symbolize its very impotence and likely temporary revival. Kindred spirits, youthful and dynamic, for 10 years they have occupied a unique space in the temple of the American body politic. Their brand of progressivism, carelessly applied yet tethered to the original philosophical tenants from last century, has proven to be long on compassion and short on competence.


From savvy prodigies to seasoned professionals, their lives bear remarkable parallels with recurring intersections. Both were raised by a single mother and experienced strained relationships with a distant father. Both are married to attorneys and have two daughters. Both attended Harvard Law School and were civil-rights lawyers. Both are well-versed in Chicago-style politics. Both have had a family member ordered deported then granted legal status. Both supported Roland Arnall’s (founder of scandal-plagued mortgage lender Ameriquest) 2005 appointment as ambassador to the Netherlands.


Both have enigmatic relationships with the Clintons (as counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Patrick sued then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton in a voting case; in 1994 President Clinton appointed him as an assistant attorney general. Obama selected Hillary Clinton as secretary of state after defeating her in 2008). And both will be remembered for electoral firsts: Obama as the first African-American president; Patrick as the first African-American governor to be re-elected.


Obama-Patrick today are the political equivalent of Lennon-McCartney, authors and architects of liberalism’s lyrical chorus and progressive arpeggios.


They gained national exposure for soaring speeches at Democrat National Conventions (Obama in Boston, 2004; Patrick in Charlotte, N.C., 2012). During the 2008 primary, Obama--denying accusations (raised by Clinton’s campaign) of plagiarizing a 2006 Patrick speech--confirmed, “Deval and I do trade ideas all of the time.”


Consider, then, the undeniable similarity, if not synchronicity, in their style and substance. Throughout elective office, their oratory and orthodoxy seem meticulously orchestrated. Patrick’s 2006 slogan: “Together we can.” Obama’s 2008 slogan: “Yes we can.”

Rarely stepping inside the soul of scripture, except when politically expedient, they both paraphrased Exodus 23 in remarks seemingly choreographed regarding immigration policy. This past July, Patrick: “My faith teaches that, if a stranger dwells…” This November, Obama: “Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger….”


Their beliefs illustrate perfectly the prurience of progressivism: omnipresent government as monopolizer of wisdom, allocator of capital, liquidator of competition, juror of diversity, dispenser of fairness, enforcer of selective laws and, now, a counselor in competence. Little in heaven or on earth is exempt from intervention.


Regarding global warming—despite a seventeen year pause and now known, with a sort of ambiguous panache, as “climate disruption”—Patrick said, “The overwhelming judgment of science… has put that question to rest.” Days later, in his 2014 State of the Union address, Obama said, “…the debate is settled… [disruption] is a fact.”


Nothing exemplifies unrepentant progressivism, however, better than the Affordable Care Act, whereby government, as social scientist, is reliant upon “experts” to engineer and deliver progress. MIT economist and paid health reform adviser Jonathan Gruber, cited by Obama (having “stolen” Gruber’s “ideas liberally”) for his role in ACA’s creation, recently affirmed what reasonable skeptics already knew: the law was based upon manipulation and deception, shadowing a flawed state model (slowly bankrupting Massachusetts). Few realize that Gruber, who last decade also advised Massachusetts, still sits on the board of its Health Connector, implementer and administrator of “model” healthcare.


After ACA’s disruptive roll-out in October 2013 (see CGI Federal, ultimately fired by Massachusetts and the federal government), Obama returned to Boston, extolling the virtues of  the ACA.


At Faneuil Hall, after being introduced by Patrick (saying the law was not a Web site but a “values statement”), Obama defended a so-called “progressive vision of healthcare for all.” With indifference to reality, he bizarrely claimed it connected “some ideas about markets and competition that had been championed by conservatives.” Shortly thereafter, the Mass. Connector site crashed, unable to conform to ACA’s myriad rules and regulations.


With Patrick leaving office in January, Obama said last March that the governor would make “a great president” and his friend “could be very successful at the federal level.” It remains to be seen, however, if a kind and merciful God will allow a nebbish state manager, harboring national ambitions, to once again quote from The Good News in a new public capacity.


