But People *Are* Stupid

But People *Are* Stupid

Even though it's been out of the news for several weeks, there was nothing funnier than watching MIT economics professor Jonathan Gruber hauled before a Congressional hearing to explain his comment in 2013 that "the American people are too stupid to understand the difference" (about Obamacare being a tax.)

But it wasn't funny because someone who made videotaped comments had it come back to haunt him. It was funny because Mr. Gruber is actually right: people are stupid.

It was funny because there is nothing more hilarious than the spectacle of allegedly outraged Congressmen demanding that he come to the imperial court and beg for forgiveness. Explain that his words were taken out of context and apologize for calling people stupid. The right-wing seized on this like the left did with Mitt Romney's "48 percent" comment. It was supposed to be a gotcha moment, with Mr. Gruber being labeled an "architect" of the Affordable Care Act (he wasn't) and proof that the president and everyone in his administration hates the American people or holds them in contempt.

The reality is, that perhaps politicos were inflamed because Mr. Gruber had inadvertently exposed what they actually believe about the American voter. He showed everyone the game plan when he wasn't supposed to. You see, the practice of power in this country depends on keeping folks ignorant on several key issues, while whipping up anger, fervor and self-righteous indignation about other things. Take, for example, the Hobby Lobby case that wound up in the Supreme Court: most people did not know that the corporation already provided birth control in their insurance plans. But since the ACA required that now, suddenly the Catholic owners of the company were complaining that their religious convictions were being trampled. But those are facts that people don't need to know, so the entire issue was presented like a religious freedom battle, because everyone knows what that is and don't want to be bogged down in details.

It was also funny because politicians need to keep people ignorant about the true intentions of legislation. Take the rollbacks to the Dodd-Frank Act: Americans have no idea what that is, but they sure will remember something like the "Promoting Job Creation and Reducing Small Business Burdens Act." This bill has nothing to do with either of those things, but it sure sounds good and will sell well, too. That's what you tell your constituents if you're asked. You don't say it's about giving banks another go at destroying the world economy, you frame it as an issue of job creation and fighting an incompetent government that seeks to burden people and businesses with all sorts of useless regulations.

The evil federal government has been the core message of the Republican Party for a very long time, and it shows no signs of waning. Perhaps the greatest lie of the last few decades has been health care reform itself being all run by the government and the infamous "death panels." If voters were smart, they would have realized that all the jeremiads against health care were just scare tactics. If voters were smart, they would have rejected the "socialism" accusation because you cannot have private insurance companies competing in a marketplace for your business. That's not socialism, that's capitalism. That's the free market. But because voters are stupid, they fell for the death panel lie, they fell for the job-killing lie, they continue to invoke the socialism lie, and most egregious of all: believing that Social Security and Medicare are not run by the government. If voters are not stupid, how do you explain that so many of them bought these lies without even blinking?

All Jonathan Gruber did was bring to light precisely what politicos think and believe: that people are stupid. In a madcap rush to be shocked (shocked!) and take the opportunity for a Congressional hearing to act as they were wounded and hurt on behalf of The American People. Pure farce. The entire hearing was pathetic because of its farcical nature. But voters bought that farce, that ridiculous phony piece of Congressional theatre because they are, in a word: stupid.