Gruber Did Not Disclose Conflict to the WaPo

One of the biggest puzzles in Jonathan Gruber’s explanation for why he hasn’t been disclosing his $400,000 HHS contract as he has led the campaign to support the bill is timing. By his own admission, he revealed the contract for a disclosure form associated with a December New England Journal of Medicine article. That form was dated November 30.

But the WaPo did not disclose the relationship for an op-ed published almost a month after he filled out that disclosure form.

Now, Gruber says he has disclosed the contract whenever he has been asked.

Gruber told POLITICO that he has told reporters of the contract “whenever they asked.”

But in a follow-up with the WaPo, Ben Smith reports that Gruber was asked by the WaPo, and he said he didn’t have any financial conflicts.

Washington Post op-ed editor Autumn Brewington emails that the Post, as a practice, asks writers to disclose any “conflicts of interest that might be relevant to this op-ed, including but not limited to financial or family relationships with any of the subjects of the article” and that Gruber, when asked whether he “received any funding, for research or otherwise, from organizations or persons identified in the column,” answered “no.”

Now, perhaps there’s some wiggle room here. Perhaps, since Gruber’s op-ed doesn’t mention HHS, even though it mentions the health care reform he was hired to consult on repeatedly, he felt he didn’t need to reveal the conflict. Perhaps there’s some confusion at the WaPo, which itself is having problems disclosing ethical conflicts (though Ben says Brewington was quoting directly from the exchange on disclosure).

But, at least given what we know, it looks like Gruber felt obliged to reveal the conflict to the NEJM on November 30, but when asked a similar question about financial conflicts less than a month later, he did not disclose it.

  1. BoxTurtle says:

    To me, it looks as though he knew darn well what the disclosure rules are. And he knew darn well that disclosure would call into question his objectivity. So he made sure to disclose it in an offhand way, to writers who wouldn’t highlight it.

    But why would he worry about WAPO catching him on a conflict of interest? Did he fail to attend the last mixer at Kathy’s? I mean, c’mon, WAPO speaking up about a conflict of interest?

    Boxturtle (Those input assumptions are getting more interesting to me every minute)

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    If Dr. Gruber was obligated to disclose his highly compensated arrangement with the government, in order for the public and legislators to gauge the potential conflicts in his public advocacy – and I think he was – then neither “timing” nor Gruber’s passive, Tim Russert-like posture of “waiting to be asked about conflicts” are adequate excuses for his failure to disclose.

  3. maryo2 says:

    Somebody at Obama’s HHS offered this guy $400,000 by name straight-up with no competing bids. How did they know of him or the existance of his very “flexible” model? There is a “pre-solitication” notice dated May 21, 2009. It reads like a political decision to me (i.e. propaganda).

    Perhaps we should look at Congressional debate in April and May 2009 to see which way the wind was blowing when Obama’s HHS made this decision.

    • emptywheel says:


      At least check this thread, where an equally prestigious economist who has been critical of Gruber on some of this stuff vouches for the quality of his simulations (and suggests that the sole source on it was fair).

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Nice thread, but as I recall, your Princeton economist rated Gruber’s proprietary system better than a private industry source. To me, that’s an academical damning with faint praise.

      • maryo2 says:

        I did read that already.

        The awarding of the contract looks weird to me. Look at the Posted Date, the Response date and the Re-post Date for OS4809. It changes over time at the Federal Business Opportunities. When I surfed back in time to the dates May 21, 2009 and June 5, 2009, there is NO listing for this award at all. says

        Original Posted Date:

        May 21, 2009

        Posted Date:

        June 19, 2009

        Response Date:

        Original Response Date:

        Jun 05, 2009 5:00 pm Eastern

        But go back to pages 60 and 61 which shows May 21, 2009, and there is no award:

        And go back to page 57 which shows June 19, 2009 and there is no award:

      • TalkingStick says:

        Thanks for this Reinhardt attribution. He has been a respected worker in health care models for years.

        I totally concur with his characterization of consumer driven health care. And more. It is a disaster and has already wreaked damage to the quality of health care that I can see but can’t produce the studies to prove. I do have an AMA article that is good and will post it when I find it.

        The notion of consumer driven model is that it provides the wiggle room for the profiteers to scam the public. The good old American way of doing business.

        The corruption in this whole thing is really dispiriting and disgusting.

      • bobschacht says:

        Y’know, when a critical component of a public health program costing billions of dollars is being sold on the basis of a simulation, I want to know what’s in the simulation. I want to know the assumptions that the simulation is based on. I don’t want no damn black box. I don’t care what the simulator’s reputation is. And I want to see the simulation peer-reviewed.

        What’s that old expression about buying a pig in a poke?

        A ‘poke’ is a burlap sack. To ‘buy a pig in a poke’ is to purchase an unknown, without looking.
        Correct but the phrase started in old England where dishonest people would place a common animal like a kitten or cat in a tied bag or “poke” and try to pass it off to a dumb farmer as a baby or suckling pig which was far more valuable than a kitten.

        Did the White House buy a pig in a poke?

        Bob in AZ

        • fatster says:

          Hmmm and I have elevated it to a work of art. But one person’s art could certainly be another person’s pig in a poke. That’s how things are in the realm of art.

          What did the WH buy? Seems they might be the ones who were bought. And sold us out in the process.

        • qweryous says:

          “Did the White House buy a pig in a poke?”

          Good question.

          Answer: maybe.

          Alternate possibility: Did the White House sell a pig in a poke?

          Indignation would only be righteous in the first case.

          In any case everyone is about to find out what is in this sack.

    • Gitcheegumee says:

      Here’s an interesting politico article from February’09-the time frame you are interested in.

      Also, Zeke Emmanuel has a history of being affiliated with Massachusetts hospitals,as evidenced in the whorunsgov article.Perhaps Emmanuel had some input regarding Gruber.

      Ezekiel Emanuel –, a Wash Post CoJump to Universal Health-Care Vouchers‎: This isn’t Emanuel’s first time at the health-reform dance. … Emanuel, Ezekiel J., “Healthcare, Guaranteed,” New York: … According to Zeke, his chief of staff brother Rahm describes the … › Profiles – 10 hours ago – Cached – Similar

      NIH Clinical CenterWendler D, Emanuel EJ. What is a “minor” increase over minimal risk? J. Pediatrics 2005;147(5):575-578. Fuchs VR, Emanuel EJ. Health care reform: why? What? … › About the Clinical Center › Senior Staff – Cached

      Health Care Zeke: The other Emanuel – Carrie Budoff Brown …Feb 26, 2009 … Zeke Emanuel — Rahm’s big bro — is emerging as a key player in … be the chief kibitzer on health care reform and health care issues at the … – Cached – Similar

      • maryo2 says:

        I have been trying to find the Politico November 24, 2009 “Rahm said y’all have to read this Atlantic article for homework” article. But I can’t seem to navigate on Politico.

        TPM leaves it at “Obama found the article” and I just doubt that. Somebody puts articles on his desk. He doesn’t “find” stuff any more.

        • Gitcheegumee says:

          Could you give a little background on this?

          I’m unfamiliar with what you are talking about.

        • eCAHNomics says:

          I.E., the fix was in.

          We can only track documents. Who knows (but who can guess) what went on in telephone conversations? Only the NSA knows for sure. All this stuff goes on in a backstage way that outsiders will never be privy to. Tracking docs is essential, but looking at relationships and indirect evidence of the “way things happen” (i.e., not by chance) is also a valid way of triangulating in on “reality.”

      • TalkingStick says:

        this has been known since before the election. I wonder why people are just now noticing. Now that it is too late. Exposing this will not have any influence on the legislation that is passed. It’s a done deal.

          • TalkingStick says:

            Rahm’s brother’s positions and his influence on Rahm and now the Obama administration.

            The Gruber disgrace is fairly new to me but exposing it this late won’t help either. That bill was written by Billy Tauzin and the Insurance industry and is not going to be changed. Unless we can get some major media to really take it on immediately. I am not even certain that will do it this late.

    • eCAHNomics says:

      That one’s really cute. He cites, in Gruber’s defense, that Gruber’s views have been consistent going back years. Without, of course, pointing out why that made Gruber a dead ringer for O to hire.

    • Frank33 says:

      I am very grateful to EW, Jane and the FirePups for providing the best coverage and investigative journalism of the HealthCare Corporate Fraud. Gruber is not the only paid shill promoting Corporate Health Care. TIME quotes that other Paid Shill Ezra Klein. Klein defends that Lying Sack of Crap Gruber and Klein just loves this type of Corporate Health Care.

      I wasn’t aware of that, and if I had been, I would’ve made sure it was disclosed when I quoted Gruber. On the other hand, the implication that Gruber is somehow a paid shill for this bill belies a fairly long and consistent record in support of health reform, and in particular, this type of health reform.

      Gruber is supposed to have done what? Anything? Please someone share his brilliant expertise that I am paying for.

  4. BoxTurtle says:

    From the above link:

    But regardless, it’s not Gruber’s responsibility to list his potential conflicts of interest when he talks to reporters. That’s on us. We should ask sources about their affiliations and who pays them more often. This is a good reminder.

    I was always taught that I had an affirmative duty to disclose conflicts. How times have changed…

    Boxturtle (Disclosure: I’m currently conflicted as to which scotch to drink tonight)

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Boxturtle (Disclosure: I’m currently conflicted as to which scotch to drink tonight)

      What are your choices? I prefer single malt with a dollop of water, when it’s on offer.

      • BoxTurtle says:

        Macallan 18yr, Glendronach 33yr, and a 35yr proprietary bottling called the Classic Cask of the Millenium from the Malt Whiskey society. All are Sherry Monsters.

        Boxturtle (There’s a bottle of Walker black around here as well)

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          I’m familiar with the Macallan range, but not the other two. How do they compare? (Since we’ve digressed slightly from the topic of Dr. Gruber.)

          • BoxTurtle says:

            I was under the impression that alcohol was ALWAYS on topic here at the wheelhouse. :-)

            The Glendronach has an intense caramel nose, with hints of about every fruit I can think of. On the tongue, caramel and sweetness rule and the fruity tastes come in with the aftertaste. Very strong legs, almost syrupy, very dark mahogoney in color. I love it, it’s a shame it’s so rarely available.

            The other is also heavily sherried, but smoother with a vanilla aroma in the nose. Tastewise, it’s very similar to the Macallan but to me lacks the Macallan’s character.

            Boxturtle (Walker tastes like water to me)

            • earlofhuntingdon says:

              It is, but moderation is the rule. (We’re more Greek than Roman here, I suspect.) I’ll have to try the Glendronach some time. Macallan, if not the 18 or 25 year old, is on many store shelves.

      • Peterr says:

        Same here.

        But why is this an either/or question? Sounds like both/and to me.

        Unless, of course, Boxturtle hit “submit comment” a bit too fast, and left out a word: “. . . which scotch to drink FIRST tonight)”

  5. TheObnox says:

    Almost half a million dollars to sing the praises of HCR. What is that, about $7,500 a week? Nice work if you can get it.

  6. ondelette says:

    I see. So this guy is eminently qualified to do the contract, according to someone who would compete against him on it if he could, but admits he can’t. So much for the sole source corruption. As to the other, he complied with NEJM’s disclosure policies in the June article according to what I put up on David Dayen’s thread from the author guidelines. He divulged in response to request on the later NEJM article, also above reproach. You really have him on what? A Washington Post interview? Enough for a political point, not enough to go after his professional career. Probably steer very, very clear of doing the latter, please. I’d like to see us win the health care thing, not go down as venal nitpickers.

    • Teddy Partridge says:

      No one here is a venal nitpicker; Gruber’s was a purchased analysis and should be identified as such, wherever his opinions appear and by whoever cites either his analysis or conclusions.

      Armstrong Williams: Enough said. Same agency, too — seems like the New Boss isn’t even clever enough to find another bunch of feds to launder their expert opinion slush through.

      • ondelette says:

        Is that your guidelines or the guidelines that were required of him? At least the NEJM is astute enough to state clearly that final responsibility for author disclosure rests with the editors. If you think the public hasn’t been well enough informed then the damning should go to the media outlets that haven’t investigated and reported enough to do so. The cost calculations that Dr. Gruber has done are wrong how? And — and this is what you get paid $400,000 for — what should they have been? Where’s the graph as it should be, where are the charts as they should be? Can you do them? Did somebody do them? Would you know? Who let you down, Jonathan Gruber or a press that failed to inform you promptly and a Congress that double dealt the whole thing from the start?

        If your answer is Jonathan Gruber, and you really think he was guilty of professional misconduct, by all means, go after his credentials. Otherwise, you’d be better off getting the facts out and disputing his analysis.

        • Peterr says:

          His disclosure to NEJM was woefully inadequate. “I am a paid consultant of the Obama administration.” When Gruber’s part-time consulting gig nets him roughly the same compensation as the President of the United States, that strikes me as more than nitpicking.

          It’s either intentionally deceptive or clueless. Take your pick, but neither fills me with confidence.

          (And I can’t imagine that the dean at MIT is pleased at this kind of behavior on the part of one of his/her faculty, either.)

        • PJEvans says:

          If your answer is Jonathan Gruber, and you really think he was guilty of professional misconduct, by all means, go after his credentials. Otherwise, you’d be better off getting the facts out and disputing his analysis.

          I don’t think this is an either/or situation.

          He should have disclosed, certainly when people cited him as an expert on health insurance costs, that he was being paid by the government to do the studies cited in support of the government’s position.

          His studies apparently also don’t back up the conclusions he presents: that’s what calls his expertise into question, and that’s where this started some days ago.

