The hard-working staff here at Spoiler Alerts has a confession:  Health care is our policy kryptonite. As fascinating as I might find most other arenas of politics and policy, health-care debates put me right to sleep.

This isn’t a brag; I’m kinda ashamed about it. But I say this at the outset to explain that, frankly, I don’t have any idea whether all of Jonathan Gruber’s videotaped statements about the Affordable Care Act are a big deal or not on either policy or legal grounds. The Fix’s Aaron Blake says no, and he’s a pretty smart guy, but Benjy Sarlin thinks it’s a problem, and he’s a pretty smart guy too. I could read Sarah Kliff’s explainer, but as I said, this topic bores me. Feel free to debate this in the comments.

No, the reason I’m writing about this is that what got Gruber into trouble is the same thing that would get any social scientist into trouble: He spoke a truth that is obvious in the social sciences but is taboo to admit in the political arena.

The Hill summarizes what got Gruber into trouble:

A series of unearthed videos of ObamaCare consultant Jonathan Gruber insulting U.S. voters while saying a “lack of transparency” helped Congress pass the healthcare law are attracting serious attention on the right just as Republicans prepare to take control of the Senate….
Two additional videos have been released since then. In those clips, Gruber said the law’s passage relied on “basic exploitation of [voters’] lack of economic understanding,” and that Americans are “too stupid to understand” the law’s so-called Cadillac tax.

Gruber has since apologized for some of (though not all) of the comments, but the damage — to him — has been done.  Because if there’s one thing you can’t do publicly in American politics, it’s speak dismissively about the quality of American voters.

But here’s the thing: Gruber’s underlying statement about the ignorance of American voters is spot-on.  Most political scientists categorize most voters as “rationally ignorant.” This doesn’t mean voters are stupid, but it does mean that they’re uninformed. This is because they’re busy people and would strongly prefer reading BuzzFeed articles about Kim Kardashian than the intricacies of health-care legislation.  Like me.

It doesn’t take a lot to find evidence about the ignorance of American voters. Two weeks ago Ipsos-MORI revealed survey evidence that the United States is the second-most ignorant country out of 14 advanced industrialized democracies. Only Italy is less well-informed.  Nor is it hard to find scholarly evidence that Congress has an incentive to legislate opaquely to keep voters somewhat in the dark.

As the Upshot’s Neil Irwin put it about Gruber’s statements:

[H]ere’s the dirty little secret: Mr. Gruber was exposing something sordid yet completely commonplace about how Congress makes policy of all types: Legislators frequently game policy to fit the sometimes arbitrary conventions by which the Congressional Budget Office evaluates laws and the public debates them.

Indeed, when Gruber discusses the ignorance of American voters in the video clips, no political scientist who knows even smidgen about American public opinion would have raised an eyebrow. This isn’t because political scientists look down on voters; it’s because they have surveyed voters repeatedly and discovered that rational ignorance is this is just the way it is.

But stating that most voters are uninformed about most things is one of those rude utterances that one just does not say in polite political company. People can say it behind closed doors, or at academic settings, but never on camera.

Gruber, unknowingly, said it on camera. That’s his sin. And I suspect it’s a sin that countless social scientists have committed at myriad conferences over the years.

So I have no idea if the substance of Gruber’s comments are meaningful. But I know that there, but for the grace of God, goes I.