Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber thinks that the Affordable Care Act’s fines on those who decline to purchase health insurance represent a tax. When the bill was being considered, the Congressional Budget Office scored it as a tax. The Supreme Court ruled that it must be interpreted as a tax in order to be considered constitutional. The only institution that did not consider this a tax, in fact, is the American Congress which passed only a “penalty” on those who declined to purchase insurance.
In one of his moments of candor, Gruber lamented how dishonestly the Affordable Care Act was written so as to avoid the politically inconvenient fact that Congress was, in fact, imposing a new tax on those least likely to be able to absorb it – namely, those either too young or too impoverished to afford health insurance. “If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies,” he said.
In an appearance on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Gruber was probed by Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) over his lamentation that the administration’s lack of honesty about the imposition of taxes both on those who do not purchase insurance and on those who do have insurance. Turner prodded Gruber over whether he had any conversations with members of the White House who perhaps shared his opinion that the ACA needed to be crafted in a “tortured” way to ensure its passage.
After much deliberation, Gruber finally answered: “I honestly do not recall.”
For those keeping track, that is not a “no.”
It defies logic, and insults just as much as did Gruber’s original comments about the “stupidity of the American voter,” to presume that the administration did not take some part in the “tortured” way in which Obamacare was crafted.
“Under this mandate, the government is forcing people to spend money, fining you if you don’t. How is that not a tax?” ABC host George Stephanopoulos probed Obama in 2009.
“No,” the president replied unequivocally, “but, George, you — you can’t just make up that language and decide that that’s called a tax increase.”
“Now what I’ve said is that if you can’t afford health insurance, you certainly shouldn’t be punished for that,” Obama added. “That’s just piling on.”
In this statement, Obama conceded that the imposition of taxes on those who cannot afford health insurance was politically toxic. If these statements and others do not prove intent, they certainly show motive.
Gruber’s comment in this question is likely to come back to haunt both him and the Obama administration.