          (The funding stuff just blew up in the last couple of days. And it’s very much like Armstrong Williams, or like the retired military being paid by DoD to push military action while being paid by MSM as ‘analysts’.)

        • bmaz says:

          Pointing out the salient facts, and asking the appropriate questions is NOT “going after his credentials” nor a formal accusation of “professional misconduct” nor “going after his professional career”; and it is disingenuous of you to keep accusing people of that. As I said in an earlier thread today in response to this false meme you have been pitching, it is fairly interesting how you have entered into the discussion proffered here premised on effectively an “appearance of impropriety” standard of care as to Gruber, and you have unilaterally reframed it as being a discussion of “provable corruption” standard when that was never the allegation or discussion to start with, and then torn through the comments of others using the frame you unilaterally manufactured as opposed to the one they were using. A curious, but somewhat ineffective argument tactic in this case.

          • ondelette says:

            You can find whatever you like to be curious. What I see is an attempt to go after someone based on their funding sources and professionalism in publication — i.e. the latter most distinctly is their professional career, whether a lawyer sees it that way or not. A guy who gets nailed for ethics in his publications in peer-reviewed journals is done, or didn’t you know that?

            I’m not opposed to any substantive arguments Marcy has put forward today (I don’t understand how debt is a cost variable unless there is interest but other than that), and I’m not opposed to the health plan wants of the people here, except if they advance free rider concerns. I’m in favor of single payer non-profit medicine and have been for decades. I wrote dutifully to my rep and senators all during the public option debates, and even wrote harsher stuff than is written here. I am not without ammunition in the debate, I do volunteer work as an EMT, I have friends in public health, I have researched every FOA emitted by NIH that’s listed on within the last month. It isn’t even my field.

            The part of Dr. Gruber’s analysis cited in earlier links and his Perspective, I think, are probably quite vulnerable on his assumptions of the fallout from the Cadillac tax. I don’t think he has assessed all of the costs. But he has numbers, we don’t. That makes it uphill for us unless we can find somebody to crank numbers, or who already has, but that isn’t a justification for an ethics assault.

            If you think that attacking credentials by attacking publication ethics of a Ph.D. researcher is a great political tactic, whether or not you really have the ammo to show he did something wrong, be my guest. I’d say you’re probably wrong, but you can think me a troll for saying so if you like. I’d personally rather withdraw a paper and burn all of my research over a campfire in the Mojave desert than make an ethical mistake in a single peer-reviewed publication any day, and I’d be willing to bet Jonathan Gruber feels that way too. Most researchers do.

            • hotdog says:

              I’ll take 400k to research it. Oh yeah, by the time I’m done, the debate will be over, plus I’m not in the circle. Too bad for all of us.

            • spanishinquisition says:

              “What I see is an attempt to go after someone based on their funding sources” – It’s called Follow The Money.

              • earlofhuntingdon says:

                As in politics, it’s not the sin, its the attempt to hide it.

                Dr. Gruber’s faux pas is not of Watergate or Abu Ghraib proportions. The delay in and his inconsistent disclosure of his financial relationship with Uncle Sam was unworthy of his stature as a senior health care economist. His work, which others have commented on, may also be open to question because of some of its rosy, unsubstantiated or wrong assumptions. As another commentator said, the old shit in/shit out rule still prevails with computer programs, proprietary or not.

                As Marcy said on another post, Gruber’s work may be worthwhile, but it should not form the sole basis for a trillion dollar expenditure and a generation-long program. It should be supplemented by equally brilliant, non-industry-provided research. That’s not buying the right opinion, that’s doing basic homework. Seems pretty straightforward to me.

            • bmaz says:

              Well then maybe the oh so scrupulous Mr. Gruber will be a little more forthright in the future then; because he was certainly no model of disclosure and transparency here. I am not unsympathetic to your arguments ultimately, and I think EW has been pretty fair to him, especially in regard to posting up the Reinhardt bit. What I don’t see is a legitimate basis for the professional head hunting you have fairly roundly accused of. Gruber was sloppy at best; disingenuous at worst with his transparency and disclosure. At the end of the day, that is of his own doing; pointing out the true state of affairs in this regard is more than fair.

              • ondelette says:

                David Dayen wasn’t. He attacked his disclosures to the New England Journal of Medicine. EW disclosed the Ewe Reinhardt data, that’s big on her. Review the headlines on FDL main page for the day. They distinctly imply, in fact state (or what else does “Conflict” mean?), that Jonathan Gruber’s behavior was improper, that he was guilty of failing to disclose an overt conflict of interest, whether or not it was the editor’s responsibility to ask, and that he did so in the NEJM.

                Not FDL’s best day, morally. Almost as bad as Glenn Greenwald yesterday asserting that an attack in a clinic in a hospital was a legitimate military target because the people there were soldiers. To hell with the Geneva Conventions on his part, to hell with the disclosure statement guidelines for NEJM on yours. The end justifies the means these days. I am miserable to see the blogosphere resort to such as this, even though I am despondent about always losing the just causes this past year.

                • Kelly Canfield says:

                  Are we reading the same words and stuff? Greenwald asserted no such thing! He was just pointing out that it’s stupid to expect to not be attacked when we’re so war-mongery.

                  It’s a very similar issue here. “Clean hands” is a hot topic to academicians, there’s a single source model, and a controversial result which claims that people will get higher wages as a result of mandated insurance.

                  It would be bizarre to think that one wouldn’t be challenged, and making a disclosure error, then compounding it by a claim of “didn’t think kit was a big deal” is even more bizarre.

                  • ondelette says:

                    He did. He asserted that the Fort Hood shootings were a “legitimate military target”. They occurred in a hospital, which is a protected location under the GCs.

                • phred says:

                  Is it me or are you taking this really personally? How can it be ok for a small business man who got a sole source government contract and used that contract to generate proprietary information, that he then used to sell the public on an enormously expensive government program without mentioning the contract as the basis for his presence in the debate in the first place? Why don’t you think full disclosure matters in this instance?

                  • ondelette says:

                    To whom? The guidelines for NEJM clearly and explicitly state that government sources of funding do not need to be disclosed. They even give an example of it, using NIH and MRC as the agencies. As for the mainstream media, it is their responsibility to ask, and if they don’t get the information they need, to insist, not Dr. Gruber’s to volunteer. They don’t ask, I don’t care what they disclaim now. They just call up the expert. They didn’t inform, they didn’t investigate. They don’t want to. Look through their ads.

                    They’re probably perfectly fine with Dr. Gruber taking all the heat for not informing the public of what he makes and how he makes it, while for their part, they didn’t bother to inform the public of even where they could go to read the goddamned bills, much less describe what was in them and how it impacted people at different income levels. Name 10 things the average voter knows are in the health care bill. Go ahead. It isn’t because nobody watches the news or reads the papers.

                    • phred says:

                      Why do you see Gruber as an innocent victim here? I don’t get it. Is this cutting too close to home for you somehow? Your hostility is astonishing on something that is pretty clear cut.

                      BTW, if you haven’t seen EW’s numbers it’s only because you haven’t been keeping up on her posts lately.

                    • Peterr says:

                      No, that’s not what the NEJM guidelines say.

                      Here’s Gruber’s disclosure form on the December article.

                      From Section 2:

                      2. The work under consideration for publication.
                      Please provide information about the work that you have submitted for publication. The time frame for this reporting is that of the work itself, from the initial conception and planning to the present. The idea is to provide for the reader information about resources that you received, either directly or indirectly (via your institution), to enable you to complete the work. If you check the “No” box it means that you did the work without receiving any financial support from any third party — that is, the work was supported by funds from the same institution that pays your salary and that institution did not receive third-party funds to pay you. If you or your institution did receive funds from a third party to support the work, check “Yes” along with the appropriate boxes to indicate the type of support and whether you or your institution received it.

                      Gruber marked “no,” despite the fact that his institution — MIT, named in the piece — did not fund this work. Instead, it was third-party funding from HHS.

                      Part three is where the NEJM mentions exempting government grants from conflict of interest, but this is only in connection with “relevant financial activities outside the submitted work.”

                      The instructions for this section read in part:

                      The goal of this section is to provide information for our reviewers and readers about your interactions with entities in the biomedical arena that could be perceived to influence, or that give the appearance of potentially influencing, what you wrote in the submitted work. You should disclose interactions with ANY entity that could be considered broadly relevant to the work. For example, if your article is about testing an epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) antagonist in lung cancer, you should report all associations with entities pursuing diagnostic or therapeutic strategies in cancer in general, not just in the area of EGFR or lung cancer. For grants you have received for work outside the submitted work, you should disclose support ONLY from entities that could be perceived to benefit financially from the published work, such as drug companies, or foundations supported by entities that could be perceived to have a financial stake in the outcome. Public funding sources, such as the NIH or the MRC, need not be disclosed. For example, if the NIH sponsored a piece of work you have been involved in but drugs were provided by a pharmaceutical company, you need only list the pharmaceutical company.

                      Emphasis added.

                      The exemption for government funds — that they “need not” be mentioned (not that they ought not to be mentioned) — is only given insofar as they are incidental to the research and not the subject of it. Thus, if you get an NIH grant to run a lab focuses in a broad direction of research and then also get a PhRMA grant to research a specific medication, the NIH grant is incidental and non-controversial because it is without a conflict of interest.

                      On the other hand, if the topic of the paper is the government role in health care, disclosing government payments — and the fact that it was not an incidental amount — are central to a conflict of interest disclosure.

                      Here’s part 5:

                      Section 5. Information about relevant nonfinancial associations.
                      Do you have any relevant nonfinancial associations or interests (personal, professional, political, institutional, religious, or other) that a reasonable reader would want to know about in relation to the submitted work?

                      Gruber said “no.”

                      Maybe Gruber was naive, but it’s hard to say “I got a $400K sole-source, non-competitive HHS grant on the biggest political hot potato of the year, but it’s not political.” A reasonable reader would find that . . . unreasonable.

                    • MadDog says:

                      Ondelette, I’ve appreciated your thoughtful commentary here and on other blogs many times in the past.

                      …As for the mainstream media, it is their responsibility to ask, and if they don’t get the information they need, to insist, not Dr. Gruber’s to volunteer…

                      However, this is one statement I can’t buy.

                      I would agree with you that the MSM does indeed have a responsibility to ask and shame on them when they do not as is most often the case these days.

                      But I do believe it also true that it is the responsibility of Dr. Gruber to volunteer his sources of funding! Particularly to the MSM as well as to our Congresscritters. To do otherwise in my view shows at least poor judgment if not being actually deceitful and unethical.

                      As to the isssue of the NEJM guidelines regarding the disclosing of funding sources, that they explicitly state that government sources of funding need not be disclosed does not make the NEJM right or even close to being ethical in my view.

                      It merely describes the “state of play” at the NEJM. Those folks are barely yet out of the stone age when it comes to disclosure issues.

                      Their past history until very recently has been replete with numerous articles solely funded by private corporate financing, so it when it comes to disclosure standards, this isn’t the organization anyone should pick as a sterling example of ethical behavior.

                    • fatster says:

                      Perhaps things have changed in a major way, particularly over the past decade we somehow have lived through, but it used to be required that you stipulate the source of funding for your work, including the federal agency and contract number, in publications concerning the work.

                    • selise says:

                      ah, but if i understand correctly, the advocacy pieces are in general not supposed to be based on the work for which the funding is being provided. that means it’s not disclosure of funding that’s required, it’s disclosure of a possible conflict of interest.

                    • fatster says:

                      Found it, current as of 12/03. Under the heading “Rights in Data (Publication and Copyrighting)” which is a little over half-way through the document, is this specification that is to accompany publications resulting from federal (NIH) contracts:

                      “This publication was made possible by Grant Number ________ from _________” or “The project described was supported by Grant Number ________ from ________” and “Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the [name of awarding office or NIH].”


                      Perhaps his pub in the NEJM was independent of DHHS funding, or somehow he wasn’t required to include the statement.

                    • PJEvans says:

                      NSF stuff has that kind of statement, and I’ve seen similar stuff for the Energy Dept and I think also the DoD.

                      It’s a pretty standard form for a funding disclosure, and I can’t believe that Gruber is unaware of it.

                • bmaz says:

                  Well, I haven’t seen DDay’s work yet, so cannot speak to that. As to here at EW, which I have reviewed, I think it has been a fair discussion. The term “conflict” or “conflict of interest” has many meanings and gradations. Some conflicts may be totally innocuous, some give rise to an “appearance of impropriety” but do not necessarily demonstrate actual impropriety and/or prejudice, some are flat out professional misconduct and/or illegal. I think Gruber’s failings rate somewhere in the middle category; I think there was a negligent, if not reckless lack of disclosure and transparency of information that people reading, digesting and relying on his work, statements and opinions deserve to know; that said, I fully agree with you and WO that there is no evidence of anything untoward beyond that.

                  • ondelette says:

                    The term “conflict” or “conflict of interest” has many meanings and gradations. Some conflicts may be totally innocuous, some give rise to an “appearance of impropriety” but do not necessarily demonstrate actual impropriety and/or prejudice, some are flat out professional misconduct and/or illegal.

                    Careful! You’re beginning to sound like someone might when talking about the term “disclosure”.

                • Frank33 says:

                  I have asked you supporters of Gruber, what had he done? “CRICKETS…” He is an economist who supposedly understands the economics of Health Care. He certainly does not understand the human misery of corporate health care. He supports the corporations which by definition is more expensive than public health. He also profits greatly and lies about it. Gruber is another Geithner, looting the taxpayers to give to the super rich. KILL THE BILL and Gruber is the enemy.

