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MIT and Harvard: Reality vs. theory

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Like millions of Americans, I enjoyed listening to “Click and Clack, The Tappet Brothers” do their “Car Talk” program on my local NPR affiliate. While Tom and Ray Magliozzi may have come across like a couple of neighborhood chucklehead grease monkeys, longtime listeners knew that the brothers were anything but — both having graduated from MIT.

And as listeners also knew, no subject was off-limits when it came to cracking wise — even when it came to their alma mater.

One week they read a letter that was (allegedly) sent by a listener who recounted an exchange she overheard between a young man in the “10 items or less” line and the cashier at a grocery store near their home in Cambridge. The man’s basket was clearly over the 10-item limit. The cashier took a long look at the student and said, “Say … you must attend either Harvard or MIT.”

“Wow,” replied the guy. “How did you know that?”

The cashier — not missing a beat, responded: “Because this is a ‘10-items or less’ line and you either go to MIT and can’t read, or to Harvard and can’t count.” When Ray passed away last November, it brought back a lot of memories of the show — including that story, which sadly but perfectly illustrates some of the ongoing absurdity of the PPACA rollout and its effects. Last month, we covered MIT pretty well — citing the Professor Jonathan Gruber, who committed the ultimate political sin — he told the truth, however odious it might have been.

See also: The doctor is out, stupid!

Gruber was being honest when he said, “This bill was written in a tortured way” to make sure the CBO didn’t score taxes as taxes.

And Gruber was being honest when he stated that if “you made it explicit that healthy people pay in and sick people get money — it would not have passed.” For this insight into the sausage making process, The Economist named him 2014’s “most influential economist,” an ignominious honor at best.

Perhaps they were feeling a bit left out of things, but the folks at Harvard (or, as MIT students refer to it, “That other school down the river”) felt the need to start the new year by becoming “outraged” at PPACA-driven changes being made to their health care coverage and (perhaps of greater importance) their wallets.

See also: View: Whining Harvard professors experience Obamacare.

As Fox Business reporter Melissa Francis (herself a Harvard alum) wrote, “Turns out there is no free lunch, even if you’re among the lucky few dining at the Harvard Faculty Club.”

In 2009, Dr. Alan Garber was a professor at Stanford. Dr. Garber led a group of economists who sent an open letter to Mr. Obama endorsing cost-control features of the bill. In March of 2010, as PPACA was being signed into law, the Harvard College Democrats Blog was, “… happy to celebrate … a vital step forward in ensuring quality, secure and affordable health care for all Americans.”

Today, Dr. Garber is provost of Harvard and the target of much of the ire and consternation among that university’s professoriate.

But Meredith Rosenthal, professor of health economics and policy at Harvard told the New York Times (Pear: 01/05/2015) that she was, “puzzled by the outcry. The changes in Harvard faculty benefits are parallel to changes all Americans are seeing. Indeed, they have come to our front door much later than others.”

Oh, how times have changed. It is easy to be idealistic when reaching into someone else’s pocket. When the bony fingers of the government reach for your wallet, that’s another thing altogether!

Maybe next time we try to understand a bill, we should check with a more reliable Cambridge source, Car Talk’s retired statistician Marge Inovera.

As Tom always reminded us, “Reality often astonishes theory.”