James P. Freeman is a former Cape Cod Times columnist

Don Pesci: Of Gruber, abortion and crime rates



As many students of politics know, there are two kinds of truth: political truth and all other varieties. Political truth, unlike scientific truth, need not be connected verifiably with objective reality. Political truth sometimes dresses up in the robes of science, but bad science also leaves objective reality behind at the altar.
Jonathan Gruber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Cassandra of Obamabots, was one of the architects of Obamacare who, unlike many proponents of President Obama’s “Affordable Care Act,” went off script and, in venues he may have thought were off record, simply laid out the truth about Obamacare in such unvarnished terms that even those over-friendly to President  Obama in the media could not easily misunderstand Mr. Gruber’s essential message – which was: Obamacare, right from the get-go, was intentionally misleading. More importantly, he noted, it was of necessity misleading. The sales pitch of the used car salesman who wants you to buy the lemon on his lot, likewise and for much the same reasons, is misleading.
The press spotlight having been focused on Mr. Gruber and the Obamacare warts, media sleuths have now discovered that Mr. Gruber has also told the inconvenient truth about abortion. In a paper co-written during the Clinton administration and printed in the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), “Abortion, Legalization and Child Living Circumstances,” Mr. Gruber, along with two other co-authors, wrote:
“Legalization of abortion in five states around 1970, followed by legalization nationwide due to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, generates natural variation which can be used to estimate the effect of abortion access. We find that cohorts born after abortion was legalized experienced a significant reduction in a number of adverse outcomes. Our estimates imply that the marginal child who was not born due to legalization would have been 70% more likely to live in a single parent family, 40% more likely to live in poverty, 50% more likely to receive welfare, and 35% more likely to die as an infant. These selection effects imply that the legalization of abortion saved the government over $14 billion in welfare expenditures through 1994.”
Mr. Gruber also touted a positive link between abortion and a precipitous drop in crime rates among “cohorts,” by which term Mr. Gruber means to indicate single parents, the poor and welfare recipients – or, to put the matter bluntly, the underclass, mostly African American and Latino city dwellers, all of whom are fortunate enough to live in close proximity to abortion mills.
A more recent report published in the National Bureau of Economic Research in 2000, “NBER Working Paper No. 8004, probes the connection between legalized abortion and recent crime reductions:
“We offer evidence that legalized abortion has contributed significantly to recent crime reductions. Crime began to fall roughly 18 years after abortion legalization. The 5 states that allowed abortion in 1970 experienced declines earlier than the rest of the nation, which legalized in 1973 with Roe v. Wade. States with high abortion rates in the 1970s and 1980s experienced greater crime reductions in the 1990s. In high abortion states, only arrests of those born after abortion legalization fall relative to low abortion states. Legalized abortion appears to account for as much as 50 percent of the recent drop in crime.”
The  Center for Disease Control and Prevention's Abortion Surveillance report has found that between 2007 and 2010, nearly 36 percent of all abortions in the U.S. were performed on black children, even though blacks make up only 12.8 percent of the population. Another 21 percent of abortions were performed on Hispanics, and an additional  7 percent on other minority races. More than half of all babies killed by abortion between 2007 and 2010 were minorities.


Note that both  Connecticut Gov.  Dannel Malloy and his prison czar, Mike Lawlor, the architect of a bill that awards early-release credits to violent prisoners, have claimed responsibility for a reduction of crime in Connecticut that parallels a national reduction in crime attributed by Mr. Gruber and other economists to abortion. This is the kind of pseudo-science that leaves objective reality waiting impatiently at the altar for a marriage that never occurs. Neither Mr. Lawlor nor Mr. Malloy has yet been so brash to claim credit for the drop in crime rate that has occurred nationwide.


Don Pesci ( is a writer who lives in Vernon

David Warsh: Health economist reaps whirlwind from his irony

Irony – the tendency to underscore a point by stating the opposite of what is meant – has been the downfall of many an advocate.  It’s an often powerful technique. In political speech, though, it is prone to backfire, because it can easily be taken out of context. It’s more dangerous than ever in the age of YouTube and opposition research. Accept that “oppo” has greatly damaged the effectiveness of Jonathan Gruber, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the economist who in 2004 framed the financial strategy that, over a twisted course, led to the adoption of the Affordable Care Act, in 2010.   Gruber is a leading healthcare expert, much in demand.  For two weeks he’s been at the center of a firestorm because of three video clips in which he seems to give comfort to enemies of Obamacare.

The story of how investment adviser Rich Weinstein, angered because he was forced to search for a new policy under terms of the ACA (he found one),  turned amateur sleuth, searching through hundreds of online videos, radio interviews and podcasts to find three damaging ones, makes interesting reading. We owe it to reporter David Weigel, of Bloomberg Politics.