            • beowulf says:

              NY Times v. Sullivan is your friend (“case which established the actual malice standard which has to be met before press reports about public officials or public figures can be considered to be defamation and libel… such cases—when they involve public figures—rarely prevail”) Gruber has injected himself into a public debate (by his columns and TV appearances) AND as America’s only non-profit sole proprietorship, he was awarded a no-bid consulting contract which obligates the US taxpayers to pay him more than the annual salary of any federal employee except for the President himself.

              There’s not a judge in America who wouldn’t deem Gruber a public figure. If he decided to sue you anyway for something you write about him here, he’d have no hope of winning and there’d be no shortage of Republican lawyers offering to defend you pro bono. Me, I’d go with these Jones Day partners. They’re pretty sharp.

    • JClausen says:

      Whatever happened to the days when even the appearance of confict was to be avoided at all costs? Smells venal to me.

      When Gruber chose to act in a political rather than academic posture he exposes himself to public scrutiny.

      I for one always consider the source of someone’s claims, and I want transparency to a fault in those who serve our government as Gruber is doing here.

      You can argue that he was eminently qualified(pedigreed) to fulfill this contract but he chose through non-disclosure to bring doubt on his veracity. .

    • spanishinquisition says:

      Rent-a-Generals, Armstrong Wiliams, Jonathan Gruber…Those are not the droids you’re looking for. Move along!

  7. klynn says:

    So, what do we do with all of this information?

    He’s a pretty good sole source according to other expert sources, paired with questions of disclosure concerns?

    How does the “public” have a voice in this very public process and address the concerns of conflict without the threat of defamation of character?

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    If Dr. Gruber had made full disclosure, it would have been clear long ago that the public and Congress are listening to single, sole source contracted researcher. Adjustments could have been made as to the reliability or potential bias of his conclusions. On a topic of this import, whose ramifications would extend for a generation, the urgency of seeking additional, equally brilliant analyses would have been obvious. Doing so was hampered by the delays in his disclosure, one that should also have been made by Camp Obama, Sen. Kerry and the like who so frequently quote him.

    Self-referential circles, no matter how brilliant those inside the circle may be, are always suspect for being self-referential. Just as when aging academics start citing their own prior work as their primary “source” for their “new” work. It is not a circumstance that justifies the conclusion that the work is bad, simply one that demands caution and further inquiry. But then, you know that.

  9. earlofhuntingdon says:

    BTW, the US lost 85,000 jobs last month.

    I wonder how many of them were union or included health care benefits. How many would have been impacted by a “Cadillac tax”, that is, a tax on an employer-provided health insurance plan that fully covers health care?

    A “Cadillac tax” is marketing speak for charging a surtax on full benefits health insurance plans, as if full health care coverage were a luxury ride instead of basic transportation.

    CEO’s and Congresscritters, who have full, no questions asked coverage paid for at shareholders’ or taxpayers’ expense, won’t be affected by such a tax. The added cost will be paid by companies or taxpayers.

    A “Cadillac tax” will really only hit the rank and file, whose employers will not pick up the added cost. They will lower cash compensation, cut health or other benefits, increase co-pays, or stop providing health insurance altogether.

    This sort of tax enables employers to “dumb down” their plans. It allows insurers and the government to redefine the meaning of “adequate basic health care” or “full” insurance coverage. It’s what rental car companies do when they claim midsize cars are full size, or that a standard Buick is a luxury premium brand.

    This tax would be regressive on more than wages. It would be regressive in terms of its effects on access to health care that Americans need, but which their government has little interest in helping to make available.

  10. WilliamOckham says:

    Unless WaPo produces some documentation, I’m inclined not to believe them. I still think it was a (minor) ethical lapse for Gruber not disclose his contract in the text of his op-ed.

    I’m with ondelette in terms of the rest of this stuff. Gruber’s work is well-respected (even if I think it’s totally lame). There’s absolutely no problem with him getting a sole source contract.

  11. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Gruber has been a critical element in the administration’s sales pitch. It would have been proper of him to disclose the paid relationship, whether it was for Uncle Sam or United Healthcare or Acorn. Delaying the disclosure delayed responding to it or to holes in the administration’s arguments that the Senate bill is the “best possible outcome”. (Perhaps, but for whom?)

    The administration’s sales pitch has benefited, too, from its failure to disclose at the start that the Senate’s version of “reform” is as much or more as it’s willing to stomach or fight for. A policy choice not at all in keeping with Obama’s campaign or earlier statements. I’m beginning to think that it is a routine feature of his presidency.

    • spanishinquisition says:

      This is like the secret Bush rent-a-general program. Nobody doubted the retired generals and admirals knew about the military topics they provided commentary on, just it totally damaged their credibility when it came out they were part of a Bush Admin program. In some respects this is even worse since the “microsimulation” report that Gruber and the Cadillac tax supporters made so much hay about was actually a report paid for by the Obama Admin. It would be like some seemingly independent retired general writing a report saying there was proof of WMDs in Iraq to then afterward have it come out that report was part of a Bush Admin paid contract – the report would have instantly been discredited upon learning that it was paid for by the Presidential admin in office if for no other reason than it being discovered that it wasn’t a truly independent report afterall. Gruber doesn’t have to have willfully conspired to have done anything wrong, just it is obvious that dangling a paycheck in front of someone can influence their results even if it is influenced unconsciously. To use a further analogy learning of this money is like learning of money politicians receive from lobbyists – if a politician receives a large sum of money from an organization, it raises questions what kind of influence is being peddled. Now we learn that a large portion of Gruber’s income comes from the Obama Admin, so of course that makes him suspect and he can no longer be viewed as someone speaking independently when in fact he’s got a six figure income from the Obama Admin as an encouragement not to bite the hand that feeds him.

      • hotdog says:

        Not to mention that economics models are about as accurate as your local paper’s astrology section or the fortune cookie you got for lunch (but it’s an MIT fortune cookie!). I don’t want to have to witness this guy apologizing for his model’s gross inaccuracy when psychology and the jobless “recovery” reveal it to be the absolute fabrication it is.

  12. eCAHNomics says:

    Prediction: As a result of the Gruber kerfluffle, the USG website showing contracts will experience problems severe enough to be taken down.

  13. hotdogg says:

    Most MIT profs have big gov’t grants; it is part of being a bigshot mit prof.
    The federal gov’t is huge – if anyone who talks to obama, or even anyone who talks to anyone who talks to obama is monitoring the 1,000s of 400K grants, that speaks to a nixonian level of paranoia

    One mustn’t forget the scent of power, as the loathsome kissinger put it, power is the best aphrodesiac….

    Also, all of the talk – all of it – about shifting costs is silly. Even if we did everything that evryone on FDL wants – lets pretend we got single payer or whatever, it wouldn’t make much difference; it might slow cost a little in the short term, but

    costs are driven by aging population and technology; when technology can deliver you new hips ($ for the operation) liver transplants, whatever it is that is going to give your wife and kids and husband and parents a better life, you are – yes you – are gonna be demanding that the doc do it.

    this is not gonna change with single payer, or any thing else.

    as for this drive for evidence based medicine, it is another chimera; “evidence” doesn’t grow on trees, it requires a huge amount of work by dedicated doctors and nurses and patients and scientists; just look, for a minor example, at the controversy over aspirin for people without predisposing factors… it is really really hard to do evidence based medicine.

    • hotdog says:

      Excess costs are driven by unnecessary bureaucracy, which insurance companies are all too happy to provide.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Excess costs are driven by quite a few other things, too, including high executive compensation levels and a bureaucracy that, instead of promptly reviewing and approving most claims, get bonus points for delaying and denying coverage. Try that in Europe as a business strategy and you’d be looking at a prosecution for fraud. Here, it’s standard insurance company practice.

        Businesses used to hire medical insurers to administer their plans and gauged their performance based on how well and quickly they responded to legitimate claims. Now, insurers have become the sole bottleneck for most health care payments. They are the plan, and their business model relies on denial and delay to make a boatload of money.

    • eCAHNomics says:

      costs are driven by aging population and technology

      So why are costs considerably lower (1/2 per capita) in W. Europe where the pop is older, tech the same? And health outcomes are also much better there (longevity, infant mortality, etc.).

      • nahant says:

        Nailed eCon.. The present system is so F’ed up we let 47 Thousand die each and every year… Sure good Christians we are… ya think

      • SparklestheIguana says:

        So why are costs considerably lower (1/2 per capita) in W. Europe where the pop is older, tech the same? And health outcomes are also much better there (longevity, infant mortality, etc.).

        I’m guessing it’s because they’re single payer. Government is sole purchaser of healthcare, so government negotiates prices to what government wants to pay for them.

        • Hmmm says:

          Also: No insurance co. profit.

          Also: Marginally less insane way of life. (Europe takes August off, for example. Very frustrating if you’re an American company doing business w/a Nokia or France Telecom, but the people are better off.)

    • Peterr says:

      Engineering profs have big government grants. It takes a lot of cash to run some of the tests they do.

      Chemistry profs, biology profs, physics profs, and their partners in the hard sciences have big government grants, too. Their experiments don’t come cheap.

      Economics professors, OTOH, do not typically pull down $400K annual grants.

      More telling, though, is that these weren’t grants running through the university, for which Gruber was the principal investigator, and against which the university takes out a chunk for administration and overhead. In fact, these weren’t ordinary grants, but rather were private contracts between HHS and Gruber as a sole proprietor, with no connection or oversight by MIT.

      • WilliamOckham says:

        You are correct. This was a contract to perform specific work. This is really not that uncommon with certain economics specialties.

        • Peterr says:

          The contract type is typical, but is the price?

          We’re talking about a sole-proprietorship here, not a big private company that Gruber heads up outside of his MIT gig, with a staff of hundreds. In the report, it said that this was a “nonprofit organization” with 2 employees (which I take to be Gruber and an administrative assistant/researcher).

          $400K for a year’s worth of work like this seems very unusual to me — though my experience with high-level econ profs is years out of date.

        • phred says:

          WO, I thought you were a Computer Science guy — are you familiar with academic economics? It’s a sincere question, because I am not.

          In my corner of science, sole source is really frowned upon. People use it (including me), but there’s lots of paperwork involved to justify it because it is a system ripe for abuse. That’s the whole point, it isn’t competed, someone pretty much calls you up and hands you a check. This really should have been disclosed.

          ondelette, I am genuinely baffled by your response to all this. Gruber’s grant is not typical academic funding in my experience. In fact, it isn’t an academic grant at all since he filled out the paperwork as a small non-profit business, so none of this is normal for a run of the mill research professor. You seem adamant in claiming that this is all perfectly normal for university professors, but that is not true in my modest experience. Perhaps you and WO can clarify what makes things different in academic economics departments.

          I also find the claim, “he has the numbers and we don’t” to be particularly troubling. Why aren’t there other numbers? Why has no one else been consulted? Why aren’t there competing models to be tested and debated out in the open where relative merits and problems can be properly examined?

          I also agree with EOH’s comment that Reinhardt’s comment that Gruber’s model is better than any that might be run by private interests is really damning with faint praise.

          Finally, I have a problem with the “clueless defense”. Funding sources are an achilles heel for academics. We are all acutely aware that the source of research funding by itself can make our results suspect. This is a big issue in universities and it gets a lot of discussion among grad students and faculty. Do you take corporate money? The universities love the idea because it brings in revenue and they get a big cut, but scientists know they can damage their reputations if they don’t tread very carefully. For Gruber to be unaware of the funding minefield is highly implausible.

          As a taxpayer and an avid consumer of news, I want to know when sources have a financial interest in their point of view. I don’t care if the person in question is taking corporate money to espouse a corporate point of view or whether they are taking government money to support a government position. It is important that we know of any such underwriting of opinions. I am mystified by the argument that such information is irrelevant.

          • ondelette says:

            I also find the claim, “he has the numbers and we don’t” to be particularly troubling. Why aren’t there other numbers? Why has no one else been consulted? Why aren’t there competing models to be tested and debated out in the open where relative merits and problems can be properly examined?

            That’s a legitimate gripe. The idea that it was Dr. Gruber’s doing that they weren’t is pretty thin gruel though. He does have the numbers, you saw Ewe Reinhardt say so, regardless of the deep hidden tea leaves meaning of Dr. Reinhardt’s comments. Demand other numbers. The reason you can’t is because you can’t get any other plan to be seriously considered. And the reason for that lies in the Congress and the press. Not in finding Dr. Grubers to lash out against.

            • phred says:

              Ok, maybe I understand now. I am not lashing out at Gruber. My bone to pick is with an administration that magically landed him a contract and no one else. I do see this as part and parcel of the administration trying to control the debate, by stifling critics as they have done consistently all year whether in terms of the economy or health care or detainee treatment.

              Gruber f’ed up, pure and simple. But the real issue here is how he came to be the poster child of the administration’s health care plan and that is what I’m railing against.

            • emptywheel says:

              Let me clarify.

              Gruber has the simulation, and as I’ve reported, that’s as good as it gets.

              But he doesn’t have a monopoly on numbers relating to affordability, and in fact he failed to disclose the numbers he should know better than I. But I’ve done almost as much work on affordability as he has at this point, as pathetic as that is.

                • emptywheel says:

                  Golly. Four posts is not enough for you? THe whole reason they rolled out Gruber’s “risk” argument is because I had made the case that this was not affordable.

                  • ondelette says:

                    NEJM is an open publication.

