NEW YORK – The Obamacare architect at the center of controversy for his frank admissions that passing the president’s signature legislation required lying to the American people published a paper during the Clinton administration observing that legalizing abortion saved the government $14 billion in assistance to economically disadvantaged mothers, including African Americans, and lowered crime.
MIT economics professor Jonathan Gruber argued in his paper that without the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, “marginal children” would have been born to many poor mothers. He said statistics show these children would have been 70 percent more likely to live in a single-parent family, 40 percent more likely to live in poverty, 50 percent more likely to receive welfare and 35 percent more likely to die as an infant.
Economist Steven D. Levitt and journalist Stephen J. Dubner in their bestselling 2005 book, “Freakonomics,” relied on Gruber’s work to argue that legalizing abortion was responsible for an approximately 50 percent reduction of crime in major urban centers in the early 1990s.
Video surfaced this week of Gruber’s remarks about Obamacare at a University of Pennsylvania health-care conference last year. He told the audience details of the bill were intentionally obscured to ensure it passed.
“Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage,” Gruber said. “Call it the stupidity of the American voter, or whatever. But basically, that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass.”
Along with outrage from Republicans, Gruber has been criticized by Obamacare allies such as former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. Now a CNN political analyst, Carney told host Jake Tapper that Gruber “speaks from the ivory tower with remarkable hubris about the American voter and by extension the American Congress.”
The Washington Times reported taxpayers paid Gruber millions for his work on Obamacare. Not only did he receive hundreds of thousands from the White House, but many states paid him as much as $400,000 each to produce reports praising the health-care law.
In “Freakonomics,” Levitt and Dubner reasoned that because unwanted children of poor, minority and single mothers were aborted before birth, society reduced the number of “marginal children” likely to become violent criminals and drug addicts.
From there, Levitt and Dubner advanced Gruber’s argument that readily available abortion not only reduced welfare costs but also saved money in the judicial system.
They reasoned that with fewer “marginal children” to be become criminals, the public expense in metropolitan police forces could be reduced along with the cost of prosecuting and incarcerating urban criminals.
In 2009, Gruber and co-authors Phillip Levine and Douglas Staiger published in the Review of Economics and Statistics a sanitized version of their conclusions. They emphasized that by allowing a larger percentage of “non-marginal” children, the future children of the nation would have improved odds of being raised in a two-parent family, an increased likelihood of college graduation and a greater chance of avoiding welfare.
Levitt and Dubner insisted that rather than “destroying unwanted life,” disadvantaged mothers were only “delaying” birth if they went on from aborting unwanted children to having children in the future when presumably they would less likely to be poor and more likely to be married.
Gruber and his co-authors, Wellesley economist Levine and Staiger of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, originally published their findings in the Quarterly Journal of Economics in February 1999.
They qualified their argument, concluding aborting “marginal children” would reduce future welfare costs if there are no geographic or financial restrictions to accessing government-approved and sponsored abortion at will.
Citing a 1996 study by Levine, Gruber and his co-authors noted that “births to teens, women over age 35, nonwhite women and unmarried women fell the most in response to abortion legalization.”
Studying births in states that allowed abortion compared to states that outlawed it prior to Roe v. Wade, Gruber concluded, “[M]arginal children who were not born due to abortion legalization would have lived in more disadvantaged circumstances than the average child in their cohort.”
Gruber attributed the outcome to a “positive selection” effect, arguing “abortion is used by women to avoid bearing children who would grow up in adverse circumstances.”
Initially, Gruber’s studies on abortion were well received by the political left, which sought to justify abortion as a reducer of costs to the welfare and criminal justice systems of major metropolitan areas.
However, with the attention drawn after the publication of “Freakonomics,” Gruber’s argument drew fire not only from pro-life religious conservatives but also from the far left. His liberal allies objected to characterizing the children of key Democratic Party constituents as likely criminals.
See a “Freakonomics” video on abortion and crime: