Skip to main content

As you may know, MIT professor Jonathan Gruber gave interviews to and wrote op-eds in several newspapers without disclosing (except once in December) that he was a paid consultant for the Obama administration.

Yesterday (Friday), mainstream journalist Karen Tumulty of Time Magazine defended Gruber by deflecting blame towards journalists. She stated the following:

(referring to the non-disclosure) "Not having done so, by the way, is a failure of jounalists, not any fault of Gruber, who as best I can tell, never did anything to hide those ties.

Read more:

But Tumulty's statement is contradicted by a New York Times' editor's note today, concerning a July-12th op-ed written there by Gruber:

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.

Gruber also reportedly failed to disclose his conflict of interest to the Washington Post in lat November.

These facts raise a very important question: What the hell is Tumulty talking about? Did she contact the New York Times and Washington Post regarding the facts of the situation?

Originally posted to kingsbridge77 on Sat Jan 09, 2010 at 02:30 PM PST.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Conflict of interest really doesn't matter (0+ / 0-)

    While it's important that he should have acknowledged it to journalists (if only for ethical considerations), it really doesn't make a difference.  Gruber supported the tax on health benefits that McCain talked about during the campaign.

    Krugman came out for it today.  It's basically another example of wonks versus activists at this point.

    •  Of COURSE it matters. (8+ / 0-)

      In a free and open democracy, we have the right to know.  We can't read Gruber's mind, or anyone else's... but citizens should know real conflicts of interest, in order to make up their minds about that person's judgment and motivation.  It's amazing to me how quickly some fellow Democrats just throw ethics how the damned window when it's convenient for the results they prefer.  Gruber has shown he can't be trusted by trying to HIDE the fact.  

      It's basically another example of wonks versus activists at this point.

      Um, no.  That's some odd drama playing out in your own head, and has little to do with the real question of ethics at hand.  Neither does Krugman's (tepid) endorsement.    

      Fox "News" = Republican PRAVDA.

      by chumley on Sat Jan 09, 2010 at 02:46:08 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Conflict of interest destroys Gruber's reputation (8+ / 0-)

      No matter what Karen Tumulty, or the neoconnish WaPo ed board have to say, disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest is an important professional standard among medical and scientific researchers.  Journalists may wish to impose a looser standard plucked out of thin air, but what some journalists might approve of is not the standard Gruber should observe.

      By not disclosing an obvious potential conflict of interest, Gruber's reputation in the scientific community has taken a serious hit.  His apologists here are whistling in the dark if they wish to ignore this.

      To announce that we are to stand by the president right or wrong is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. -TR

      by Dallasdoc on Sat Jan 09, 2010 at 02:47:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Shouldn't it be left (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dallasdoc, NY brit expat

      to the people reading Gruber's arguments to determine whether or not his conflict of interest matters?

  •  Wash Post says Gruber did nothing wrong. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    theran, glynis

    UPDATE: 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." [UPDATE] She also defended the column. "The subject of the op-ed was not related to Gruber's work for the administration, and we accepted the column based on the body of his work and knowledge in this field," Brewington said in an email. "Generally we think more disclosure is better than less. But in this case he was writing about a Senate proposal and an idea that he has been promoting for years, so in the end we might well have decided his work for the administration was not relevant."


    I'm gay, I'm pissed, I'm not giving up, I'm not giving in, I'm not shutting up, and I'm not going away. Deal with it.

    by psychodrew on Sat Jan 09, 2010 at 02:40:32 PM PST

    •  He also said... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dallasdoc, Big Tex, 0wn, laker

      "readers should have been aware of Mr. Gruber's relationship with the administration." link

      Do you agree that we should have been made aware of the relationship?

      •  Karen Tumulty essentially said the same thing. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        But she also said that she doesn't fault Dr. Gruber, who is an academic, not a politico.

        Brownstein also said this:

        I would, however, point out that even in my conversations with him last year, I don't feel that Mr. Gruber was ever simply an advocate for the administration or the Congressional Democrats: for instance, while his comments in my Atlantic post were quite favorable to the direction of the final Senate legislation (a view that hardly mae him unique among health reformers), he was much more critical of the direction of the Senate bill in a conversation earlier last fall which I quoted him from in a National Journal column in October. Here's the link to that piece.

        And I would also note that in my conversations with him in 2008, Gruber actually was a supporter of the John McCain financing approach to health care-that is, replacing the employer tax exclusion with a credit for individuals, which of course Obama fiercely opposed. Gruber's view was that the problem with the McCain approach was linking an end to the exclusion (which would have inevitably pushed more people into the individual insurance market) with deregulation of insurance markets by allowing any policy sold anywhere to be sold everywhere (interstate sale); rather he believed that a good approach would be to marry the McCain financing actually with the Obama insurance reforms.

        Right now, the president's health reform opponents on the left are insinuating that this was some kind of plot, that Dr. Gruber was paid to go out and advocate for policy that made the president look good, irrespective of Dr. Gruber's own views.  Would it have been better if this had been disclosed?  Certainly, even if for no other reason than to keep the bill-killers from turning their fire on an academic because they are really angry at Joe Lieberman and can't do anything to him.

        But there is no evidence to suggest that he did anything wrong.  None.  Zilch.  All of these stupid attacks against an academic who was trying to make a contribution to a public policy topic about a topic for which is regarded as an expert WILL DO NOTHING TO CHANGE THE BILL.  What it does do is send a message to academics that they should not get involved in public policy because bitter activists from somewhere will come out and smear you if they don't like your message.