                    Special Articles are scientific reports of original research in such areas as economic policy, ethics, law, and health care delivery. The text is limited to 2700 words, with an abstract, a maximum of 5 tables and figures (total), and up to 40 references.


                    If you are really competing on a scientific basis with Dr. Gruber’s numbers and models, that would also fall under a full disclosure — at the beginning of the article criticizing his ethics, or perceived ethics, lapses.

                    See how complicated it gets? I don’t like all this, and I’m very sorry for spewing all over your threads. But you need to know that there’s a huge difference between disputing somebody’s models and implying they are engaged in corrupt works for hire as a way of silencing them. Especially if, as you say, you are engaged in a current debate with them over the models and numbers.

                    • phred says:

                      See how complicated it gets?

                      What? This isn’t complicated at all. You appear to be highly incensed and offended and for the life of me I can’t figure out why. Is Gruber a personal friend?

                    • ondelette says:

                      Right. Now you start examining my motives. No, never met the guy, never spoke to him. Don’t agree with him. This is about when you do and don’t imply that a researcher has a financial motive for not reporting results truthfully.

                    • phred says:

                      Well of course, because your defense has been so emotional. Like Maddog I’ve always found your comments over the years to be well thought out and insightful. That is why I am so puzzled by your seeming defense of a glaring ethical lapse of judgment on Gruber’s part and a seriously questionable contract awarded by HHS. And so far I have yet to really understand where you are coming from.

                      Somehow you think researchers are above the political fray and not subject to the unique pressures of personal financial interest. This is bizarre to put it mildly. So I’m still trying to understand your perspective. So far, I don’t.

                    • qweryous says:

                      I have been patient and now it has been asked:

                      “Is Gruber a personal friend?”

                      If that were true ( and I’m not suggesting that it is, and have no reason to suspect that it is)then I would like to apologize.

                      I could have saved a lot of people some time and electrons by simply asking the question that I failed to ask.

                      It is my fault, I’d like to take full responsibility for not asking the question.In the world where disclosure is only the responsibility of the consumer, I should have asked this long ago.
                      I was too polite and cautious.

                      It is a world where sources of information are sometimes not what they seem, which is a separate question from whether the information itself is correct.
                      Then sometimes even when the information is correct, it is presented in a misleading fashion.

                      It is always my fault when I am not suspicious.
                      Even when the intent is to fool me, it is my fault when I am fooled.

                      It can also be my fault when I am suspicious; for questioning what is presented to me, as to ask the question may be seen as making an accusation.

                      So whether or not Gruber is your friend, my friend, any ones friend; it is my responsibility to ask.

                      But since I did not ask, if anyone has been mislead by a lack of proper disclosure, then it is my fault. For that I am sorry.

                    • bobschacht says:

                      But you need to know that there’s a huge difference between disputing somebody’s models and implying they are engaged in corrupt works for hire as a way of silencing them.

                      Where did you get the idea that EW was trying to “silence” Gruber? All EW is trying to do is to get an honest debate going about the affordability of the proposed HCR package. It would help if Gruber would allow his peers to look inside his black box, so Congress can see if there is a pig in that poke or not.

                      Bob in AZ

              • Peterr says:

                If I had $400K to throw at someone to chase numbers, dig through weeds, sift through the current literature/research, and then write it all up, I know where I’d put it.

                Right here.

                Oh, and if I had a little left over, I’d get a pony too.

              • fatster says:

                “I’ve done almost as much work on affordability as he has at this point, as pathetic as that is.”

                To me, this goes right to the heart of this mess. Almost no one has been able to get at the data needed to determine affordability for “regular folks” in this country. Decisions affecting every one of us are being made in a slap-dash manner, and with so much grandstanding, froth and blather that important issues (particularly such as affordability) are obscured.

                It is disheartening that an office as weighty as the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation would have opted for one sole source contract on a matter having as major an impact on the entire US population as this one. Meanwhile, we keep trying with what contributions we are able to scrape together to keep the thermometer up there in the right-hand corner moving upward.

              • selise says:

                But I’ve done almost as much work on affordability as he has at this point, as pathetic as that is.

                you didn’t quote ahip to claim that premiums have gone down 40% in MA or misuse cbo data. so yeah, i’d say gruber has done some stuff you haven’t. /s

              • papau says:

                Sorry – he is not an actuary – and his simulation has no published back testing that I can find. So we we are left with glorified Excel spreadsheet that uses his uninformed assumptions:

                First you guess. Don’t laugh, this is the most important step.
                Then you compute the consequences. Compare the consequences to
                experience. If it disagrees with experience, the guess is wrong.
                In that simple statement is the key to science. It doesn’t matter
                how beautiful your guess is or how smart you are or what your name is.
                If it disagrees with experience, it’s wrong. That’s all there is to it. – Richard Feynman

                Feynman acted like an actuary – like a scientist – but act like an actuary??? – not so much for our boy Gruber – who however really does know a lot about Public Finance (he wrote a book on the topic). I am retired as an actuary – and am not about to do the work – but for the record – Gruber does not have the only simulation – and I’ll leave to the faith in Gruber folks to believe his idea that wages go up as other costs go down (indeed the male revenge thought process that cause childless women to get raises when those male bosses were forced to give women with children benefits did not extend to giving everyone a raise who was not needing help to be sexually active when Viagra was added to the drugs covered).

            • bobschacht says:

              I also find the claim, “he has the numbers and we don’t” to be particularly troubling.

              You write about “numbers” as if they were facts, or evidence. It is my understanding that Gruber ran a simulation, so the “numbers” you speak of are nothing more than educated guesses. Very well educated guesses, perhaps, but guesses, nonetheless. Such numbers do not constitute hard evidence.

              Full disclosure: My career has been in academic research. Early in my career, I got an NSF grant. Most of my publications don’t measure up to Gruber’s standards– but then, the Congress of the U.S. isn’t planning to spend billions of dollars based on my research, either.

              Bob in AZ

              • ondelette says:

                No, I’m just saying he has a detailed simulation, in response to different settings of the parameters relevant to writing the bills, he can give predictions on cost, accurate enough to predict a decline in cost when there is a change in tax rates on the corporate health plans.

                If we had that, we could offer competing numbers, and we could publish in all the same venues in which he publishes. We don’t. So people will consider him an expert, and his simulation useful, and our stuff less so.

                Full disclosure, when I can’t get funding for my research, I fund it myself and accept the peer ridicule and work slow down. And sometimes my employer claims commercial rights to the results of work I funded myself. And I document in lab notebooks and publish in peer-reviewed places, or not. And earlier in my career, I was funded by multiple government agencies. And I demanded that one source of funding be discontinued because it was unethical, and the group for which I was working complied. And I worked for 2 years as a mechanic rather than accept funding I felt was not moral or ethical. Other than that, I know nothing about academic ethics. Except that I didn’t follow up on an offer to go work on surveillance just before the recession started and don’t have an income. And because of that, my health care isn’t eligible for the Cadillac tax, there is no employer, so unlike what employers pay, my health care for most of 2009 cost as much as the mortgage payments. I think Gruber’s theory of making money on taxing employer health plans is crap.

                I just believe you shouldn’t destroy someone’s career until you are sure. That’s all.

                • Hmmm says:

                  He seems like a pretty big dog. Why do you assume this spotlight is destroying his career? If you’re right and he’s done no actual wrong, then he should be fine, should he not?

                  • ondelette says:

                    So just this one time, and only because it’s our health care and it’s soooo important to us, just this time, because he’s a big fish anyway, because he has nothing to fear if he’s done nothing wrong,…we should suspend the 4th amendment and…oops, wrong case,…we should unethically deal with someone we think might have been unethical because we don’t like his point of view. How does that go again? It isn’t about who they are, it’s about who we are.

                    • transparait says:

                      He got paid $400,000 dollars and lied about the conflict. What are you wanting now?

                      How many school lunches do you figure you could pay for with that kind of cash? What did he do to earn it?

                    • bmaz says:

                      The repeated assertion that something in these posts has been inappropriate or “unethical” by us as to Gruber is pure unadulterated crap. It was a bogus argument when you started and the repeated bleating of it has done nothing to elevate the suggestion in the least; it is still pure unadulterated crap.

                    • ondelette says:

                      With all due respect bmaz, David Dayen yesterday accused Dr. Gruber of falsification in a peer-reviewed journal, Marcy Wheeler used the expression “Conflict” for ‘conflict of interest’ in headline, Jon Walker used ‘Gruber-Gate’, and multiple authors, including all of the above, have speculated on the corruption of $400,000 of money in contracts from HHS.

                      With more time to study it, here is what I see: Jonathan Gruber has a sole proprietorship based in Lexington, MA, with 2 employees doing 1 year’s analysis and simulation and creating the software to do so, presumably, for analyzing health plans. How much money was raised for 1 year’s employment for Ms. Wheeler by FDL? A company (yes, they are both allowed and somewhat encouraged by MIT, Stanford, Carnegie-Mellon, and others) with 3 total employees whose total income is $400,000 and produces statistical models? Do you know the licensing costs per seat for statistical software? How about programming materials? How about any of the other overhead? How about the price of PhD R&D workers? Do you know anything at all about how the government gathers its statistics? How much is contracted?

                      What is pure unadulterated crap is that the whole site can go up in flames attacking this one person, with allegations that he is a paid shill, that he’s bent by $400,000, that he falsified himself in journals, that he is conflicted and corrupt, that he redid his data to reflect what the Obama administration wanted, and that isn’t an assault on the man’s career. Pure unadulterated crap. Have a good day.

                    • bmaz says:

                      What is pure unadulterated crap is that the whole site can go up in flames attacking this one person, with allegations that he is a paid shill, that he’s bent by $400,000, that he falsified himself in journals, that he is conflicted and corrupt, that he redid his data to reflect what the Obama administration wanted, and that isn’t an assault on the man’s career. Pure unadulterated crap. Have a good day.

                      I specifically stated I was concerned only about the reports on this site. This is where you are making the incessant and false noise; if you are doing that other places too, that is their problem, and not my concern. Secondly, the term “conflict” was indeed used here and quite properly so; an apparent conflict within at least one of the usual meanings of the the legal term of art, is exactly what Gruber displayed.

                      And your strained and ridiculous hyperbole that this site might “go up in flames” from Gruber’s disclosure and honesty failings is the most absurd thing you have uttered yet, and you have been on a roll of ridiculous hyperbole from the outset on this issue. Your manufactured, contorted and breathless diatribe on Gruber is beyond curious.

                    • emptywheel says:

                      Ondelette, this is where you get into slander.

                      David Dayen yesterday accused Dr. Gruber of falsification in a peer-reviewed journal, Marcy Wheeler used the expression “Conflict” for ‘conflict of interest’ in headline, Jon Walker used ‘Gruber-Gate’, and multiple authors, including all of the above, have speculated on the corruption of $400,000 of money in contracts from HHS.


                      What is pure unadulterated crap is that the whole site can go up in flames attacking this one person, with allegations that he is a paid shill, that he’s bent by $400,000, that he falsified himself in journals, that he is conflicted and corrupt, that he redid his data to reflect what the Obama administration wanted, and that isn’t an assault on the man’s career. Pure unadulterated crap. Have a good day.

                      First, you are commenting on one of my threads, not on DDays or jon walkers. I have said, absolutely, that this is an unrevealed conflict. And according to professional and press definitions, it is–as all the corrections make clear. That is not slander, that is simply fact. Gruber had a significant financial interest in the argument he was making that he didn’t reveal. Fact. I’m simply pointing out that fact.

                      Now, I have not said he was “bent by $400,000,” and I have even reported that he was an appropriate person to receive the contract. Nor have I said he “redid his data to reflect what the Obama administration wanted.” Those are both false accusations. That, my friend, means you are the one slandering, not me.

                      You seem to be missing or uninterested in what I am arguing.

                      First, Gruber has a bunch of papers which have not been peer reviewed which have transparently problematic assumptions. I am not ascribing any motive for his assumptions, and in fact I have said I do think he believes what he has said–in other words, that they are good faith, but I believe erroneous–assumptions. THe ONLY thing I have accused Gruber of doing in bad faith is doing a paper on affordability and ignoring the most obvious source of data for it–the MA exchange on whose board Gruber sits.

                      But simple intellectual rigor demands examining those apparently unquestioned assumptions.

                      Furthermore, if the only way the Admin is checking the claims about the excise tax is by asking Gruber to run simulations–which may or may not have some of the same problematic assumptions built in–then they’re basically arguing something based on totally circular reasoning. That possibility (and again, I’m not saying that’s what is happening, I’m saying it’s a possibility) is critically important to assess before we build an entire $850 billion program around the potential intellectual equivalent of a house of cards.

                    • earlofhuntingdon says:

                      Libel is written, slander is spoken defamation of character. From EFF:

                      [D]efamation is a false and unprivileged statement of fact that is harmful to someone’s reputation, and published “with fault,” meaning as a result of negligence or malice. State laws often define defamation in specific ways.

                      In the case of a public figure such as Dr. Gruber (on this topic, at least), actual malice, knowledge of the falsity of the claim and specific intent to harm, is also required.

                      More practically for this discussion, so defensive an overreaction (admittedly, other commenters’ calls to “fuck his career” are equally overstated) suggests something to hide: a process, a claim, a conclusion, a relationship.

                      Dr. Gruber may be brilliant, rigorous, productive, but he is not immune to a variety of biases, self-interest being one of them. When disclosed, they are standard issues to consider in weighing the work, and in trying to correct and repeat it through the work of others. Bias is insidious and sometimes dangerous when the researcher fails to be aware of or to acknowledge it. Proper disclosure is one way to acknowledge it. That requires accepting the potential for bias, something eminent academics sometimes plead they couldn’t possibly have.

