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Liberal Arrogance at the Core of Obamacare

Lanhee Chen is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution who also teaches public policy at Stanford University. He was the policy director of Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign.
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Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber has gotten in trouble for remarks that applaud -- in the words of Washington Post reporters Robert Costa and Jose DelReal -- “the deliberatively deceptive way” the health-care law was written to get it passed in Congress.

Gruber's comments, made over the last several years, reveal a disdain for the American voter (whom he described as stupid) and for people's ability to understand the policy discussions that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist and his fellow liberal wonks engaged in when they crafted the Affordable Care Act.

But none of us should be surprised by his perspective. Liberal thinkers and policy-makers have never believed that individuals can manage their own health care. This is why they’ve said government should be involved in even our most basic health-care decisions, such as what benefits an insurance plan must include.

This viewpoint also explains their opposition to options that give consumers greater power over their own medical care, such as health-savings accounts, and their rejection of reforms that increase private competition and enhance consumer choice in Medicare.

The paternalism is warranted, they argue, because without the government, people would fall prey to big, bad corporate interests and their efforts to relentlessly maximize shareholder value.

Thus, Obamacare is all about the federal government making decisions on behalf of Americans because -- as Gruber and his liberal brethren would argue -- the people are unable or unwilling to make the choices that elites believe advance the social good. That’s why President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress invented the mechanisms in the law that, for example, transfer resources from those who are young and healthy to those who are old and sick.

Gruber apologized for his incendiary and arrogant comments. But the sentiment behind them is something I doubt he'll ever apologize for.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the editor on this story:
Katy Roberts at kroberts29@bloomberg.net