        I'm gay, I'm pissed, I'm not giving up, I'm not giving in, I'm not shutting up, and I'm not going away. Deal with it.

        by psychodrew on Sat Jan 09, 2010 at 04:55:45 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Well, if the home of Fred Hiatt (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dallasdoc, Big Tex, 0wn, laker

      and Charles Krauthammer absolves him, that's a slam dunk!

      They can make their own judgment calls about material in the WaPo.   It doesn't change the shady ethics by Gruber himself.

      Fox "News" = Republican PRAVDA.

      by chumley on Sat Jan 09, 2010 at 02:48:38 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  How you get your news? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        All newspapers have conservative columnists and all networks have at least some conservative commentators, no?  If you don't trust any news organization that gives a voice to conservatives, then how do you get your news?

        I'm gay, I'm pissed, I'm not giving up, I'm not giving in, I'm not shutting up, and I'm not going away. Deal with it.

        by psychodrew on Sat Jan 09, 2010 at 04:57:42 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  OH, and Brownstein is not "The Washington Post" (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dallasdoc, Elwood Dowd, Big Tex, 0wn

      Some people usually refer to Maureen Dowd as "The New York Times," or, as you did, Brownstein as "The Washington Post."

      Wrong. The New York Times' editor's note is different. There's a reason why there are no names attached to it: because the views expresssed there represent that of the newspaper.

      •  Ron Brownstein? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        My quote came from the editor of the Op-Ed page, Autumn Brewington.

        The New York Times apparently has a different policy.  What is not clear is that he intentionally tried to hide is relationship from the NYT.  The NYT did not indicate what was in the contract and how he answered the questions.

        It wouldn't make sense for Dr. Gruber to make the disclosure in one publication (NEJM), but not the other (NYT) when they were both being published around the same time.

        Ron Brownstein, whom you quoted above, does not work for the Washington Post, does he?  I believe that he works for the National Journal.

        I'm gay, I'm pissed, I'm not giving up, I'm not giving in, I'm not shutting up, and I'm not going away. Deal with it.

        by psychodrew on Sat Jan 09, 2010 at 04:47:15 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  What is worse (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hubcap, Dallasdoc, Big Tex, laker

    is what David Dayan reported yesterday

    Merrill Goozner, a health care policy blogger and NYU professor, actually doesn’t think so, citing an academic paper Gruber wrote way, way back in... 2007.


    Hmmm. What about this March 2007 paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research, which he co-authored. It looked at the effect of higher out-of-pocket co-pays for retired public employees in California. Gruber found that they led to higher hospitalization rates as old folks with chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease cut back on physician visits and necessary drugs.

       These offset effects are concentrated in patients for whom medical care is presumably efficacious: those with a chronic disease. . . Our findings suggest that health insurance should be tied to underlying health status, with chronically ill patients facing lower cost-sharing.

       What will happen after the excise tax hits high-cost insurance plans, according to Gruber today? 80 percent of employers will ratchet down plan benefits to keep their costs under the tax cap. The only way they can do that is by raising co-pays and deductibles and eliminating benefits. The extra money employers save will be returned to workers as higher wages, which they can choose to either use to pay for health care or pay other bills. And as his own research points out, many will choose to cut back on necessary care, and some will wind up in the hospital.

       "There’s literally no evidence out there that people are going to suffer," he told the Washington Post earlier this week. He should re-read his own paper.

  •  Are you arguing (0+ / 0-)

    that someone who is paid by an interested party cannot be trusted to write honestly about what they believe on a subject?

    I certainly think people should have been made aware of the connection, because it would help them to decide how to take what they were reading. It might colour their views. It might colour the writer's view. It might affect whether they felt the need to look at other sources, and who those sources ought to be.

    But I would hesitate long and hard before saying that payment by an interested party rendered someone's arguments invalid or not honestly believed.

    Chill the f*** out. I got this.

    by ultraviolet uk on Sat Jan 09, 2010 at 03:32:56 PM PST

    •  I didn't go that far (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      It's impossible to read into someone's mind and guess what portion of his opinions or conclusions were motivated by the fact that he wants to keep getting paid big bucks in the future by saying things his boss wants to hear. Maybe his employment with the administration has zero sway in his behavior. Maybe it stands for half of it. Who knows? All we know is that for some unknown reason, Gruber decided not to disclose this information to the WAPO and NYT.

      •  actually what he said to WaPO (0+ / 0-)

        was that there was no conflict of interest because the topic of his op-ed was not about the work he did for HHS.  This is what the WaPO editor said

        "The subject of the op-ed was not related to Gruber's work for the administration, and we accepted the column based on the body of his work and knowledge in this field,"

        I don't know what the topic of his NYT article was.

        So it is not accurate for you to say that he didn't disclose to the WaPO.  He said there was no conflict of interest which is what the disclosure is for, to identify a conflict of interest, and the editor actually backs him up.

        Coalition does not equal unholy alliance--Deoliver47

        by glynis on Sat Jan 09, 2010 at 05:31:30 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  And they are both full of baloney (0+ / 0-)

          and you are in a happy suspension of disbelief.

          This is the logical equivalent of saying, "I was paid by Delta Airlines to advise on jet engine selection. So, when I wrote my op-ed claiming Delta is the bestest airline around, there was no need to disclose my contract on that unrelated subject."

          •  baloney (0+ / 0-)

            is ignoring his years of support for HCR and for the excise tax.

            He's spent 10 years on his economic modeling.  He's the go to guy.

            As Karen Tumulty said

            His data and his microsimulation model--15,000 lines of computer code--are, quite simply, the gold standard in health care policy. That's why politicians of both parties have turned to him for assistance

            Coalition does not equal unholy alliance--Deoliver47

            by glynis on Sat Jan 09, 2010 at 05:50:35 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site