Ten Economics Pieces Worth Reading: January 16, 2010
Does This Mean That Our Drought Is Over?

Glenn Greenwald Gets the Jon Gruber Story Wrong

I think Glenn Greenwald frames this wrong:

Glenn Greenwald: Gruber was receiving large, undisclosed payments from the Obama administration at exactly the time when the Obama White House (and Gruber himself) were holding him out as an "objective" expert endorsing various parts of the President's health care plan.  Consistent with Sunstein's view that certain actions may be wrong when done by Bad People but acceptable when done by those who are "well intentioned" and trying to "improve social welfare," I noted that many Democrats who strenuously objected to non-disclosure scandals during the Bush years have been minimizing the conduct at issue in the Gruber matter, and cited Paul Krugman as an example.  Krugman responded last night on his blog, and I want to discuss a few of the points he makes because I think they have significance beyond the Gruber issue...

Jon Gruber is not a "consultant" or "strategist" who gets bribed by a political party or a government. Jon Gruber is, instead, an MIT health economics professor whom HHS hired to run a whole bunch of people whose job it was to mirror CBO--to carry out the analytical work on health proposals to tell HHS in advance what CBO was likely to say would be the budgetary implications of different pieces of health care. Gruber is best in the business at this: if you asked me what Doug Elmendorf and his team at CBO were likely to think, and if I couldn't reach Elmendorf, I would ask Gruber. It was a very good thing that HHS hired Gruber to run a team to do this.

Unlike you standard "consultant" or "pundit" or "strategist"--who will turn on a dime and spin as you wish him to if you sign him up for the team and pay him in six figures--Jon Gruber has said nothing this past year about health care reform that he was not already saying in 2008, and 2007, and 2006. Nothing. Nothing at all.

Where Glenn Greenwald does have a legitimate beef is in the idea that Jon Gruber was in any sense new to health care--that he took a look at the plan, did a fresh zero-based analysis, and concluded he liked it. Of course Jon Gruber liked it. It was very close to the Romney Massachusetts health care plan. And Jon Gruber was the architect of the Romney plan.

The way Jon should have been introduced over the past year was as "Massachusetts Romney plan architect..."

Of course, it was no secret that he was the "Massachusetts Romney plan architect..." It's just that the press didn't bother to identify him as such, for reasons I don't understand.

But the idea that there is a "nondisclosure" scandal here? Nope. The only thing relevant that wasn't well known was Jon's status as Massachusetts Romney plan architect. And that was certainly disclosed and disclosed and disclosed and disclosed.