A column by Mike Myer, executive editor of The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register
WHEELING, W.Va. — One suspects MIT economist Jonathan Gruber did not advise state officials that West Virginians are stupid.
But exactly what did he tell them in exchange for the more than $121,000 Mountain State taxpayers paid Gruber?
Gruber may be the most despised person in America. He was on the hot seat in a congressional hearing last week, answering questions – or, more accurately, trying to defend himself – regarding his role as a White House adviser who helped write the Obamacare law.
After he helped the White House, he made appearances at which he said, in effect, that liberal politicians were able to use lies to get Obamacare passed because Americans weren’t smart enough to stop them.
Here are Gruber’s exact words: “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 for the thing to pass …”
After being paid about $400,000 to help write the health care law, Gruber did what so many in Washington do: He put icing on the cake of his fat government contract by selling his experience with it to others. One report is that his contracts to help several states with health care regulations netted him more than $5 million.
West Virginia was among them. In 2012, attempting to prepare for Obamacare, state officials contracted with a Maryland actuarial firm to study health insurance. Gruber earned more than $121,000 as a subcontractor for the company.
Gruber’s work may have helped state officials on decisions such as expansion of the Medicaid program.
State officials already have said Gruber’s work was actuarially accurate.
But remember, this is a guy who has a fairly low opinion of folks not in his intellectual/political circle. Knowing that West Virginians had voted against President Barack Obama and that the whole idea of Obamacare was wildly unpopular here, might he have slanted his report to make the program appear more beneficial?
We’ll probably never know. Gruber and his ilk deal in numbers. Ever hear the warning that “there are lies, damned lies – and statistics”? Using numbers to distort reality isn’t particularly difficult. But it can be darned difficult to prove they were used with that intention.
No doubt Gruber was deferential in his dealings with West Virginia officials. That’s always a good idea until the check clears.
But one wonders what he thought or thinks of our state and its public officials.
Clearly, he can’t believe we’re too bright. We voted against the president he fell for hook, line and sinker, after all.
From an objective standpoint, West Virginians’ opposition to Obama, his health care law, his attack on coal and affordable electricity and any number of other liberal initiatives sets us outside the “stupidity of the American voter” category Gruber has mentioned.
After all, we didn’t fall for any of it. We saw through much of the deception. We didn’t follow the national lead and help elect Obama twice.
Maybe all American voters aren’t as stupid as Gruber seems to believe.