A lack of transparency puts taxpayers who fund the government, including its secretive practices, at a distinct disadvantage from which it’s difficult to recover.
So says the man widely hailed as a key architect of the imploding, incompetently named Affordable Care Act.
“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 it passed,” Jonathan Gruber, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist and primary designer of Obamacare, told MIT colleagues in comments made last year as part of a panel discussion captured on YouTube but released after the recent midterm election.
Gruber thinks throwing the cloak of secrecy around Obamacare was the right thing to do because voters and their political representatives would have been too “stupid” to go along with it – had they known the truth.
“Look … I wish we could make it all transparent, but I’d rather have this law than not,” he lectured.
Gruber acknowledged that had the law been transparently presented as taxes in the form of mandates for individuals and employers, and if the administration had been open about the fact that Obamacare was “a law which said that healthy people are going to pay in — you made explicit healthy people pay in and sick people get money – it would not have passed.”
The situation’s not unlike what Kentuckians will discover when the bright light of truth-bearing transparency shines on key aspects of our commonwealth’s faltering retirement system.
Bills pre-filed for next year’s legislative session would break open the highly secretive Kentucky Retirement Systems (KRS) – one of the nation’s unhealthiest that, without substantial reform, offers the likelihood that taxes will go up while important services, including education and even public safety, will get squeezed in future budgets.
Amazingly, legislative leaders in Frankfort – primarily the entrenched political bosses in the House – have managed during recent years to bury transparency bills related to this crisis-riddled retirement system in the deep waters of committee bureaucracy.
They no doubt understand that Kentuckians are “too stupid” to remain on any boat they know is about to tip over the falls of corruption down into insolvency and continued budgetary shortfalls.
Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, and Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, have pre-filed bills to bring at least some of the serious KRS woes to light. Such transparency should create the kind of momentum for badly needed systemic reforms that only an informed citizenry can push for.
McDaniel’s Bill Request 85 makes all current or former legislators’ benefits – including those received from both the legislative pension plan as well as goodies drawn from other state plans – subject to open-records laws.
Wayne’s BR 91 shines the bright light of transparency and accountability on current corrupt KRS investment practices, including a good-ol’-boy system that controls who manages billions of dollars’ worth of investment funds and their fees.
How the commonwealth’s political leaders respond to these proposals will offer dead-on clues as to what Frankfort’s political environment will be like during the next biennium.
House leaders could imitate the head of their party and namesake of Obamacare himself in Washington and double-down in their defense of the status quo of secrecy.
Or, they may listen to Wayne, their political brother-in-arms, who said when filing his bill: “The health and wellbeing of public employee retirement systems should not be shrouded in mystery. No one should be required to invest their hard-earned money in a system that is not fully transparent. Not only should public employees know if the systems are financially stable, the taxpayers should also know.”
Once they know, I’m betting that they’re likely to be “stupid” enough to be smart enough to know exactly what to do.