Jane Hamsher (of the leftist FireDogLake.com) writes in the Huffington Post about how the White House manufactured the appearance of academic support for its health care plans:
Up until this point, most of the attention regarding the failure to disclose the connection between [MIT economist] Jonathan Gruber and the White House has fallen on Gruber himself. Far more troubling, however, is the lack of disclosure on the part of the White House, the Senate, the DNC and other Democratic leaders who distributed Gruber’s work and cited it as independent validation of their proposals, orchestrating the appearance of broad consensus when in fact it was all part of the same effort.
The White House is placing a giant collective bet on Gruber’s “assumptions” to justify key portions of the Senate bill such as the “Cadillac tax,” which they allowed people to believe was independent verification. Now that we know that Gruber’s work was not that of an independent analyst but rather work performed as a contractor to the White House and paid for by taxpayers, and economists like Larry Mishel are raising serious questions about its validity, it should be made publicly available so others can judge its merits.
Gruber began negotiating a sole-source contract with the Department of Health and Human Services in February of 2009, for which he was ultimately paid $392,600. The contract called for Gruber to use his statistical model for evaluating alternatives “derived from the President’s health reform proposal.” It was not a research grant, but rather a consulting contract to advise the White House Office of Health Reform, headed by Obama’s health care czar, Nancy-Ann DeParle, to “develop proposals” for health care reform.
How did the feedback loop work? Well, take Gruber’s appearance before the Senate HELP Committee on November 2, 2009, for which he used his microsimulation model to make calculations about small business insurance coverage for his testimony. On the same day, Gruber released an analysis of the House health care bill, which he sent to Ezra Klein of the Washington Post. Ezra published an excerpt.
White House blogger Jesse Lee then promoted both Gruber’s Senate testimony and Ezra Klein’s article on the White House blog. “We thought it would all be a little more open and transparent if we went ahead and published what our focus will be for the day” he said, pointing to Gruber’s “objective analysis.” The “transparent” part apparently stopped when everyone got to Gruber’s contractual relationship to the White House, which nobody in the three-hit triangle bothered to disclose.
The White House commissioned Gruber’s work (not as a research grant, but as a consulting contract) and then passed it off as independent confirmation. Hamsher has much, much more on the scam, from which I’ll highlight just this bit:
On the 29th Nancy-Ann DeParle, head of the very White House Office of Health Reform that Gruber was hired to consult for, posted perhaps the most misleading column of all on the White House blog:
MIT Economist Confirms Senate Health Reform Bill Reduces Costs and Improves Coverage
She identified Gruber as an “MIT Economist who has been closely following the health insurance reform process” who had “issued a compelling new report.” There was no acknowledgment that her very own White House office had commissioned Gruber’s work.
$393k sounds like a pretty good price to buy “broad consensus” for its trillion-dollar scheme.