For those who haven’t been following this, Gruber — who is one of the three or four top health care economists in the nation — turns out to have a large research grant from the Department of Health and Human Services, for modeling the consequences of various reform plans. This has led some people, mainly Marcy Wheeler at Firedoglake, to question Gruber’s objectivity.
The truth is that this is no big deal. Gruber’s grant is from HHS, not the West Wing; it’s basically the same kind of thing as, say, an epidemiologist receiving a grant from the National Institutes of Health. You wouldn’t ordinarily say that this tarnishes the epidemiologist’s credentials as an independent analyst on infectious diseases, unless you want to say that nobody receiving a research grant can be considered independent.
The only reasons you might see this differently would be if Gruber were either receiving a sweetheart deal, or seemed to have changed his views to accommodate his sponsors. Neither is remotely true. Gruber is very much the go-to guy on modeling reform: it’s hard to think of who else could be doing the work better. And his position on reform has been entirely consistent.
Should Gruber have made a fuller disclosure? Yes — I think he was being too much of an academic, taking for granted that everyone understands the difference between being a political hired gun and receiving a research grant. Should he disclose the contract every time he writes anything? Well, maybe — but a brief mention should suffice. When you’re writing 800-word op-eds, you need to reserve as much space as possible for real content.
And I have every intention of continuing to cite Gruber on matters related to health care. He’s the top micro-modeling expert, and getting this stuff right is more important than this essentially trivial controversy.
[...] What the folks at Firedoglake should ask themselves is this: do you really want to become just like the right-wingers with their endless supply of fake scandals?
Even though I posted Marcy's story, I thought this probably wasn't as big a deal as it sounded. And that's one reason why I try not to jump to conclusions when I first read or see a story -- odds are high that the information is incomplete or out of context, by very nature of the 24-hour news cycle.
And jumping to conclusions is the same thing I hate about cable news. I'm not eager to follow in their footsteps.
We've been so often misled by the media that it's good to stay skeptical, but let's also retain a willingness to see how a story unfolds.