                      The administration went to a competent reliable source for research data it hoped would support its political calculation. Congress and the public would be remiss if they were not to challenge that data, including its potential biases. That’s what we’re doing.

                      As you say, an $850 billion program and the health of tens of millions of Americans, and the hopes of the rest of many more, hang in the balance. With those stakes, it is dangerous not to rigorously test the process as much as the happy conclusions it reaches it sometimes reaches.

                      By joining in as a frequent advocate, Dr. Gruber is more than an independent researcher. He has become a political actor. He’s survived the height of academic competition in our most academically competitive city. He knows the drill.

                • phred says:

                  Thanks for the full disclosure. It seemed that this topic was hitting a nerve with you and it sounds as if you’ve encountered touchy ethical issues at work in the past. I’m sorry to hear it. Nonetheless there are two problems in your position. First, you keep defending Gruber’s work as if we know it to be a correct reflection of reality:

                  he can give predictions on cost, accurate enough

                  I don’t believe that his simulations have been demonstrated to be accurate. In fact, there is quite a lot of discussion suggesting that his underlying assumptions are flawed, which brings me back again to my fundamental objection to using a sole source contract for this work.

                  Second, you are putting the cart before the horse with your demands that guilt be proven prior to questions being raised. This is nonsensical. It is not unusual for scientists’ work to be challenged to a degree that careers are on the line (e.g., cold fusion). It is also not unusual for ethical complaints to be raised that then lead to further investigations of whether those complaints are justified. If I remember correctly Craig Ventner had to weather such an investigation and his career is alive and well last I checked.

                  What you are demanding is that we sit on our hands and hold our tongues even when presented with evidence that in and of itself raises ethical questions or at the very least process questions related to how and why this fellow in particular was chosen and why it is only his view that is cited by political proponents. This sort of unquestioned acceptance of authority is completely inappropriate in a democratic political process and it is the antithesis of how the scientific method works.

                  • selise says:

                    …unquestioned acceptance of authority is completely inappropriate in a democratic political process and it is the antithesis of how the scientific method works.


                  • emptywheel says:

                    Here’s my understanding:

                    1) Gruber has peer-reviewed studies on wage and benes, but for them to be applied to the excise tax would be a gross error in logic. They are simply inapplicable to the conditions that would obtain in application of the excise tax.

                    2) Much of what I find most troubling–such as his paper on affordability that doesn’t disclose that MA still has affordability problems–are not peer reviewed.

                    3) How Gruber is using his simulations remains unknown; of particular concern, he has said he has consulted to Congress as well as Admin. If his simulations are the basis for some of the claims Congress has made (Joint Committee on Taxation) then the entire argument about excise tax has become recursively reliant on Gruber’s simulations without disclosure of that fact and without scrutiny of the logical problems applying his past work on wage/benes to the issue of excise tax. (And Gruber would be as guilty of this as would a whole bunch of Dems.) But to understand this, we’d need further disclosure.

                    4) Every time another respectable party makes counter-claims to the main excise argument (EPI, benefits consultants reporting the real-world assumptions don’t match the data) the Admin and other Democrats use Gruber to refute them, both without acknowledging the logical flaw with doing so, and without disclosure that Gruber’s simulations may be the only ones that claim to justify this whole scheme.

                    Now, I’m not calling for Gruber’s head. I’m calling for some disclosure of what and why this is the case. The simplest answer is that everyone wants the excise tax for reasons unrelated to their claims (not as revenue, which is good bc their revenue assumptions may be faulty, but as a way to wean Americans off employer provided care). But that’s not what anyone is saying.

                    • phred says:

                      Thanks EW — enlightening as always : ) I agree that there is no need to go after Gruber personally (which would be a huge distraction), but rather we need more information on how/why he was hired, how his work has been used and why no one in government appears interested in other points of view…

                      As long as I’m wishing for ponies, I also wish we had a Congress that took debate and discussion seriously, but then they would have to stop making fundraising phone calls long enough to bone up on their homework — and that wouldn’t do at all, would it? ; )

                      By the way, Happy Wildcard Weekend! And freepatriot — get your grubby paws off my our (sorry LabDancer) hubcap!

                    • klynn says:

                      Great summary, EW, of all of your posts on this subject. Thank you. This comment may be one to expand as another post and perhaps a letter campaign that people can sign off on asking for the specific full disclosure on the excise tax as well as affordability problems.

                    • earlofhuntingdon says:

                      Bears repeating:

                      The simplest answer is that everyone wants the excise tax for reasons unrelated to their claims (not as revenue, which is good bc their revenue assumptions may be faulty, but as a way to wean Americans off employer provided care). But that’s not what anyone is saying.

                      That seems the most likely answer as well as the simplest. Combine that with this administration purposely foreclosing any option but poorly- or under-regulated private insurers, and you have a massive windfall for them and a catastrophic financial problem for many Americans. And lost hope in government for many more. That’s quite a recipe for social unrest.

                • selise says:

                  I’m just saying he has a detailed simulation, in response to different settings of the parameters relevant to writing the bills, he can give predictions on cost, accurate enough to predict a decline in cost when there is a change in tax rates on the corporate health plans.

                  If we had that, we could offer competing numbers, and we could publish in all the same venues in which he publishes. We don’t. So people will consider him an expert, and his simulation useful, and our stuff less so.

                  ondelette, with respect (meant sincerely) that is missing a very big point that has nothing to do with the quality and capabilities of his simulation model.

                  i have claimed (rightly or wrongly – and if wrongly, i’d like to be corrected) that gruber used, as inputs to his model, data from the cbo — data that the cbo itself, in the very same report, said could not be used as gruber used them. i have given links to some of the relevant diaries where i have argued this point and others (out of a desire to not hijack this thread and also because by going back to the diaries you can see the context of the arguments and not just my pov), but i will summarize one example here.

                  from gruber’s nov 2, 2009 paper:

                  The Congressional Budget Office (the official government scoring agency) reported that they estimated the cost of an individual low-cost plan in the exchange to be $5,300 in 2016. This is a plan with an “actuarial value” (roughly, the share of expenses for a given population covered by insurance) of 70 percent. In their September 22 letter to the Senate Finance Committee, the CBO projected that, absent reform, the cost of an individual policy in the nongroup market would be $6,000 for a plan with an actuarial value of 60 percent. This implies that the same plan that cost $6,000 without reform would cost $4,540 with reform, or almost 25 percent less.

                  The CBO has not reported many of the details of their analysis, such as the age distribution of individuals in the nongroup market or in the exchange. So these data do not provide a strictly apples-to-apples comparison of premiums for the same individual in the exchange and in the no-reform, nongroup market. And their conclusion may change as legislation moves forward. But the key point is that, as of now, the most authoritative objective voice in this debate suggests that reform will significantly reduce, not increase, nongroup premiums.

                  from the cbo’s sept 22 letter gruber references (my bold):

                  Further, the characteristics of people enrolled in the proposed exchanges would differ from the characteristics of people enrolled in employment-based coverage or the individual market under current law, so differences in average premiums would not equal the differences in premiums faced by a given group of enrollees across those different settings. In light of those complexities, quantifying the net effects of the Chairman’s proposal on the amounts paid by individuals and families to obtain health care is very difficult. CBO has not modeled all of those factors and is unable to quantify them or calculate the net effects at this time.

                  my conclusion: gruber used numbers from the cbo to draw conclusions (“This implies that the same plan that cost $6,000 without reform would cost $4,540 with reform, or almost 25 percent less.”) in specifically the very way the cbo wrote that their numbers could not be used (“differences in average premiums would not equal the differences in premiums faced by a given group of enrollees across those different settings”).

                  this is just one of many instances where gruber has drawn unwarranted and/or misleading conclusions on behalf of this model of health insurance reform (house bill, senate bill and MA 2006 reform). before yesterday’s reports of gruber’s contract, i have been wondering about his bias and previously attributed it to a simplistic “he’s an idiot” frame (not, i think, entirely unreasonable of these days regarding orthodox economists).

                  now, thanks to marcy, i have additional info — that gruber’s model and technical competency are well regarded by an economist i don’t consider an idiot and that he has a large, previously undisclosed, consulting (not research) contract with hhs.

                  i don’t need to have an alternative model or competing numbers to conclude his analysis is bogus and biased. or that his previously undisclosed consulting contract is very likely relevant.

                  i have no desire to destroy anyone. i’m just trying to be an informed citizen and i don’t see why gruber and his public work should be off limits for the kind of judgements we make every day about other political figures and the reliability of their statements.

                • bobschacht says:

                  Thank you for your reply, ondelette.
                  Let me preface my response by acknowledging my appreciation for your diaries and comments elsewhere, which I usually find insightful and helpful. Furthermore, if you were merely perceived as a troll, your comments would not be taken as seriously as they have been by many of the best FDL commentors, including Emptywheel (Marcy Wheeler).

                  I regret the tone of some of the ad hominem comments directed at Gruber, and I agree with you that they are inappropriate.

                  However, I also think that Emptywheel has done serious work on the issue of affordability in her recent diaries which challenges the blind acceptance of Gruber’s simulations by advocates of the current health care reform proposals. You wrote,

                  I’m just saying he has a detailed simulation, in response to different settings of the parameters relevant to writing the bills, he can give predictions on cost, accurate enough to predict a decline in cost when there is a change in tax rates on the corporate health plans.

                  Marcy’s work amounts to an equivalent simulation, except that she has more clearly stated her assumptions and the data on which her analysis is based. What she and we are asking is for an open debate on these issues. We are not trying to silence Gruber; we are not trying to savage his career. We are just trying to open Gruber’s black box simulation so that his results can be correctly evaluated.

                  Thanks again for your comments.

                  Bob in AZ

                  • klynn says:

                    Thank you bobschacht for your words. I too appreciate ondelette’s long time viewpoints as well as the concerns Marcy has shared on affordability and disclosure on the excise tax.

                    Again, thanks for your words.

      • bobschacht says:

        More telling, though, is that these weren’t grants running through the university, for which Gruber was the principal investigator, and against which the university takes out a chunk for administration and overhead. In fact, these weren’t ordinary grants, but rather were private contracts between HHS and Gruber as a sole proprietor, with no connection or oversight by MIT.

        This is a point that I think ondelette is missing. She writes as if Gruber is just another university-based research scientist. But I wonder if Gruber could have done the research that he’s been promoting if it was funded through MIT, rather than as a private contract.

        Bob in AZ

        • qweryous says:

          Your post and Peterr @ 50 sums it up in a way that led me to this thought.

          There are some contentious areas of policy that may be the focus of similar contracts such as Mr. Gruber has.

          The usefulness of such cheap and simple ‘research and analysis’ to support policy positions and proposals seems obvious.

          After this episode, where and how to look for similar contracts is also obvious.

          This is probably not the only such occurrence.

    • TalkingStick says:

      costs are driven by aging population and technology; when technology can deliver you new hips ($ for the operation) liver transplants, whatever it is that is going to give your wife and kids and husband and parents a better life, you are – yes you – are gonna be demanding that the doc do it.

      Keeping old people mobile and healthy is actually cost effective. And there are studies to prove They did try to stop Medicare from covering joint replacements and cataract surgery for example. The studies which I have someplace proved it costs more to care for those two groups if they are not treated. I will try to find them and post them.

  14. bayofarizona says:

    This tax will hurt unions. When in the past 20 years has union turnout been lowest? Any guesses?

    Does anyone think this administration will put its neck out for EFCA?

  15. WilliamOckham says:

    People who are comparing this to Armstrong Williams and the retired military analysts scandals need to get a grip. In those cases, people were rewarded by the government for work they did covertly promoting the government’s point of view. Gruber was paid to do real work. I don’t like his model (his assumptions are just wrong), but nobody has presented evidence there was the same quid pro quo as in the other cases. If you have the evidence, let’s see it.

    It’s a huge mistake to lump Gruber in with Williams and the generals. What they did was totally outside of what should be acceptable in democratic society. What Gruber did is very common. That doesn’t make it right, but you can’t make out to be a monster just because you don’t like his ideas.

    • eCAHNomics says:

      The analogy is that the preexisting work of Gruber made him the ideal shill. Match made in heaven for O. Why do you think he was picked in the first place? And he’s even more insidious than Williams & generals, as he has an “impartial academic” reputation. (Just like all those PhRMA prof researchers.) Different particulars, same result.

      Of course, if there were a decent media in the U.S., they would have looked for other “impartial academics” to counterbalance Gruber, instead of just getting on the same train, along with congress. But we can’t expect that.

      I’m sure that academic favorites have been picked for other political purposes in the past. I could conjure up examples in economics. Martin Feldstein is the first shill who comes to mind. Academics are opportunists, just as much as other groups, and they can spot easy ways to make a mark for themselves.

      Added on edit: It was a win-win for Gruber. Not only did he get paid, as someone pointed out, not in the usual govt grant way, but his reputation skyrocketed, being the most (if not only) cited person on HCR.

      • WilliamOckham says:

        Your assumption is that he was paid to shill. I don’t see any evidence of that. Let me explain the difference I see. I will use myself as an example. I’ve worked very closely with Microsoft in the past, including being a contractor for them. Microsoft isn’t particularly popular with folks on this blog. If someone here bashes Microsoft and I defend the company, I think I have an ethical obligation to mention my prior relationship. People should have that information in evaluating my opinion. If I don’t mention it, that’s a lapse on my part. On the other hand, it would be something completely different if Microsoft was paying me to defend them on the web and I didn’t disclose that. A lot of folks are assuming that the Obama administration bought this guy’s PR work. He denies that and I don’t see any evidence that the accusation is true.

