Trey Gowdy Thinks You’re Stupid

Here we have six and a half minutes of Representative Trey Gowdy badgering Jonathan Gruber while studiously avoiding any form of substance.

There’s a lot Gowdy could have asked, like “So, is it actually the case that a tax on insurers is equivalent to a tax on the insured?” or “Can you explain why those taxes are equivalent?” or “Are there any important ways in which the two policies are not equivalent?” or “Why do you think a tax on `Cadillac plans` was good policy in the first place?”

Instead, all he can think of to ask — over and over and over and over and over and over and over again — is, “Why did you call the American people stupid?”, as if there were anything useful to be learned from the answer.

I see one possible explanation here. Apparently Gowdy believes his constituents prefer mindless bullying to policy enlightenment. In other words, he acts on the assumption that the American voters are fundamentally stupid. Maybe someone should spend six and a half minutes asking him why.

Edited to add: I said this in a comment, but want to add it to the post. It either is or is not important to determine the truth of the matter regarding the issues on which Gruber spoke deceptively — e.g. in what sense are these two taxes equivalent, etc. If these questions are not important, why are we having this hearing in the first place? If these questions are important, then why is Gowdy so uninterested in them?

Edited to add further: I said this also in a comment, but want to add it here. Gruber is lying. Gowdy has a chance to question him. Gowdy can use that chance either to chant the equivalent of “Liar, liar, pants on fire” or to pin him down on the substance of what he’s lying about, e.g. “Do you or do you not stand by the statement that a tax on insurers is equivalent to a tax on the insured?”. I assure you that Gruber prefers the former, and that’s what Gowdy is giving him. Presumably that’s because he thinks voters are too stupid to appreciate the latter.

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22 Responses to “Trey Gowdy Thinks You’re Stupid”

  1. 1 1 Roger

    I disagree. That was a useful interrogation.

    I guess you would have rather heard Gruber give some economic analysis of the PPACA. But that debate was about 4 years ago, and he would presumably give some predictable defense of the Act.

    Most of the questions asked Gruber what he meant by particular quotes. Those are always fair questions, and he only gave evasive answers. If he will not give a direct answer to a direct question about what he meant by his own statements, then why ask anything else? He is obviously just a dishonest political partisan with nothing worthwhile to say.

  2. 2 2 Otto Maddox

    It just goes to show that you can have a PhD in economics and say really stupid things. It’s Gruber’s arrogance and his central planning mentality that bothers me the most.

  3. 3 3 Steve Landsburg


    No, as I said in the post, I wasn’t looking for an economic analysis of the PPACA; that debate, as you said, was four years ago.

    I *was* looking for an inquiry into the *content* of the statements Gruber is currently being grilled about. E.g. not “Why did you call people stupid?”, but “Why did you say that Tax A is equivalent to Tax B, in what sense are they equivalent, in what ways does the equivalence break down?” Etc.

    Either it is or is not important that Gruber deceived people about these issues. If it’s not important, then why have the hearing? If it’s important, then why not use the theorem to correct the deception by getting at the truth?

  4. 4 4 Roger

    The reason for the hearing is that Gruber’s statements have attained a legal significance. There is currently another PPACA case before the US Supreme Court, with the feds arguing for subsidies on, even if a reading of the statute seems to limit those subsidies to the state exchanges. Gruber has signed on to those briefs, claiming that as a co-author of the bill he knew the intent.

    Unfortunately for him, his videos seem to contradicts his briefs, and he seems unable to reconcile the contradictions. Given that, it seems sensible for an anti-PPACA Republican to discredit him, rather than probe whatever other economic opinions he might have. That video convinces me that the Supreme Court should not be taking Gruber’s self-serving assertions about what the intent of the PPACA was. So I say it was a successful cross-examination.

  5. 5 5 Bob Murphy

    Steve, Gruber is quite clearly lying his through teeth, yet again. He tells Gowdy (who’s being a jerk, I grant you) that he didn’t mean anything by those statements.

    Isn’t it weird that you have to keep defending this guy’s habitual lying?

  6. 6 6 Bennett Haselton

    You wrote “I see three possible explanations here” but then only list one. Are the other two left as an exercise for the reader?

  7. 7 7 Steve Landsburg

    Bob Murphy:

    Isn’t it weird that you have to keep defending this guy’s habitual lying?

    I don’t see what in this post you could possibly have seen as a defense.

    Yes, Gruber is clearly lying. The question is: What are you going to do with an opportunity to question him? Are you going to repeatedly shout “Liar, liar, pants on fire”, or are you going to pin him down with hard questions on the substance of what he’s lying about, e.g. “So, Dr. Gruber, do you or don’t you stand by the statement that a tax on insurers is equivalent to a tax on the insured?”

    I assure you Gruber prefers the former, and that’s what Gowdy is giving him. Presumably that’s because Gowdy thinks the voters are too stupid to appreciate the latter.

  8. 8 8 Bob Flood

    The congressman is trying to generate a 10-30 sec video bite that will make his local news and maybe go national. Matters of substance are seldom discussed in standard tv-covered hearings….too boring. That’s what CSPAN is for.

  9. 9 9 James Kahn

    I agree, Steve, but politicians grandstanding for an audience is clearly a “dog bites man” moment. One should not expect more from politicians of either stripe.

