WaPo fact check: Yes, Gruber got $400,000 for ObamaCare work

Or, if you prefer a more acerbic conclusion, taxpayers paid Jonathan Gruber in the mid-six-figures to lie to them, and then brag about it to all of his friends and fans later. Glenn Kessler fact-checked an assertion made by Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) about Gruber’s paid involvement with ObamaCare while Nancy Pelosi et al kept claiming amnesia about the man called the “architect” of the law. Normally, Kessler jumps in to correct factually lacking claims, but this one gets the rare check mark.

The story begins in February 2009, when HHS signed Gruber to a contract to provide a micro-simulation model for four months at $95,000. They later added an eight-month contract for $297,000, bring the total known value of “almost $400,000,” exactly what Barrasso stated. For his year or so on the job — which would have been just a little more than the ObamaCare legislative effort lasted (June 2009 – March 2010) — Gruber received roughly what the President of the United States makes in a year. That’s not too bad for an MIT professor.

However, the fact check on Barrasso is hardly the most interesting part of Kessler’s review. What exactly did this micro-simulation model do to help Democrats craft ObamaCare? Kessler offers this explanation:

The model, the Gruber Microsimulation Model, is the coin of the realm, in large part because it is similar to the model used by the Congressional Budget Office. That means administration policy-makers could predict with reasonable certainty how CBO would score legislation. Given that legislation in Washington often falls or rises depending on the CBO score, that made this model a very powerful tool for administration officials.

Reeeeeeeeaaaaaallllly. Let’s recall what Gruber had to say about CBO scoring:

“This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes,” Gruber tells the audience with a smile. “If CBO scores the mandate as taxes, the bill dies.” … “Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage,” says the MIT economist who helped write Obamacare. “And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical for the thing to pass.”

Gruber bragged about gaming the legislative language in order to fool the CBO, and the mandate-tax issue was hardly the only issue in which CBO got snookered. The supposed deficit neutrality of the ACA was a house of cards that rapidly collapsed after passage, too, as well as the wealth transfers from the young to the old and the healthy to the sick, as Gruber explicitly mentions in the video. No wonder HHS extended Gruber’s contract for another eight months; they needed his model in order to keep cooking CBO’s analysis as the bill went through a number of changes in Congress through the fall and winter.

Gruber didn’t limit his deception to CBO, either, Kessler notes. When speaking to journalists, Gruber made a habit of not disclosing his connection to the ObamaCare effort in order to pose as an “independent” expert — a deception in which the White House participated:

Gruber’s consulting was largely unknown at the time, and eventually it became an issue as he had been frequently quoted by journalists and lawmakers who may not have known of his connection to the administration; he also generally did not disclose his connection when writing opinion articles.

In one especially fishy circumstance, Nancy-Ann DeParle, at the time the director of the White House Office of Health Reform, wrote about Gruber’s work on the White House blog on Nov. 29, 2009. “MIT Economist Confirms Senate Health Reform Bill Reduces Costs and Improves Coverage” was the headline on the post.

DeParle made no reference to the fact that Gruber had already earned hundreds of thousands of dollars working for the administration. She described him as “a MIT economist who has been closely following the health insurance reform process.”

Barrasso was right about the $400,000 or so Gruber got from taxpayers, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. That money appears to have been spent by the executive branch in a deliberate attempt to deceive Congress’ own analytical organization on a massive social-engineering experiment, and then aided and abetted by lack of disclosure of Gruber’s relationship to the project when dealing with the media. That’s dishonesty on an industrial scale, and goes way beyond Gruber himself.

The hearings on this should be fascinating.

Update: Jeff Dobbs writes to point out a rather sly reference by Kessler that I missed. The “fishy” connection with Nancy-Ann DeParle certainly sounds like a reminder of this from the Boss Emeritus five years ago:

Czardom has its privileges. This week, President Obama’s health care overlord launched a taxpayer-funded initiative to recruit an Internet Snitch Brigade that will combat “disinformation about health insurance reform.” As the White House explained in a special online bulletin:

“These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to [email protected]

What will health care czar Nancy DeParle do with this information? Where will it be stored? Who has oversight of the czar’s powers, budget, and personnel? Concerned citizens, alas, will have a hard time tracking down the “Office of Health Care Reform” created by executive order in April. There is no central website for the office, no direct channel for transparency, and no congressional accountability.

At least one member of Congress has started asking questions. Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn sent a letter to President Obama demanding that he disband the Internet Snitch Brigade immediately: “By requesting citizens send ‘fishy’ emails to the White House, it is inevitable that the names, email, addresses, IP addresses and private speech of U.S. citizens will be reported to the White House,” Sen. Cornyn wrote. “You should not be surprised that these actions taken by your White House staff raise the specter of a data collection program.”

Yeah, there’s a lot that’s been “fishy” about ObamaCare and the Obama administration all along. We’re just getting a little more transparency on it lately.

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