        • eCAHNomics says:

          I do not at all assume he was “paid to shill” in the B&W way you indicate. It’s much more insidious than that. Making up a scenario. Gruber, not a stupid man, anticipates that HCR will happen, but that PTB will want to make medical providers (docs, PhRMA, insurance corps) whole because they are big campaign contributors. So he develops a “model” that makes that happen. Low & behold, O finds him, pays him touts him, and suddenly Gruber is on top of his game.

          Outsiders like us cannot “prove” that. We can only look at docs and triangulate from the totality of evidence available.

          As I mentioned, it’s happened in economics many many many times.

        • Frank33 says:

          A lot of folks are assuming that the Obama administration bought this guy’s PR work. He denies that and I don’t see any evidence that the accusation is true.

          The Evidence is the Corporate Health Care Fraud-the Obama Bill. It is of by and for the corporations. Who the hell is Gruber? He is obviously a neo-con who will next privatize medicare. All he produces is propaganda. The Obama Administration has become the Bush Administration. The try to deceive the “reality” based people with their well funded K-Street Corporate lies.

          You Gruber Apologists have failed to show that Gruber has any expertise, other than lying. Obama has failed his supporters also by betraying his Health Care promises during the campaign. KILL THE BILL and send that Liar Gruber back to MIT.

        • emptywheel says:

          I actually don’t think we know, one way or another.

          My biggest concern about the non-disclosure here is the recursivity with which all supporters for this bill use to support certain aspects of it–especially the excise tax. I do think there was a broker driving some of that and it’s not clear to me whether that was an outside (but interested) entity or whether it was the White House. In either case, that makes the disclosure issue more problematic.

          Then there’s the fact that Gruber said he was consulting with Congress too. Was he consulting with the JCT? Because that’s where the entire excise claim derives, and Gruber himself cites that, but there still is, ultimately, no study that shows the excise tax will do what they said it will. Did Gruber cite THAT, knowing that the claim is ultimately based on his studies that show something else entirely (in which case you’re beginning to get to real ethical problems with scholarship).

          So like I said, we don’t know, one way or another (beyond knowing that Gruber did not practice the kind of disclosure he should have). The thing that bothers me most about it is how all of these citations ultimately cover over a shocking lack of evidence for key claims on which they’re basing an $850 billion program.

    • spanishinquisition says:

      The “real work” of Gruber was played up as being an independent validation by a neutral party, not honestly portrayed as being done as Obama Admin paid work. The quid pro quo was that he was paid $400K just as the generals and Armstrong Williams were paid.

  16. econobuzz says:

    I’d personally rather withdraw a paper and burn all of my research over a campfire in the Mojave desert than make an ethical mistake in a single peer-reviewed publication any day, and I’d be willing to bet Jonathan Gruber feels that way too.

    Puleeze. The first — REPEAT: FIRST — rule of ethics is that one avoids ALL appearance of conflict of interest. If you do something that causes reasonable observers to believe you have a conflict of interest, for all practical purposes, you HAVE a conflict of interest. Further, it is STUPID Because you have called into question not only your own integrity but the integrity of those who hired you.

    By the way, failing to disclose that you were paid by folks who are made to look good in a paper is, as you say, “an ethical mistake in a … peer-reviewed publication.”

  17. Teddy Partridge says:

    I greatly admire everyone in this thread who has treated one commenter with dignity and respect, but I think you will see, over the course of the day, that the accusations and ‘concern’ expressed are recursive and dismissive of any particular response from other commenters.

    Now that comments are needing to be repeated to fend off repetitious allegations, I think I know what we have here.

    • ondelette says:

      Fine. I’m out of here. I was making the simple point that you don’t accuse or insinuate that someone is guilty of an ethical lapse in their science until you know there has been an ethical lapse in their science. I also made the point that any medium that doesn’t take responsibility for the disclosures or lack thereof of those who they allow to write or interview or access as experts is the disingenuous party at the end of the day. If that’s colored with all sorts of deep tea leaf motives and I must be a friend of Jonathan Gruber’s or drive a Cadillac without a tax or something, my bad.

      What an echo chamber for conspiracies.

      • MadDog says:

        I hope you’re just taking a wee break because I’d not like to think you’d leave us permanently and deprive us of your almost always fine commentary.

        And I’ll even say Please!

      • bmaz says:

        None of the posts here today say that though; it is a flat out false allegation and bogus construct to argue from. Off an on, you even admit as much…and then go right back into the same path.

          • Frank33 says:

            Go out to the home page of FireDogLake, look at the titles, and then say that.

            Yes, we can read. It is true that FDL actually has the BEST coverage of the Obama Health Care Fraud. FDL has showcased more fraud by Gruber. Gruber is spreading propaganda for corporate fat cats, and we taxpayers pay him. This is how the Bushies spread propaganda for their Oil wars. It seems to annoy you that we do not worship this lying pig Gruber.

          • hctomorrow says:

            I’ll argue that, regardless of his ‘scientific’ ethics, Gruber has violated ordinary ethics and good civics by failing to disclose his potentially-compromised relationship, even to people who clearly wanted to know about such relationships, like the WaPo and its readers. I think this legalistic parsing of exactly what the NEJM disclosure policy says or how one defines ‘corruption’ is a convenient way to wave your hands and excuse the obvious immorality of what Gruber did: he positioned himself as an independent expert when he was in fact no such thing, and lied by omission to thousands, perhaps millions of citizens who read the various interviews he has done and questions he has fielded.

          • PJEvans says:

            Click on those, and you’ll see many of them are from here.

            Don’t imply that they’re all by others, because anyone who actually bothers to read bylines will find they’re not.

      • selise says:

        I was making the simple point that you don’t accuse or insinuate that someone is guilty of an ethical lapse in their science until you know there has been an ethical lapse in their science.

        i think i was the one saying, in effect, i thought there had been an ethical lapse. but i thought that before today’s revelations (based on reading his nov reports).

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        It’s the author-contributor’s obligation to disclose his or her conflicts of interest. It’s the duty of a publication competently to ask for full disclosure concerning them, whether it’s a peer-reviewed journal, the MSM or Congress.

        Regarding national policy making in the contentious and money-soaked field of health insurance, the public inevitably operates with a fraction of the information available to insiders. Disclosures of possible conflicts and lapses in frankly disclosing them raise appropriate red flags. Those legitimately generate suspicion of impropriety – not the fact of it – and demand further investigation.

        As EW said to you at least twice today, Gruber is part of the fulcrum attempting to lever us into the tight fit of this questionable Senate bill. He hopes to persuade us that it would be good medicine that we should accept as the best possible outcome. That he’s being paid high five figures to say that is essential information the public needs to determine whether the medicine it’s being asked to swallow comes with a spoonful of sugar or a pinch of cyanide.

  18. phred says:

    you don’t accuse or insinuate that someone is guilty of an ethical lapse in their science until you know there has been an ethical lapse in their science

    Why not? Scientists are every bit as human as politicians. So why would you assume they are beyond reproach?

    Unless someone asks questions about seemingly unethical conduct, no one will investigate whether or not a lapse occurred, not even so much as to ask some questions to resolve a perfectly innocent misunderstanding. What you request here makes no sense.

  19. orionATL says:

    This is an exceptionally vigorous and interesting debate.

    I don’t see how
    Anyone can defend gruber-the-tuber’s failure to report his sweet contract with hhs when speaking in favor of the admin’s health legislation.

    Not doing so
    Means to me that he was trying to keep his credibility on health legislation higher than disclosure would have permitted.

    Gruber was being sneaky or he was dreading the consequences of disclosure- both very human emotions.

    I am much
    More interested in the behavior of the Obama corp in making their arguments in
    Favor of their “congressional health policy ” bill.

    I would rather that Obama Inc suborned a witness.

    I would definitely question the admin’s good intent vs possible intent to deceive before I got too concerned about one player I’m the drama.

    Focus first, folks, on Obama INC’s behavior in toto.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      That does suggest that Gruber’s credibility would have been lower as a paid insider-advocate rather than “an expert from MIT”. You can’t have it both ways, doc.

  20. Gitcheegumee says:

    “It is hard to get a man to understand something, if his living depends on him not understanding it. …”

    Upton Sinclair

  21. qweryous says:

    The propriety of the situation being discussed can be analyzed in more than one way.

    First one can carefully parse all statements made, forms filled out, rules to be complied with, and activities proscribed for various legal and other reasons. Who did what, when ,why ,how, on instruction of …,intending or not to…

    Call out the experts, attorneys, and regulators of all shades.
    Check to see that everything has been done correctly, if not then proceed as required.

    The second method is the less formal ‘person on the street’ approach.

    This method utilizes wikipedia. LINK:

    You the participant here imagines ones’ self as the proverbial ‘person on the street’.

    Your task: compare the situation and actions discussed with the different definitions appearing on Wikipedia at the provided link.

    After you have made your matching (or not matching) analysis, then think what the so called average ‘person on the street’ would conclude from the same process. No parsing,no arguing points of what exactly was intended or accidental.

    What would they think?

    That is the second way.

  22. worldwidehappiness says:

    At the bottom of the WaPo op-ed it simply states:

    The writer is a professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

    Reading that alone, I would think the guy has absolutely nothing to gain from agreeing with the Obama administrations position. But if the WaPo had have written at the bottom of the op-ed:

    The writer is a professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and he has a $400,000 HHS contract with the government called: Continuation of technical assistance for evaluating options for national healthcare reform

    …then I would think he might be trying to sell the Obama administration position if only because he helped to create that position.

  23. MadDog says:

    Just curious EW, but in your earlier post “Reinhardt: Gruber’s Simulations Better than Private Sector Ones” you obviously had some communication with Dr. Uwe Reinhardt.

    In checking on a few Gruber-related thingies, I note that Dr. Uwe Reinhardt was also one of the “23 Ph.D. economists who sent a letter (4 page PDF) to Obama on Nov. 17 endorsing his approach to health-care reform.” as reported by Politico.

    That letter (4 page PDF) makes some pretty outlandish predictions such as this one:

    …In addition, as employers and health plans redesign their benefits to reduce health care premiums, cash wages will increase. Analysis of the Senate Finance Committee’s proposal suggests that the excise tax on high-cost insurance plans would increase workers’ take-home pay by more than $300 billion over the next decade…

    Given your repeated posts on the fact that no such wage increase is likely, does not Dr. Uwe Reinhardt also suffer from a credibility/shill problem as well?

    And yes, by that I’m inferring that Dr. Uwe Reinhardt’s “good” opinion on Dr. Gruber may be suspect as well. *g*

    • emptywheel says:

      Brad DeLong is on there too. Actually, when I was trying to track down some basis (unsuccessfully) for the “Excise tax=raises for the little people” claim, I asked DeLong about it, and he never responded.

      There are also two sets of letters (Dean Baker signed the otehr one, which didn’t specify excise tax), which I’ve never been able to fully explain, either.

  24. orionATL says:

    Second time

    The Obama admin offered the money.

    What were they buying?

    To what extent are you willing to believe that a noted health policy economist and econometrician (modeler) was NOT willing to volunteer his time and the university’s substantial computer
    resources to run
    Iterations or simulations for FREE for the honor of helping the nation?

  25. WilliamOckham says:

    I’m going to try to answer all the questions and accusations directed at me. First, some background. Before I was in the software development biz, I had a career in grant-writing and fundraising. In that capacity, I became familiar with government grants and contracts. For a variety of reasons, I’ve been involved in a few government contracts even after I left the profession. On the other hand, I’m extremely suspicious of econometric computer models.

    Gruber got a contract, not a grant. This is important. A government contract is generally not for research. It’s supposed to be a way for the government to acquire services that it needs from an outside party. A sole source contract is only supposed to be used when there is no other way to acquire the services in question, but this is often abused. The contract awarded to Gruber has one of the best justifications for sole sourcing I’ve seen. The Obama administration wanted his services and from everything Obama said in the campaign, he and his advisors really think that this sort of modeling is valuable. I think to assume bad faith in the awarding of the contract is just silly.

    Did they overpay for Gruber’s services? This is a tough one. $400,000 is a lot of money for about a year of part time work. Would anybody else have paid that much? Maybe, but I kinda doubt it. But what he produces has greater value to the federal government than anybody else. If you compare this contract to similar contracts awarded by the Dod, this one doesn’t look so bad (ok, that’s the weakest possible criteria). I’ve certainly seen private sector contracts that were legitimately awarded and delivered less value.

    I don’t see myself as Gruber apologist. He absolutely had a duty to disclose his work when he commented on HCR. His failure to do so was, at the very least, potentially consequential in the debate. Given what we know now, to put it in the same class as Armstrong Williams and the generals is stupid and thoughtless. If I’m an apologist for anybody in this, I guess I’m an apologist for the Obama administration’s procurement of Gruber’s service. Anybody who is surprised by this or thinks it is somehow unseemly just doesn’t understand how technocratic government works.

    • Peterr says:

      Nice outline of this, WO. I respect the distinctions you are trying to make, though I disagree with some of the final conclusions you draw.

      What stood out to me from your reply was this line: “But what he produces has greater value to the federal government than anybody else.”

      That’s precisely why disclosure of the HHS contract is so important.

      It’s in his interest to keep the government happy with his report. It’s in his interest to avoid drawing undue attention to the government’s funding of his apparently disinterested academic assessment of the situation. It’s in his interest to appear as disconnected from the government as possible.

