The recent attention given to 2013 remarks made by Jonathan Gruber, a consultant in the construction of the Affordable Care Act, is an actual blessing. After the initial outrage that naturally accompanies the discovery of a conspiracy-come-true has a moment to fade, it might be worth a moment to appreciate that this time, the scandal did not manage to pass into history outside of the visual spectrum of politics.
Considering that trust in the legislative process has never been lower than it currently is, it is incredibly damaging to hear Gruber’s comments, being from a man who was instrumental in packaging Obamacare for public consumption, expressing that the stupidity of the American public was key to the bill’s passage. So far, the citizens of the United States have limited their expressions of disdain and ennui to staying home from the polls, although it is very interesting to speculate on how this story may have affected turnout had it broke a week or so earlier.
What Gruber’s incredibly careless remarks represent is an increasingly tone-deaf government that is running out of excuses for its failure to carry out the will of its constituencies in good faith. The tone-deafness looks more and more intentional as time passes and “substantive change” has become a Pavlovian trigger to cringe and duck. In a macabre comedy of intellectual honesty, candidates use phrases such as “business as usual” in a derogatory manner towards their opposition, while their very use of such cynical clichés is itself a violation of their implied self-differentiation. Regardless of the merit of political narratives arising from the populace, whenever they are noticed by the governing class, they are appropriated and Bonzai-kitten, foot-bindingly tortured into support of the same old, tired Left Vs. Right dichotomy. People need only to think of both the Tea Party and the Occupy movements, and be kind enough to extend the results to the disenfranchised who self-identify on the other side of the aisle.
Obamacare dodged a bullet in the Supreme Court when it was ruled that the Individual Mandate was, in effect, a tax. The reasoning there was that if the mandate were not a tax, then it would have amounted to an illegal over-reach of Federal power under the Commerce Clause. With this, in light of Gruber’s remarks also admitting that if Obamacare were portrayed as funded by taxes, there would not have been the political will to pass it, there is no reasonable way to view that as anything other than intentional dishonesty and a gross breach of the public trust. To fix anything in America going forward, honesty in communications between the citizenry and the government is absolutely essential.
Nancy Pelosi is perhaps the primary antagonist of this entire debacle. And in consideration of honesty? Here is Pelosi remarking on the Gruber story: “I don’t know who he [Gruber] is. He didn’t help write our bill.” For context, she invoked him and his position at MIT for rhetorical authority prior to the vote on the bill in 2009. It may just be time for her to consider retirement, before a Republican-controlled House and Senate have too much time to dream up means of impeachment.
While it can be hard to process the dystopian implications of the type of revelation that Gruber’s remarks have served to illuminate, the anger that one feels serves an important purpose. It provides a moment of sharp focus, a motivating influence against the negative momentum of buttocks glued to a couch. Obamacare is not the only legislative travesty committed against the American people, rather it is only one of the more recent examples. There is a fortune that comes on the little slip of paper inside of fortune cookies which reads “Discontent is the first step in the progress of a man or a nation.” After watching this video, let there be a second step.
Opinion by Brian Whittemore
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza – flickr