    And perhaps the economic analysis is so “four years ago,” but as Gruber is standing by it, I would have liked to see him challenged on the accuracy of his micro-simulation models. Probably doesn’t make for good television, but the most important lesson to come out of this relates to the efficacy, or lack thereof, of this sort of central planning.

  10. 10 10 Ross Levatter

    It goes without saying that this is ALL political theatre. All economists who have studied public choice know that American voters are ignorant (“stupid”), and rationally so. Gruber COULD defend on those grounds, but that would show how the system actually works, and nobody questioning him, on EITHER side of the aisle, wants THAT. So instead it is circuses for C-SPAN as politicians who ROUTINELY lie to the American people act positively SHOCKED that an academic crudely makes a point the truth of which they ALL rely on.

    I wish Gruber had said: “Congressman Gowdy, of course, like most economists, I think American voters suffer from rational ignorance, which in a conference with other economists I casually and jokingly equalized with stupidity. It’s the sort of thing I was hired and paid good money to take advantage of in getting the legislation the administration favored to pass. This is commonplace among both parties, as you well know. It is similar to prosecutors taking advantage of their legal immunities to lie and withhold information in order to improve their political standing with a strong conviction record, allowing them to successfully run for Congress, matters about which most voters are also ignorant. But you know more about this than I, a mere economist.”

  11. 11 11 Ken

    I assure you that Gruber prefers the former, and that’s what Gowdy is giving him. Presumably that’s because he thinks voters are too stupid to appreciate the latter.

    I’m not sure why you say this. Gowdy isn’t an expert in pinning someone down someone in a lie from which he cannot back out, as you want to happen. He’s an expert in getting his constituents in giving him votes. He put on a performance for them, not you. Yelling “Liar, liar, pants on fire” is a perfectly acceptable course of action for him to take in the context of winning his constituents’ votes. You know Gruber lied. Gowdy knows he lied. Everyone knows Gruber lied. This is political theater. What political incentive is there for Gowdy to undertake a technically detailed economic argument?

    Additionally, since Gowdy’s skill is in winning electoral votes, not catching someone in a lie during questioning, he may not even know how to do what you think he should do, even if that’s what he wanted to do.

  12. 12 12 Steve Landsburg

    James Kahn:

    I agree, Steve, but politicians grandstanding for an audience is clearly a “dog bites man” moment.

    Yes, but I thought this one stood out for the irony of Gowdy lambasting Gruber for obscuring the issues while carefully evading the issues.

    It’s sort of like a “Dog bites man while wearing a `men are biters’ t-shirt” moment.

  13. 13 13 Ted

    voters are rationally ignorant (we have better things to do), but the “stupid voters” he was successfully convincing were the Congressmen and Senators who voted with such a lack of understanding. Those in Congress do not have a better thing to do with their time — voting on a signature bill that hits one-sixth of the national economy.

  14. 14 14 Stephen Moore

    Gruber is guilty of lying certainly, but also being intellectual dishonest. Gowdy’s repeated question “Are you sorry you said those things, or that you meant them?” attacks both types of dishonesty. In my opinion, Gruber got the ass-whooping he deserved.

  15. 15 15 Ken B

    I agree with Bob Murphy and Roger here.

    And as for not nailing Gruber’s lying, he nailed him on
    - factoring in politics after Gruber just denied he did that
    - nailed him on saying such stuff repeatedly
    - nailed him on the timing of the apology
    - nailed him on the absurdity of saying he never meant any of the comments

    And he did something else. He got Gruber to say, in almost identical words, over and over “I was just trying to make myself look smarter”. By the end it is revealed as boiler-plate magic words Gruber is using because he’s been coached, and not a sincere token of repentance.

  16. 16 16 Steve Landsburg

    Ken B: But *so what*? What is gained by “nailing” Gruber on these points, other than the satisfaction a bully might get from kicking someone around on the playground?

    My point is that Gowdy had a choice between delivering that sort of cheap satisfaction and delivering some actual enlightenment about the *content* of what Gruber actually said, how much of it was true, etc. By choosing the first, he revealed pretty clearly that he thought his audience was stupid — exactly the same sin (though minus the boasting) that he finds so unforgiveable in Gruber.

  17. 17 17 Ken B

    I think Roger in 4 is pretty accurate on some of what is gained.
    I think there is more. I believe America is becoming a class society, and this is actively desired and sought by a large section of Team Blue. Part of this process is “Morlocking” the average citizen. It is what Gruber did, to the approval of many audiences of would-be Eloi. That sort of prejudice-stoking only works when kept under wraps. Exposing it to sunlight discredits it. There is a famous example in Huckleberry Finn, when Tom is asked if anyone died. “No ma’am, only a nigger.” Nothing disinfects like sunlight.

  18. 18 18 rghein

    All he had to say was “I chose my words wrong. I didn’t mean stupid, I meant rationally ignorant”.

  19. 19 19 Harold

    #17 Except bleach.. Oh, and heat, hydrogen peroxide, radiation, very high pressures…

  20. 20 20 justin

    This post overlooks another explanation. By embarrassing Gruber publicly, the interrogation deters this sort of behavior in the future.

  21. 21 21 Ken
  22. 22 22 dave

    neal stephenson quoted on the big questions. my life is complete.

  1. 1 The Liberty Herald – Trey Gowdy Thinks You’re Stupid
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