      Otherwise he appears to be the close cousin to a lung cancer researcher hired by the tobacco industry, and *that* would play hell with the bottom line of his non-profit sole proprietorship.

      If no one else would pay him this much for what he had to say, an economist might suggest that perhaps what he had to say is not worth that much to a disinterested party.

      [As you anticipated, I had to laugh at the DOD comparison. I agree that by DOD standards, this is chickenfeed . . . but as you imply, that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement.]

      • Hmmm says:

        And, as with climate or tobacco, it’s not uncommon for a partisan entity to cherry-pick that researcher whose existing work already points to their desired outcome. Doesn’t have to be a case of the science being bent to the funder’s will after the funding event.

        Money + Research + Politics = Trouble. Handle with care.

    • emptywheel says:

      The one thing I would add that may differ from you is that the Administration had an obligation to point out this conflict, at least as much as Gruber did. The DNC, the Admin, other parts of the party have all championed every word he said. None of them ever disclosed he was ALSO the guy double checking their own work.

      Gruber should have disclosed this, especially on the more popular outlets (because his intervention there was designed to affect the debate). But so should the Administration. I take Reinhardt’s judgment that Gruber is the guy for this modeling, so like you I don’t fault the Admin for giving him the contract. I fault the way neither party revealed it before it became their central push for not just the reform in general, but for such dubious aspects of it as the excise tax.

  26. Hmmm says:

    About the comments thread today: Le wow. If ondelette is saying that because the consequences for a researcher of being accused of being inattentive to ethical appearances can be dire, researchers should not be accused of same without proof — and I’m not sure that’s it, but it’s about the best I can put together — then I would suggest that that view misses the fact that critics here are not academe per se, whose accusation .could. have that effect on Gruber’s career, but rather political observers and commenters whose accusations are relatively unlikely to have that effect.

    Let’s assume ondelette’s correct that nothing actionably wrong has been done. In that case, is the MIT academic ethics committee going to take this commentary today as proof of an offense by Gruber and drum him out? No, they aren’t. So I don’t see the problem of consequences whose specter ondelette raises actually existing.

    The other major negative (from G’s POV) effect that this commentary could have would be to neutralize the many political arguments that have been made in essentially sole reliance upon them, but that’s not relevant to ondelette’s objections. It may make organizations less interested in funding his research in the future, but then again that’s the point — even the appearance of incomplete disclosure damages a researcher’s reputation, that’s why care must always be taken.

    (I also have a real concern about how far we can trust Gruber’s supposedly surpassingly wonderful model when his basic reasoning about what cost is has been demonstrated to be so squirrely… in the absence of a peer review of the actual models, there’s no way to be sure similarly screwy assumptions aren’t baked into the models. Are the model’s assumptions still viable under the changed conditions that the new HC plans will induce? We can’t know.)

    So… at 7:30pm tonight I guess my main interest is: So what happens next? At this point it seems the ability of others to rely on Gruber’s work to support various parts of the House or Senate bills has taken a significant hit. Maybe not lethal, but still significant. And because the Gruber simulation has been their sole support, now they got nothin’ to fall back on. Therefore, this is a major disruptive development in the HCR debate, and it arrives at exactly the time when PBO & Co. most wanted to button it up. The balance just shifted, presuming there’s enough time left for the new dynamics to play out.

    So what happens next?

    • fatster says:

      It is interesting, isn’t it? He’s got a model that is proprietary, so it’s hard to know how it works, what he’s feeding into it, what it does with the input, and, therefore, how reliable are the results. Apparently, it is beyond replication. It is just there.

      Or did I miss something?

      • Hmmm says:

        Folks do seem to be giving it a lot of deference with little sign of actually understanding it. Always troubling, but especially here where the negative consequences of relying on it could be, indeed appear to be, so large.

  27. orionATL says:

    William Ockham

    In my book you are no one’s apologist now

    Nor have you EVER have been one in the several years I’ve appreciated/disagreed with your comments at “emptywheel” and “the last hurrah”.

    Here and in
    Other recent comments you have used your personal experience to comment on an issue and inform
    The rest of us.

    I appreciate that openess and the grounded view it lends to our debates here.


  28. pdaly says:

    Great series of posts emptywheel and comments by all.

    WRT to Gruber not having a university grant but having a nonprofit contract, does not having ties to the university imply he is not able to use university facilities?

    I ask because the Fax number used on the link above

    is to the MIT economics department, while the phone number is to a Lexington MA address. I noticed the discrepancy, because Lexington, MA and Cambridge, MA are in different area codes (781 and 617, respectively)
    Search with google the same fax number and “MIT” , and you’ll find a CV for a different MIT visiting professor of economics

    • PJEvans says:

      Probably a department or shared fax machine – I know that everywhere I’ve worked, there are multiple people per fax, even in companies of some size.

      • pdaly says:

        I agree, seems the Fax machine is property of MIT Department of Economics.

        Just wondering whether Gruber’s independent contract with the government outside the MIT government grant process, would dictate a separate fax number unaffiliated with MIT.

        Small issue in the grand scheme of things, but it looks like he expected to receive his faxes at his MIT job site.

        • PJEvans says:

          Yes, if he were doing a good job as a corporation, he’d have invested a couple of hundred dollars in a fax machine for wherever his non-MIT office was. (I would have: it’s really a bad idea to get faxes for your outside work at your day job, if they don’t know you’re working for someone else. Even if they do know, it’s still … tacky, at best.)

  29. freepatriot says:

    speakin of disclosure, an conflict of interest n stuff

    does bein a bookie disqualify me for the hubcap competition ???

    I woulda admitted I was a bookie, but you never wanted to make any bets asked

    and it ain’t like I’m fixing games

    I make money no matter who wins

    (probably not my best argument there, huh ???)

    any way, consider this an “after the fact” but “pre-award” disclosure

    that should hide clear up all those nasty ethics questions

    and if anybody still wants to ask questions, you know where you can stick em I got 5th amendment rights too

    (here’s the deal bmaz, I answer some of your questions in return for free legel representation*)

    does that clear everything up ???

    the bungles are ready to LURK, and it’s gettin late in the season, PLAYOFF FOOTBALL is almost here …

    (*may or may not include legal representation for something other than this topic, what do you know about Peruvian immigration and importation regulations)


  30. freepatriot says:

    and while I’m off the topic, that underlined U in the style bar at the top of the comment box, what exactly does that do ???

    it don’t underline text

    I’m thinkin it reports you to homeland security, as an angry person, probably identified as a liberal or something

    jes my guess, but I know I’m paranoid …

  31. transparait says:

    Cripes I’ve got to get used to how FDL is organized! I keep posting links to news in related threads only to find out you guys already have a post on it.

    Lol. Sorry.

    • skdadl says:

      Oh, wow, that’s gonna work. The casual and customary thuggery of the Afghan national police is already the source of scandal up here (because we hand our prisoners over to them without proper oversight — our fault in the first place, no question). Think what they’ll be doing once Xe gets them up to speed.

      An empathetic note: I’m reading along with y’all, but I can’t add anything useful except my conviction (this relates to something eoh said ‘way back) that nothing ever raises the wages or benefits of working people in their large numbers except the willingness of some of them to organize and, if necessary, to strike (and that will float others’ boats as well). Elites and specialists are often “given” more and more precisely because their numbers are so small, but working people are never “given” more on that basis because we’re not scarce. We can make ourselves scarce, though …

      Very OT, but we’re in silly season of a kind up here at the moment. Steve closed the country down until March, which he has done before, but remarkably, this time a lot of people are getting mad about that, so there is some interesting organizing going on, interesting edumacation as well.

  32. orionATL says:

    This has been a compelling, absorbing discussion.

    Not just on health reform but on the transparent and the undisclosed in advocating for a particular policy.

    Of particular concern to me is any effort by the Obama admin to deceive the public or the congress (i would add “or the media” if i thought the media cared about being deceived).

    i echo ew’s comment that making policy decisions on the basis of unknown or unexamined assumptions is dangerous.

    And I add my concern about the high probabllity of presidential and party deceit being practiced on public.

    This was precisely the situation that got us into the muslim wars morass we are still in now – 7 years later.

    At a cost of 1/2 TRILLION $. Per year – enough to guarantee every child in America health care thru 21 and a full college scholarship.

    I don’t have any compunction about saying I think the Obama admin capable of public lying to get enacted it’s version of health

  33. orionATL says:

    And one other point triggered by bob schact’s comment about we doing a simulation of her own.

    That “simulation” used detailed knowledge, logic, and insight expressed in words, not numbers.

    Keep in mind, e.g.,ondalette, that econometric models are just sets of equations waiting to be solved based on whatever input the user chooses.

    And here’s the point,

    The resulting numbers have to be interpreted – into words,

    But the logic is left hidden in the equations.

  34. bmaz says:

    Hey, what do you know? The New York Times seems to think Gruber was unprofessional and deceptive to them and has slapped a big fat Editors Note on his previous Op-Ed submission and a Correction on their editorial page.

    Editors’ Note: January 9, 2010
    On July 12, the Op-Ed page published an article by Jonathan Gruber, a professor of economics at M.I.T., on health insurance and taxation. On Friday, Professor Gruber confirmed reports that he is a paid consultant to the Department of Health and Human Services, and that his contract was in effect when he published his article. The article did not disclose this relationship to readers.

    Like other writers for the Op-Ed page, Professor Gruber signed a contract that obligated him to tell editors of such a relationship. Had editors been aware of Professor Gruber’s government ties, the Op-Ed page would have insisted on disclosure or not published his article.

    Looks like the NYT certainly considered Gruber’s ruse to be improper and a breach of duty. That is because it was improper and a breach of the duty of disclosure and honesty.

  35. Gitcheegumee says:

    It is interesting that the NIH rules for conflict of interest were influenced to a great degree by the direct intervention of Zeke Emmanuel.

    About four years ago, there was a push by NIH for its employees to NOT own stock in bio medical or pharma companies.

    Emmanuel,aligned with AOS, intervened to alter this requirement.

    Here’s some links:

    There is no NIH Reputation Problem Bad Enough to Make Me Sell My …Feb 4, 2005 … And not all of these people in the NIH are susceptible to conflict of interest in the first place. Like Zeke Emanuel’s secretary. ……/there-is-no-nih-reputation-problem-bad-enough-to-m/ – Cached

    AOSEzekiel Emanuel, Chair, AOS Executive Committee …. It is our hope that the AOS—which lies outside the formal NIH chain of command and can work with the … – Cached

    Wonkette : Take Intern Juli’s Advanced Emanuel Brothers …Nov 10, 2008 … An NIH scientist who is a leader of the opposition to the new rules, Ezekiel [Zeke] Emanuel, says he was forced to sell stock valued at ……/take-intern-julis-advanced-emanuel-brothers-personality-test-from-hell – Similar

  36. Gitcheegumee says:

    Maybe the Guaranteed Healthcare Access Plan sounds too good to be true. How much more will it cost? It will not cost any more than we are paying today. By using a standard benefits package open to all Americans, there will be huge savings from reduced administrative costs to insurance companies.

    The end of Medicaid, SCHIP, and coverage of state employees, will produce huge savings — decreasing state budgets by about a third. Similarly, phasing out of Medicare reduces federal taxes. When employers stop providing health insurance, workers’ wages will increase commensurately. Instead Americans would pay a dedicated Value Added Tax.

    ” Sustainable Health Care Reform”,Ezekiel Emmanuel,July 24,2008-Huff Po

  37. orionATL says:

    ondalette @198


    your persistence here would be admirable if you really had a point to make that was a serious as your commentary here has been long,

    but you don’t have such a point.

    in your endless postings,

    you remind me of nothing so much as a yippie little dachsund running around in circles with a rag rabbitt in its mouth

    and growling thru its teeth (terrrrrible things are happening, terrrrible…).

    growling at what? something inside your head.

    what is your main point? that you do not like criticism of gruber.

    what is the aegis behind which you hide this central point: a stated concerned for gruber’s reputation.

    i would have had no problem with your stating this once or twice or even thrice but your mindless repetitiveness makes you appear foolish to me.

    others who know your work give you respect you may well deserve.

    for me, this is the first time i have seen your “work” and at this point i can only consider it excessive iteration of a foolish argument (don’t question gruber’s work) cloaked in moral concerns (don’t mistreat guber).

    actually this seems to me like a long-running deceit on your part; you must surely know nothing in this posting poses any threat to gruber whatsoever.

  38. maryo2 says:

    EW posts @179 and 182 would make a good next thread. The “crickets” from comparable economists supporting Gruber’s work are interesting, too.

    Obama Admin needs to address @182 specifically.

  39. maryo2 says:

    I wonder if Rahm did not tell Obama about Gruber’s conflict/award by HHS at all (when, I assume, he placed the Atlantic article on Obama’s desk), or if Rahm did tell Obama about the conflict but advised him to go ahead and quote Gruber because in his (Rahm’s) opinion the public was too stupid to notice the conflict.

    I hope enough heat gets to Obama that he feels the need to discuss this with Rahm. This was a great disservice to the President.

  40. Gitcheegumee says:


    NIH-National Institute of Health and DHHS-Department of Health and Human Services:

    The Nation’s Medical Research Agency

    The National Institutes of Health (NIH), a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the primary Federal agency for conducting and supporting medical research. Composed of 27 Institutes and Centers, the NIH provides leadership and financial support to researchers in every state and throughout the world.

    The NIH is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. With the headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, the NIH has more than 18,000 employees on the main campus and at satellite sites across the country.

