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Gruber Should be fired from MIT for Violating Academic Integrity

Architect of Obamacare Admits to Misleading the Public about the Bill

MIT professor Jonathan Gruber, one of the architects of Obamacare, should be fired by MIT for violating academic integrity by purposefully lying about the effect of the bill on Americans and disguising its true nature as a tax, not a penalty, for those who do not enroll in one of the available health plans. There is no excuse for his behavior and recent admissions demonstrate that he knew the true nature of the bill; what it was trying to accomplish; the lack of transparency in misleading the public; and other acts that smack of fraud in selling the bill to the public.

As Congress voted on the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, in 2010, MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, told a college audience that those pushing the legislation pitched it as a bill that would control spiraling health care costs even though most of the bill was focused on something else and there was no guarantee the bill would actually bend the cost curve.

In previously posted but recently noticed speeches, Gruber discusses how those pushing the bill took part in an "exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter," taking advantage of voters' "stupidity" to create a law that would ultimately be good for them.

Gruber said the measures in the bill that attempt to lower costs constitute a "spaghetti approach" -- throwing everything against the wall to see what sticks. And while preferable to the status quo, Gruber said he could offer no guarantee that any of the measures would work.

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In a video that began circulating on the Internet two weeks ago, Gruber is seen explaining how he intentionally used misinformation to trick the American public. “If you had a law which … made it explicit that healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed. 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 to getting the thing to pass,” Gruber said.

While Gruber said he wished he could have been honest with the American people, the economist explained he would “rather have this law than not,” and he renounced the concept of transparent government. “Politically, you just literally cannot do … transparent financing, transparent spending. I mean, this bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO [Congressional Budget Office] did not score the mandate as taxes. If the CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies. So it was written to do that.”

Gruber’s approach to the bill and how it was marketed to the public reflects an “ends justifies the means” approach to decision-making. In other words, the need for such a health care bill was more important than the measures taken to sell it, including lying to the public. This is unethical behavior. Ethics demands that the means are important and the right of the public to know all the facts, truthfully and openly, is essential in offering up any bill or new law. The means are very important, perhaps more important, than the end goal. How we get to that goal speaks volumes about the values one has in carrying out his responsibilities to the public.

There are five ethical values that underlie academic integrity: honesty, trust, fairness, respect, and responsibility. Gruber has violated all five. First, he was dishonest about the true nature of the bill. Second, how can we ever trust a person, a professor no less, who knowingly lies and misleads the public? Next, the American public were not treated fairly by Gruber in that the playing field was not level—it was skewed in favor of the government and Obamacare – in deceiving the public. Clearly, Gruber disrespected the public by calling voters stupid and did not accept responsibility for his egregious behavior. Instead, he made excuses for it. Lastly, the arrogance he showed in discussing the bill at college campuses and on video demonstrates a lack of integrity – principled behavior.

Gruber’s unethical behavior took on a new dimension when he was hired by Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin and paid $400,000 to advise him on single-payer health care in Vermont. A video shows Gruber mocking a Vermonter who expressed concern about single-payer health care. In the 2011 video shot by and released four weeks ago, Gruber appears before the Vermont House Health Care Committee to present recommendations for a universal, publicly financed health care program.

The recommendations were part of the 2011 “Hsiao Report” submitted to the legislature by economist William C. Hsiao and co-written by Gruber.

As Gruber sits listening, the committee chair reads a comment from a Vermonter who expresses concern that the economist’s plan might lead to “ballooning costs, increased taxes and bureaucratic outrages,” among other things. After hearing the Vermonter’s worries, Gruber responds, “Was this written by my adolescent children by any chance?” The remark was met with uproarious laughter. To say Gruber distorts the truth is an understatement. His attitude is one of hubris and disrespectful to the public.

At Cal Poly, where I teach, professors are held to high standards of academic integrity. In my world the falsification of research results violates academic integrity. If I knowingly lied at a conference where I presented the results of my research, I would expect to be sanctioned for my behavior. MIT should step up to the plate and take the high road with Gruber. He should be fired for violating the basic tenet of academic behavior – integrity.

Blog posted by Dr. Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on November 18, 2014. Professor Mintz teaches in the Orfalea College of Business at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He also blogs at

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