The ACA requires those who don’t receive health insurance benefits from their employer or from the government to buy their own insurance, much as licensed drivers must purchase automobile insurance, with government subsidies for health insurance for those who earn less than a certain amount.

According to Gruber, the bill was written in a “tortured” way to avoid describing its mandates as taxes.  He told a health care conference at the University of Pennsylvania last year that ''Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage, Call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass.''


Gruber was being ironic.  Addressing an audience of healthcare professionals, he meant that, for good reasons or bad, in extending insurance to those who couldn’t afford it or even obtain it, that Americans had done the right thing.  Sleuth Weinstein found two other clips in which Gruber seemed to buttress Republican argument that insurance obtained on a federal exchange is not eligible for subsidies because the legislation anticipated that all states would form exchanges of their own. Twenty-four states, all with Republican governors, refused to form such exchanges. The  federal government formulated a marketplace in their stead.

Health Adviser Logged White House Visits,” headlined The Wall Street Journal. “Fallout From Gruber’s Remarks Spreads: Economist’s Comments on Affordable Care Act’s Passage Prompt Vermont to Cut Ties, Michigan Lawmakers to Seek Probe.” .

In an editorial, “The Impolitic Jonathan Gruber,” The New York Times came to the ACA’s defense:

''Republicans are crowing over Mr. Gruber’s remarks because he has been portrayed as a major architect of the health reform. In truth, his role was limited.  He had a big contract with the White House to use his econometric model to calculate the financial and coverage effects of proposed measures.  And he was one of thirteen experts who advised the Senate Finance Committee.  His comments should not be taken as evidence that the reform law was hatched in secrecy and foisted on the public by trickery.''

It depends, I guess, on what is meant by “truth.” In truth, Gruber’s role in devising the mandate strategy of the ACA was absolutely fundamental. The idea had originally been proposed in  the early 1990s by the conservative Heritage Foundation as an alternative to Hillary Clinton’s much farther-reaching plans. Gruber dusted it off and broached it in 2004, at the request of then-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Romney was in the early stages of preparing a presidential bid.  His plan was adopted by Massachusetts’ s heavily Democratic legislature, with apparent success.

The mandate idea was taken over by the Democrats in the campaign for the 2008 presidential election.  By now a leading expert on its operation, Gruber first advised John Edwards, then Hillary Clinton, and finally Barack Obama on the details of the plan. In early 2010, President Obama relied on Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate to pass the measure into law.

Was it a good idea?  Some Democrats have begun to voice their doubts. Sen. Charles Schumer (D.-N.Y.)  said, last week: “It wasn’t the change we were hired to make.” The party should have found a way to raise wages and create jobs, instead of focusing on the uninsured, he continued, whom he described as “a small percentage of the electorate.”

David Axelrod, a close adviser to President Obama in both campaigns countered (in a another story in the WSJ ), “If your calculus is solely on how to win elections, and that is your abiding principle, it leads you to Sen. Schumer’s position. But that’s precisely why big difficult problems often don’t get addressed in Washington, and why people have become cynical  about that town and its politics.”

The ACA will continue on its perilous course in the courts, this time in King vs. Burwell, a challenge to subsidies for those policies obtained from the federal exchange.  The 2016 elections come after that.

With much rule-changing still to be done before the huge medical sector becomes stable, U.S. healthcare reform is like global warming: Further measures are not a matter of if but when.


David Warsh, a longtime financial  journalist and economic historian, is proprietor of

A nation of civic slobs

The  grossly overpaid healthcare economist Jonathan Gruber has been pilloried for making fun of the ignorance of the American public in the healthcare debate that led up to the enactment of the Affordable Care Act. But he's right: When it comes to even minimally educating themselves about important public issues, the American public is astonishingly lazy. Most  citizens  don't even bother to vote in non-presidential-election years. They are civic slobs, even as they whine about what the government does.

36.4 percent of eligible citizens voted on Nov. 4. That means that less than 20 percent of those eligible to vote determined the the overall outcome of the national election.

Indeed, it seems that the more information that is available to citizens in the great swamp  of the Internet,  and the easier voting is made, the lazier  they get as citizens.

18- to-29-year-olds made up 13 percent of the midterm electorate,  down from 19 percent in the 2012 presidential election .

Some 22 percent of 2014 voters were 65 and older, up from 16 percent in 2012.

Thus you can expect  legislation that favors the old (such as tax laws that give preference to investment income over earned income) to continue to dominate measures that favor the young.