    With the support of the American people, the NIH annually invests over $28 billion in medical research. More than 83% of the NIH’s funding is awarded through almost 50,000 competitive grants to more than 325,000 researchers at over 3,000 universities, medical schools, and other research institutions in every state and around the world. About 10% of the NIH’s budget supports projects conducted by nearly 6,000 scientists in its own laboratories, most of which are on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland.

  41. Leen says:

    “but when asked a similar question about financial conflicts less than a month later, he did not disclose it.”

    It would seem to be a standard practice for a journalist to ask the person that they are interviewing if they have any conflicts of interest?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      One would think, especially when seeking comment by a highly quoted specialist on health care economics, who might well have several research projects ongoing that were funded by interested parties.

      This is sort of a “hand in the cookie jar” problem. What’s worrisome is the Rove-like stage management Rahm & Co., are attempting. More worrisome by far is that this health insurance “reform” will be a pile of expensive crap that harms millions of Americans while helping a few, that it will kill the process of reform in general, and that politicians may claim that their job is “done” rather than just beginning.

      • PJEvans says:

        It bothers me that Gruber said that he told them ‘if they asked’.
        That assumes that the journalists would (a) know that they should have asked if he needed to disclose anything and (b) that Gruber wouldn’t have lied about it.
        I don’t think either of those is a safe assumption.
        Since he didn’t disclose that he was under contract, even at points where he should have done so (the NYT piece, for example, and the NEJM article), I tend to think that he wouldn’t have disclosed anything if he weren’t pushed into it, and his ethics are in serious need of refresher training.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Journalists should have asked about conflicts. Gruber is a prominent researcher with an obviously large base of private clients, beyond his work for MIT (common for academic economists). They could give rise to multiple conflicts.

          Gruber’s argument, however, is a dodge. He knew he should have disclosed applicable conflicts and he’s attempting to do damage control, not very successfully.

          • PJEvans says:

            All that and there’s a diary at the Great Orange Satan which is defending the excise tax idea, and attacking people who are pointing out that Gruber has a conflict of interest. Apparently if Krugman and other economists say it’s a great idea to tax health insurance benefits, and claim that wages will go up because of that tax, then It Must Be True.

            • earlofhuntingdon says:

              Krugman’s rationality makes him both saint and sinner.

              It may be rational for a business to increase wages when the cost of its benefits contributions go down. After all, benefits are either deferred or non-cash compensation to labor. But that sounds like a Chicago School fallacy, one of his betes noir. It values rationality over his own lying eyes. When was the last time his employer, Princeton University, voluntarily increased wages because an associated direct labor cost went down? Businesses don’t do that anymore. The exception, as someone quipped yesterday, is when the manager is also the owner, or when it’s Goldman Sachs.

  42. Gitcheegumee says:

    That assumes that presstitutes and journalists are expected to perform different functions,no? /s

  43. ondelette says:

    bmaz and emptywheel: I find it to be parsing minutae when people paid by and writing on who start a cascade of writings on, then turn around and say that they are only responsible for one thread. If you were writing diaries at Seminal, that might be true. But your stance leaves no one responsible for the totality of the site, and what it displayed yesterday, when, at its height, there was only one or two stories which did not claim that Dr. Gruber had transgressed, many with, as you would put it, terms of legal art. Fine then. Claim no responsibility for the criticisms and parse the terms of art. Then don’t be surprised if the Dr. Grubers of the world do the same with respect to peer-review journal terms of art, like full disclosure.

    As for the idea that I have slandered you, you’re the lawyer. Firedoglake has accused Dr. Gruber of multiple corruption crimes, but if I mention the lack of evidence for them, I’m guilty of slander because I what, chose the wrong thread to express myself on? I should have what, expressed myself on the front page where it occurred? And how would that work, exactly? You don’t have such a mechanism? Then no one is accountable? Isn’t that a common criticism of others at sites like this?

    • PJEvans says:

      Are you seeing the same pages the rest of us are?
      Because what you’re writing about bears no resemblance to what I’m seeing.

    • emptywheel says:


      I see you don’t deny that your accusations about what I said. Which I assume is your rather ungracious way of admitting they were either a sloppy mistake or an outright lie. Unless you’d like to retract your false statements, then I will just leave the rest alone. You seem to admit making false accusations already, you continue to do so, but it really isn’t worth my time to continue to chase down your burning straw men.

      • ondelette says:

        I don’t know that I have a choice, having been accused by you of slander. I’m not a lawyer, I don’t have a lawyer, and I don’t have money for a lawyer, so I find that very scary. So from now, I am silent. I simply don’t know what else to do.

        • bmaz says:

          Oh please, just stop the drama and get a grip. You have now slipped the surly bonds of simple absurdity and headed to the sky is the limit territory.

        • phred says:

          Knock it off. This victim act of yours is going too far. Most of us have genuinely tried to comprehend your concerns, but every single comment you have made boils down to “how dare you”. You are the only one who has made any threats to anyone. You’ve threatened DDay and EW with nonsense about how they better watch their step before they go making accusations. You’ve impugned FDL across the board. And now you have the nerve to whimper about needing a lawyer. You have become ridiculous. Let it go.

    • bmaz says:

      You are just flat making things up now and it is pretty pathetic. I am a lawyer, Marcy is not, and I never said you slandered me or her; although you are inching perilously close it. I have seen no instances of where anybody on Firedoglake has “accused Dr. Gruber of multiple corruption crimes” and I call that statement out for exactly what it is, a hysterical lie. As to your precious Dr. Gruber, he has already parsed and made a mockery of the concept of full disclosure; that is all his own doing and he is suffering the penalty for it as he should be. Personally, I grow tired of this bullshit; you got anything else to add? Because you have drained the last ounce of blood out of this putrid turnip.

  44. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Neither David Brooks nor Paul Krugman are responsible for the editorial content or substantive news reporting – or the headlines that sell it – in the New York Times. Marcy is responsible for the content of her own posts, thank you, not the site’s.

    Personal attacks thinly disguised as issues-based criticism are a good sign that one’s approach is a dead horse. Try something else.

  45. earlofhuntingdon says:

    You may not be a rocket scientist or scientologist, either. Those options are about as necessary as having or being a lawyer on this blog. The thing I find scary is an inability to let go. If you choose silence, that’s your call, it’s not because of any legal issue raised by or flowing from comments here. See you soon.

  46. ondelette says:

    Are you saying you meant it only rhetorically? I’m not being dramatic, or slipping the surly bonds. I sense that you two are lawyers, and emptywheel said I slandered her. I am genuinely upset, not being dramatic. I’m not used to being accused of slander, I don’t think I slandered, but I also can’t defend myself. If you meant it rhetorically, then okay, but I didn’t know that. Honest.

    • bmaz says:

      Well she is not a lawyer, and quite frankly I have better things to do with my time. Nobody is going to be suing you, and nobody ever threatened to do so. It is time to give this a rest now though.

    • emptywheel says:


      I am not a lawyer.

      What I know is that you accused me of saying something that that I clearly didn’t say.

      Now, according to the lawyers here, that doesn’t amount to slander or libel, but it does approach it.

      The appropriate thing to do, it seems, would be to say, “Marcy, I’m sorry I conflated what you said with what totally different people said, and then exaggerated what any one of you said. I apologize for saying you said things which you clearly did not.”

      Because short of that your false accusation remains out there.

      • ondelette says:

        Since the whole premise of my argument was about making accusations that weren’t supported and that could ruin someone’s career, when the person I made the argument to accuses me of slander, what was it you wanted me to do? No, Marcy, I will not apologize given those circumstances, but I will acknowledge that you and I perceive the entire argument completely differently. And to me, you confirmed what I had said, and scared me. Take that any way you want, but it’s how I feel. And everyone can “Oh, Please” all they like. I didn’t like what I saw as destruction of someone’s career, you didn’t see it that way. I took you absolutely seriously when you said I’d slandered you, others find that ludicrous. I don’t care. I’m being honest. I have no connection to Dr. Gruber, and I am tenacious but wasn’t looking to do other than express the fact that I think accusations of conflict of interest where they pertain to people publishing in journals, especially in the medical field right now, must be made with the cognizance that they can destroy careers long before anyone ends up at legal odds. And I perceived whatever you want to call the confluence of independent and unrelated blogs at the site as having passed that line. Still do. Journals can and do ban people for things like that. And because of that, people should be careful before scandalizing people whose careers depend on such publication. Or not, suit yourself. Take that any way you want, in fact. But don’t expect me to see it the way you have outlined, because I just don’t.

        • phred says:

          Journals can and do ban people for things like that.

          Bullshit. You have done nothing but make things up out of whole cloth. This is complete nonsense.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            Perhaps we could move on to other comments and commentators, ignoring this one. Reasoned and unrestrained responses alike are having no effect.

        • PJEvans says:

          You’re not connecting to reality here.
          No one has threatened you.
          No one has threatened to do anything to Gruber – and you’re defending him so strongly that we’re reasonably assuming a connection between you.
          You’ve stated that FDL and EW have lied and attacked Gruber and you, and we’re not seeing whether either one has happened.

          If slander and libel are going to be coming into it (and EW and bmaz have stated several times that they don’t intend any such thing), it’s going to be based on your statements, and it won’t make you look good.

          So give it a rest. You’re only making yourself look bad.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      It wasn’t needed, only demanded. Turn the mirror to the wall and let the curtain close.

  47. orionATL says:


    For 40 mill Americans -give or take ten mill- who
    Do not have health insurance.



    – for individual citizens

    – for the society as a whole ,I.e., the federal govt.

    The Obama wants to straddle these two parts of “affordibility”.

    That’s why they love them some gruber –

    His data support an excise tax while allowing admin. Claims of individual “rebates” in the form of increased wages (honest!).

  48. regulararmyfool says:

    Marcy, I simply have to choke my budget to send you money in March. You are a national treasure, in my humble opinion, you outshine Henry David Thoreau.
    You are one of my heroes.

    Right now I live on disability and am supporting an american who had cancer, I paid for the operation, the latin american country is civilized enough to pick up the chemo, but I have to keep her head above water in the field of simple living and pain meds. I honor my promises. I owe you big time.

  49. KarenM says:

    I have some experience in what happens behind the scenes at an academic journal, and have seen how miserable circumstances can become when authors are not forthright, and even deliberately omit requested information. It can get pretty messy sometimes.

    In this case, though, I think Gruber’s situation goes far beyond the sphere of merely publishing a peer-reviewed academic paper.

    Given that Gruber had an exclusive contract, was there even a peer-review process? So far, that is not clear to me, but perhaps I’ve missed something.

    And, this “research” is being used, not just to increase understanding of an issue or to further additional research, but is intended, in part, to justify forcing ordinary Americans to use money they cannot afford to spend on insurance they probably cannot afford to use, when they could probably benefit more by using that money to buy better groceries.

    Gruber’s justification for that scenario is that the “savings” will be returned to workers in the form of increased wages. The man is living in a fantasy land, if he really thinks that’s going to happen. Did he even think of asking anyone near the bottom of their personal work food chain what they thought of that notion? I doubt it.

    Finally, most of our chronic illnesses and conditions are dealt with inadequately by the medical profession, who only know how to prescribe drugs with their own miserable side effects and toxicity, when many of these conditions would be better treated with better diets. These eploited working and middle-class taxpayers will be the same people who will be again criticized by “elites” who simply cannot understand why they do not choose to put better food on their families. After all, the resarch is clear. [Not!]

    This is the idiotically ironic part for me, given Michelle Obama’s campaign to set an example with the WH organic garden, hoping that it will inspire people to eat better and feed their children better. After they’ve been forced to buy expensive insurance they cannot afford, or have been taxed beyond their ability to make ends meet? Right on. [/snark]

    And then there is the additional agenda of taxing union workers (among others) because they accepted better health care, in lieu of higher wages.

    Does anyone think that Labor will ever accept anything ever again, in lieu of higher wages? I certainly hope they will not.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      You raise another concern that would confront this conflict averse president with the task of taking on Big Ag and the Ag state senators.

      The Western Diet is a disease, not a food source. It is overladen with wheat, corn and dairy products. The middle two-thirds of grocery stores are where it’s sold. Constituents of those products, corn, wheat and sugar, are heavily subsidized by taxpayers.

      And the recommended Western Diet doesn’t include the ubiquitous consumption of fast foods and preserved, processed foods. Those are high in fats, oils and chemical flavorings and preservatives, none of which are healthy in the amounts consumed.

      Revising that diet would lower health care costs and hence, insurance costs and government subsidies for them. Savings would come from lower revenues to Big Ag, or at least subsidizing different things. I can’t imagine this president even contemplating improving health and cutting health costs by that route. He should, but he won’t.

      • PJEvans says:

        I would describe it as overloaded with meat, fats (especially saturated fats), and sugars. The grains are not a problem for many people. (YMMV, obviously.) Better diets are higher in frutis and vegetables – but those are also more expensive in this country, and a lot of us don’t have the space or the time to grow our own.

  50. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The grains are a problem in excess quantities and always when overly processed with corn starches and syrups and coloring and preservatives. Processed fruits are preserved and sugared, vegetables are salted and preserved and both are colored.

    No one has to grow their own, though, and all preserved or processed foods aren’t bad per se (though some are). The harm is in the quantity and the portion of the total they occupy.

    It can be hard to come by, but fresh is best when available. The other bugaboo is transport costs, artificially low, they can make oranges from Israel or South Africa seem like a bargain, when frozen or canned blackberries or grapefruit might do the world a whole lot more good.