Friday, January 8, 2010

The Media's Favorite Healthcare Analyst Revealed To Be On Obama's Dole to the Tune of 300K

Megan McArdle has the details:
MIT economist Jonathan Gruber has become the go-to economist for fans of the health care reform wending its way through congress. He regularly produces analyses showing how great reform is going to be for people buying insurance in the individual market, and has been a vocal advocate for the excise tax...

He probably wouldn't have been cited with quite the same authority--particularly by mainstream media--if he'd been more upfront about the fact that he's being paid almost $300,000 by the Obama Administration for "special studies and analysis" of the health care bills, as a blogger on Firedoglake revealed last night. Ben Smith has the rundown; apparently most of the health care beat reporters were as unaware of the relationship as I was.I certainly would not have written about him the same way, even though I am sure that what Gruber is saying comports with what he believes. My guess is that like me, most journalists would have treated him as an employee of the administration, with all the constraints that implies, rather than passing along his pronouncements as the thoughts of an independent academic...

Gruber's explanation that "he disclosed this to reporters whenever they asked" is not very compelling. I don't see how anyone even tangentially connected to policy work could fail to realize that this was a material conflict of interest that should have been disclosed, and reporters cannot take up all their interview time going through all the sources who might have been paying or otherwise influencing their interviewee. The standard is even higher for people who are taking public funds, and not only Professor Gruber, but the administration had a responsibility to disclose the relationship. Yet a post on the OMB blog signed by Peter Orszag cited Brownstein's Gruber quotes without mentioning the relationship.


  1. Reminds me of how the Pentagon campaigned to influence "independent military analysts" employed by various media networks during the Iraq war. (See here) Only worse.

  2. The plot thickens, like a pool of blood slowly coagulating on the floor beneath a recent murder victim...

  3. I had a little fun with this: